by Fr. Jonathan Atchley
No one was present for Mass that I celebrated alone today. Sometimes that happens: a priest isn’t scheduled to celebrate publicly so he celebrates privately anyway. Still, without an audience, I heard myself present this homily. The stories are true of people I’ve met in my years of ministry.
A middle-aged man mourns, though he is well off in life. He thinks back on his university days when he was dating a woman he loved. As it happens, they consummated their love outside marriage and she went on to have an abortion. He begged and pleaded with her to keep the child, wanting to marry, but she refused him. He never married and now lives alone, bitter over the family lost that could have been theirs.
A young woman attended a large family reunion. Hopeful to reconnect with relatives she’d known or heard about as a child, she was eager to meet and greet them. But when she turned up and people found out she was Catholic, they all but ignored her.
A young married couple lost their parents on both sides early on, and wanting to make something of themselves, they took their family inheritance and invested it in a business. The man who sold them the business cheated them, though, and soon they found themselves penniless. --
Why the emphasis on sorrow? It came to me that God is eager, as with the characters in these stories, to see his works accomplish good and grow. Like the couple who invested, he invests his grace in us. That grace is precious, more substantial than any inheritance we can pass on to one another. But how often does he see us bear fruit instead of sin—if we are even aware of our sins?
And like the young woman, God is eager to be acknowledged and loved, especially by his own people. Yet when we attend mass, for instance, or pray our prayers--beleaguered with thoughts of recent past failures or near future successes--have we acknowledged him for even a few minutes, or received him in the Eucharist with reverence?
Finally, the man who lost his child reminds me of how God raised up a people for himself, but how often does the Church betray her Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier (not to mention one another) out of callous disregard or over petty grievances?
The good news is that these stories doesn’t need to end sorrowfully. You and I, here and now, as well as in the near future to come, can reassure the Lord that his decision to create us was a good one, that we are deeply respectful and grateful for all he does for us, and that we will reapply our faith with renewed fervor for love of him who loves us.