Eye on the Sparrow


Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. (Matthew 10:29)

Our forefathers of the Old Covenant awaited the coming of the Messiah. They didn’t know what His name would be. They didn’t know what He would look like, or exactly what He would do.

Nonetheless, they believed in the coming Christ, because they knew that God would provide everything necessary for their nation to enjoy true blessedness. He had formed an alliance with them, and He had promised good things; they knew He would fulfill His promises. History would make sense. Life would have meaning. Our natural human desires for justice and truth, for real happiness in an upright, honest life—all these desires would be fulfilled. Somehow.

The ancient Israelites did not know how everything would get resolved. But they believed in the good God, Who knows all and governs all. In other words, they believed in Divine Providence. So they had no doubt in their minds that God would send His Christ to make everything right.

And the Father did send His Christ.

Through Adam sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all… But the gift is not like the transgression. For if, by the transgression of the one, many died, how much more did the grace of God, and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ, overflow. (Romans 5:12,15)

El Greco crucifixion Cristo sulla croce

The ancient Israelites awaited the loving fulfillment of the divine plan. And now we Christians know beyond a shadow of a doubt: God loves us with the love of a kind Father.

Christ crucified has revealed it: our heavenly Father has counted all our hairs, with the same kind of tenderness with which a mother would stroke the peach fuzz on her baby’s head. Christ crucified reveals the full extent of the Providence of God. The Father loves us this much; He loves us with the “amount” of love evident on the cross. And that amount = infinity.

Meanwhile: the cross also teaches us another important thing. If I might, maybe I’ll get a little personal here. I have vivid memories of how my vocation as a Catholic, and as a priest, began. Twenty-five years ago, the Lord helped me see something else in the crucifix: not just the love of the Father, but also the total trust that the incarnate Son had in His Father.

Ever since earliest childhood, I had loved Jesus and believed in Him as the Savior, as the One Who has atoned for sin, Who has revealed the fullness of the Father’s love for mankind. Then, when I was reaching adulthood, the Lord gave me this other gift. I saw how Jesus gave Himself over into the Father’s hands, trusting so absolutely that He died fearlessly, even serenely, on Mt. Calvary. The Lord helped me see how this trust of Christ on the cross could be a way of life—a way of life for all of us, and especially for us men called to be priests and to live a celibate life.

God will provide. I have nothing to fear. I myself may be obtuse and difficult; I may be weak-natured and prone to selfishness. And there are plenty of other people in this world who have the same problems, so we run up against each other in conflicts sometimes. But I can still dive headfirst into the great pool of love that is Christ’s Church, without holding anything back, because I have no evil to fear. Jesus trusted—unto death. And the heavenly Father took care of Him, lifting Him up from the grave, to immortal, heavenly glory. So the Father will take care of me, too.


…Now, when Bilbo Baggins prepared to leave the Shire on his 111th birthday, he declared to his neighbors, “A hundred eleven years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits!”

Two years is too short a time to serve in Roanoke among the excellent and admirable Catholics of St. Andrews and St. Gerard’s. I wish I could have 111 more years, so Catholic Roanoke could really get good and sick of me.

Seriously though, I think we have to exercise a little patience with ourselves, as we gradually try to get over the shock of this pastoral transition. Maybe I could even say: we have to exercise patience with ourselves as we recover from the wound of this mysterious pastoral transition.

God sent His Christ, thus providing everything necessary for us to get to heaven. But it didn’t happen without wounds. As we meditate on God’s fatherly Providence, let’s remember: the two sparrows which got sold for a small coin, which the Lord said our heavenly Father had His eye on—they didn’t sell those sparrows, in the Temple courtyard, for pets. They sold them for… sacrifice.

The workings of Divine Providence don’t involve some happy-happy-joy-joy merry-go-round ride. No. God’s entire plan revolves around one precise center point: Mount Calvary. We have an altar at church for a reason: so that we can offer ourselves in sacrifice–along with the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

Certainly the transition of pastors in Roanoke spells relief for many people who find me intolerably tedious—whom I cannot blame at all, since I find myself intolerably tedious, too. But for me anyway, and I daresay for some others, this is a painful moment–me having to say goodbye to some dearly beloved hobbits. It is a moment of sacrifice, genuinely wounding sacrifice. Wounds like this don’t heal overnight.

But we trust. God provides. Jesus said: Do not be afraid!

So why should I feel discouraged, or why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely, away from heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion; my constant friend is He.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

6 thoughts on “Eye on the Sparrow

  1. So wonderfully expressed, as I had no doubt it would be…your homily on this weekend of good-byes.
    Judy R.

  2. You are the BEST.I do not know how you found this old song, WOW What a End to this Chapter of your life. Now may God continue to Bless you.I will go and see you and listen to you and I will read the Best Homilies when I can not do the first two. Ed. Mayer

  3. So thoughtfully prepared and beautifully delivered! I know a few hobbits that will be seeing you for years to come. Maybe 111 years so that you can get good and tired of us! Your faithful hobbits 🙏 Laurie & Bill

  4. It won’t be the same as hearing you deliver the words but we will continue to learn through reading them here. God bless you Fr. Mark … it’s been a blessing having you in this chapter of my life!

  5. Another beautiful homily but this one tugged my heartstrings. Even tho you will not be with us in person, your words will continue to encourage, challenge and bring love to us all. Thank you Fr. Mark for bringing a freshness to my faith. God bless and keep you on life’s glorious journey. I will miss you very much and will cherish our friendship. Marge

  6. My heart aches for you, dear Father Mark. Go in peace . My daily prayers accompany you as do many others, I am sure. “May no one be less good, less kind, less noble for having been a fellow traveler in our journey toward eternal life.” God bless you always.

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