Fr. Roger J. Landry
Chapel of the Regnum Christi Consecrated Women
St. John Vianney Parish, Chicago, Illinois
Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions
May 21, 2016
James 5:13-20, Ps 141, Mark 10:13-16
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today as we continue our devotional Octave of Pentecost in celebration of and cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians and the Church, we have a chance, thanks to the readings today and the feast we mark, to focus on seven — a particularly fitting number! — of ways that the Holy Spirit seeks to help us. These are seven things that are meant to characterize our living out of the faith, both individually and communally.
- The first way that the Holy Spirit seeks to help us is through prayer. St. James asks, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray.” Much later he says, “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful,” and describes how Elijah’s prayer brought about a 42 month drought and again brought about rain at the end. In the Responsorial Psalm we pray that our prayers may rise to God like incense. This is what the Holy Spirit facilitates. We don’t know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit intercedes for us, putting not so much words on our lips but changing us as we pray so that we may pray as beloved sons and daughters of God. A Christian should be distinguished above all by his prayer. Likewise every parish and every consecrated community must be be a house of prayer. So that we may become people whose existence has been made prayer, we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- The second way the Holy Spirit helps us is to sing to the Lord. St. James asks, “Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing a song of praise.” Singing should always characterize us and our faith. We see that Jesus led the apostles in singing on Holy Thursday. St. Paul said that he was always “singing praise with my spirit… and with my mind” and that hymns “build up the community” (1 Cor 14:15, 26). He wrote to the Ephesians that they should interact with each other with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody to the Lord in their hearts with thanksgiving to God for everything (Eph 5:19). Singing is an essential part of our prayer, our worship and our joy. There’s something hugely important missing in our faith when we do not respond to the Holy Spirit who wants to help us to burst out in song to God. When you see certain Catholics who prefer not to have any music at Mass, who refuse to sing anything even though they can sing, it’s sad, because it points to something missing in terms of the exuberant joy that should characterize our faith. The strongest parishes, the strongest communities, are always characterized by vibrant singing, which in some ways is the most sweet incense of prayer that we can raise to God. The Holy Spirit not only helps us to sing out with joy, but with his “ruah,” with his “breath” seeks to play our lives like wind instruments in an orchestra of praise on earth and united with the Church triumphant. In response to this need to make our lives a psalm of praise to God’s glory, we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- The third way the Holy Spirit seeks to strengthen us is in care for the sick, especially with the charity given to us by Christ. St. James gives us the best description of the power of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick in the early Church when he asks, “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” We should all be Good Samaritans to the sick and suffering, but the best help we can bring to them is the help of Christ. Christ formed the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick so that through his ministers he might continue to share his healing touch with a suffering world. Especially for those who begin to be in danger of death due to illness and old age, the priest should always be called to come to lay hands on him and anoint him with the sacred oils. In the actual prayer of anointing the role of the Holy Spirit in healing is emphasized: “Through this holy anointing, may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from your sins save you and raise you up.” In response to this work of caring for the sick, we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- The fourth way the Holy Spirit helps us is shown in the other sacrament of healing, the Sacrament of Penance. St. James describes the practice of confession in the early Church. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” In the early Church the forgiveness of sins wasn’t as easy or as private as it is today, where we go off one-on-one with a priest under the sacramental seal. In the early Church, you’d confess your sins publicly before the bishop. There was a class of believers who were called penitents, who had confessed their sins publicly and were given a penance — very often a long and hard one — that would keep them in the atrium of the Church until they had fulfilled their prayer and penance and could be readmitted to the community. St. James is calling us to pray for this class of penitents and to remember that we’re all among them. Today, we keep this rite of public confession when all of us, at the beginning of Mass, confessed that we have “greatly sinned” in words, thoughts, actions and omissions through our “own most grievous fault.” The prayer that the priest says doesn’t absolve us of mortal sins like the bishop would do individually in the ancient Church — we need to receive the Sacrament of Penance for this to occur — but it does remind us of the need for us to acknowledge how much and why we need God’s mercy to each other. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin, judgment and condemnation. This is the work of the Holy Spirit who, as we remember in the formula of absolution, has been “sent among us for the forgiveness of sins.” St. James calls us to cooperates with the Spirit in this work. “Brothers and Sisters, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” In response to this calling to receive God’s mercy and bring others to receive it, we respond, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- The final way the Holy Spirit helps us to live the Christian life is through maturing to full stature in Christ precisely by becoming more childlike. Today in the Gospel, Jesus became indignant with the disciples because they were trying to keep children away from Jesus. Jesus said in response, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Jesus wants us both to bring children to him and to learn from children how to act before God with trust, humility, and a dependency on his providential care. Unless we convert and become like little children, he tells us elsewhere, we will not enter into the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit helps us to become more childlike, by recognizing that God is our “Abba!,” “Daddy!,” and in so doing, helps us not only to receive children as fellow children of God, but to bring them to the Father who loves them in this way. The Holy Spirit helps us to build Christ’s kingdom in this way, and for this reason, we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- The sixth way the Holy Spirit helps us is through the gift of courage. Today we celebrate the Memorial of St. Christopher Magallanes and his 24 companions, beatified 16 years ago today in a beautiful beatification in St. Peter’s Square where I was present and distributed Holy Communion. Today was chosen for the beatification and feast day because it was on this day in 1927 that St. Christopher Magallanes was arrested as he was going to celebrate Mass on a farm. St. Christopher had sought to correspond with the work of the Holy Spirit in all of the ways mentioned up until now. With the Spirit’s help he sought to pray and teach others to pray, first as a chaplain in a school, then as a pastor; to sing, personally and through the formation of choirs; to care for the sick and form others to do so, even at the risk of their life during the persecution of Christians in Mexico; to hear confessions and help people seek God’s mercy, as he courageously did even when it might lead to his arrest; to receive children from God and bring them to grow in his knowledge, as he did not only through his priestly work but through his forming a seminary in his own rectory to train future priests to bring others to Christ, after the Mexican government closed the seminaries. But he’s also great model of courage, continuing to serve as a priest even when others were challenged by it. When he was arrested 89 years ago today, he gave his last possessions away, pardoned those who were his executioners, and went to his death offering his life freely for the unity of his spiritual brothers and sisters throughout Mexico. The Holy Spirit was the one who gave him this strength. The Holy Spirit is the one who always strengthens us to live our faith and not be afraid to give supreme testimony of faith in death, because he helps us to remember that death is just a passage to life, not an end. In response to this work of the Holy Spirit, which we need to live our faith well today, we cry out, “Come, Holy Spirit!”
- And finally, the seventh way the Holy Spirit helps us is to pray the Mass as it deserves to be prayed. It’s through his power that the Mass happens, when he overshadows the priest and the altar just like he overshadowed Mary at the Annunciation, so that the same Jesus who was conceived in her womb might come down on this altar and in holy Communion enter into each one of us. It’s through the Spirit’s power at Mass that the Holy Spirit seeks to transform us into one body, one Spirit, in Christ. Today, through the Spirit’s work, Jesus welcomes us all here to Mass, those who have received sonship through his passion, death and resurrection. We ask him for the grace of childlike simplicity to enter into his kingdom. We ask him to embrace us and bless us, as he did the children in the Gospel, and to help us, individually and communally, pray with him, sing joyfully to him, care for the sick with him, receive his mercy and bring other children of God to receive it, and courageously live out our faith through a Eucharistic life. This is the Spirit’s continual miracle. Come, Holy Spirit!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Is anyone among you suffering?
He should pray.
Is anyone in good spirits?
He should sing a song of praise.
Is anyone among you sick?
He should summon the presbyters of the Church,
and they should pray over him
and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
The prayer of faith will save the sick person,
and the Lord will raise him up.
If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.
Elijah was a man like us;
yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain,
and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.
Then Elijah prayed again, and the sky gave rain
and the earth produced its fruit.My brothers and sisters,
if anyone among you should stray from the truth
and someone bring him back,
he should know that whoever brings back a sinner
from the error of his way will save his soul from death
and will cover a multitude of sins.
PS 141:1-2, 3 AND 8
O LORD, to you I call; hasten to me;
hearken to my voice when I call upon you.
Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.
R. Let my prayer come like incense before you.
O LORD, set a watch before my mouth,
a guard at the door of my lips.
For toward you, O God, my LORD, my eyes are turned;
in you I take refuge; strip me not of life.
R. Let my prayer come like incense before you.
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.