Signs of Divine Power on US 220

[Homily of your unworthy servant, saying goodbye to my beloved parishes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph]

If you have a sharp memory, you may recall that our three-year cycle for Sunday gospel readings has one special late-summertime twist.

The years when we read from St. Mark’s gospel at Sunday Mass are called Year… B. St. Mark had a unique virtue in his gospel writing, namely brevity. His gospel doesn’t quite fill a whole year’s worth of Sundays.

So, during Year B, from late July to the end of August, we take a detour from Mark to John. We read one of the longer chapters of the New Testament. The chapter about the Bread of Life, come down from heaven; about ‘he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood will live forever;’ the chapter that concludes with St. Peter humbly declaring to Christ, “Leave You, Lord? To whom shall we go?”

Christ in Capernaum

Christ in Capernaum

Right. John 6. It all starts with the Feeding of the 5,000. Then the chapter continues for four more Sunday Masses

It’s my favorite interlude in the three-year cycle of readings. It presents the wonderful opportunity to reflect on the most-famous miracle of Christ, and then segue into His Presence with us in the Holy Mass. These five weeks stand wide open, like an invitation from the Lord to preach a little series of homilies. Today would be the day to start the series. Except…

My best friend in high-school and I competed with each other in many things. Grades. Sports. But the thing we competed about most was: which of us loved his mother more. Maybe that sounds totally cheesy, but it’s true. Then, when we were 22, Eric lost his mother to cancer.

Brave, eloquent man that he is, he got up to speak at her funeral. The scene seared itself into my memory forever: The picture of him standing there by himself in the front of the dingy synagogue. The sound of his strong voice, valiantly mastering itself. He said, “Anyone who knows me knows that for me to be standing here like this… is destroying me.”

That was a lot worse than a transfer from one parish to another, to be sure. But standing here, having to say goodbye… If you know me, you know that this is kinda destroying me.

We read in the Holy Gospels how the Lord Jesus promised that miraculous signs would accompany the ministry of the Apostles. The Apostles then proceeded to work miracles, as we read in the New Testament.

Recently I had an argument with a brother Christian about the continuation of the apostolic ministry in the Church. The Apostles, of course, chose successors for themselves, to carry on their mission. An unbroken succession extends from St. Peter and the original Apostles to the pope and bishops of today.

This is a hard fact to argue with. But my Protestant friend disputed the legitimacy of what we Catholics call the ‘apostolic succession’ on these grounds: I don’t see the miracles. He said that he doesn’t see the pope and bishops accomplishing miraculous healings, or handling snakes, or drinking poison and not dying.

silver roanoke starNow, if he checked the list of promised signs in the New Testament, he might find that the biggest one is: speaking in all the tongues of the earth. And the Catholic Church, frumpy as She may be, does have the only claim, among all human institutions, to that. Does anyone speak all the languages of the earth? Yes, the Catholic Church does. No one else can say that.

But let’s leave that aside. Let’s stay more local.

What I really wanted to say to my friend is: You don’t see miraculous signs in the Church? Well, then, you don’t see what I see, man. You haven’t had the privileged point-of-view that I have had these past four years.

The miraculous sign of people, in an age of isolation, coming together. The miraculous sign of brother- and sister-Christians, in an age of selfishness, thinking of others first and making real sacrifices for them. The miraculous sign of the up-and-coming generation, in an age of relativism and self-indulgence, striving to find God’s truth and live by it.

The miraculous sign of good, competent, talented people, putting up with a feckless dweeb of a pastor, co-operating with him in spite of how impossible he is. And making beautiful things happen under this roof, week in and week out, in spite of the cluelessness of the guy in charge.

These are signs of divine power. You, my dear faithful people, have been working them for as long as I have known you. No doubt you will continue to work them, for the glory of God.

I’ll shut up now. If any good has come from my babblings up here, may the glory be God’s. I came here because Jesus Christ, speaking through Bishop, sent me here. And now the Lord, speaking through Bishop, is sending me to Roanoke. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

To Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of Mary, the divine Lamb, the Crucified, the Victor over death, the fountainhead of life and love, the Alpha, the Omega, the Name above every other name, the King of kings and Lord of lords; our brother, our Redeemer; the Heart of our hearts: to Him be glory and praise, in the Church on earth and in heaven, now and forever.

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5 thoughts on “Signs of Divine Power on US 220

  1. Wishing you well in your new assignment. I know the people will embrace you at your new assignment. Prayers for you always.

  2. Father Mark, reading your homily, here in Canada, brought tears to my eyes. You pointed to the goodness of the parishioners and I also see the goodness of the Shepherd. It reinforced how much and how desperately, we need good Shepherds. With guidance from the Holy Spirit, may you bring more sheep home. – Doreen Aaron

  3. That “feckless dweeb of a pastor” who humbles himself always, helped to open some of our eyes to the miraculous signs of divine power. Like finding and seeing the good in others as well as ourselves, in teaching some of us that it’s all about working together to travel the road less taken, and mostly just finding that blind faith in what we can’t see or touch, but we know is there. Thank you; father, brother, co-worker, but most of all friend. You have touched our lives forever and it would be selfish of us to not want you to touch the lives of others, even though that’s the way we would have liked to keep it “all to ourselves.” Que Dios Te Bendiga.

  4. You called me an intellectual and I had to look that one up, and still do every time that precious memory comes to visit. I finally accepted that I can be when my I.S.M., I, SELF, ME, is properly submitted to Him who is WAY TRUTH LIGHT/LIFE. All this too short time as student I regarded you as Scholar. In my recovery I came further in realizing you are a Warrior! A very skilled and experienced warrior at that and the very kind each man ( gender specific ) should aspire to be; a man skilled in use of Weapons of Light in submission to Jesus the mightiest and most courageous of warriors.
    For me, these Weapons are embodied in the Nine Gifts of the Holy Spirit, ( faith, hope, love, etc. ) and The Ten Principle Virtues of The Blessed Virgin Mary per St Louis de Montfort. I want in on the ‘good fight’.

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