Year of Faith Holy Hour Homily
October 16, 2012
Below is the homily preached by the Very Rev. Kenneth Letoile, O.P., Prior of the Priory of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies), at the Holy Hour commemorating the opening of the Year of Faith on October 11th.
Homily to Begin the Year of Faith
Priory of the Immaculate Conception Dominican House of Studies
October 11, 2012
I chose the Gospel passage of the journey on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) in part because of the following words that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, spoke in his homily at St. Peter’s this morning:
The journey is a metaphor for life, and the wise wayfarer is one who has learned the art of living and can share it with his brethren…This then is how we can picture the Year of Faith, as a pilgrimage in the deserts of today’s world, taking with us only what is necessary…the gospel and the faith of the Church, of which the council documents are a luminous expression as is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Let’s look at this well-known passage more closely to see why it might be appropriate for this very special time that we begin tonight. Cleopas and his companion had lapsed. Discouraged, disillusioned, they are going away from Jerusalem with heavy hearts. They represent all who need the grace of conversion during this Year of Faith: those of us already active and practicing who need to grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus, those who have drifted away from practicing their faith, and those who have never come to know the Savior and may call themselves agnostics or atheists. But then Jesus takes the first step. Good Shepherd that He is, He reaches out to the two that have wandered away. His grace is always active in our hearts calling us to new or renewed life. Notice that He expresses His care first by asking the question and then listening. He allows them to speak from their hearts. He, of course, knew the answer to “What things?” But the question and the listening opened the hearts of the pilgrims to His revelation. Then, after explaining the Scriptures, He gives them a choice respecting their freedom which allows them to deepen their faith in Him by proclaiming those words that express the deepest desire of the human heart, “Stay with us” (Lk 24:29). That request leads to the Eucharistic gift that revealed Jesus, His love and truth. This grace turns them around. They experience the grace of metanoia. They return to Jerusalem, the eleven, their brothers and sisters to hear the gospel: “The Lord is risen indeed…” (Lk 24:39). And they proclaim the good news of how they had come to know Him in the “breaking of the bread.” I would now like to introduce you to two contemporary pilgrims by way of reminder that the road to Emmaus continues today. You will be happy to know that Newsweek magazine published its Year of Faith issue today. No kidding. The cover shows a heavenly landscape with the words: “Heaven is for real.” The cover story is written by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Eben Alexander, former Harvard faculty member, husband and father of two, and a very nominal Christian. He describes how, as a physician specializing in the brain, he was very skeptical of the near death visions that others have reported. He understood how those things could happen given the structure of the brain. He was then stricken with a very rare form of meningitis that resulted in his lapsing into a deep coma for seven days. He then relates the celestial experiences he remembered after he returned to consciousness. I invite you to read them for yourselves: quite extraordinary. He describes the skepticism of his colleagues following his return to health. He then goes on to describe what happened when he returned to church and how everything took on new vibrancy and meaning. He writes:
And most important, a painting of Jesus, breaking bread with his disciples, evoked the message that lay at the very heart of my journey: that we are loved and accepted unconditionally by a God…who cares for us more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child. (Newsweek, 10/15/12, p.32)
The second pilgrim is my nephew. He and his wife just quietly drifted away from the Church. A moment of opportunity came when his sister asked them to be godparents. Since I’ll be doing the baptism, it occasioned a conversation. My nephew and his wife were ready to return to the Church. I sent him a copy of Fr. Robert Barron’s DVD Catholicism. I texted him last night to see how things were progressing. He texted back: “DVD arrived and we have started watching. It is well done…remember more than I thought I would. We are officially registered at St. Bernard’s and went to Saturday mass again last week.” So what can we learn from the Emmaus gospel and these two very recent pilgrims? 1.We can’t give up on our culture, despite its secular drift, which, as Pope Benedict says, makes this a very different moment than that which saw the opening of Vatican Council II fifty years ago today. We need to follow the Lord’s example and find the surgeon, the family member ready to be reintroduced to the One “…in whom all things were created in heaven and on earth” (Col.1:16). 2. We have to be patient and first listen to what is troubling the pilgrims’ hearts. The love conveyed by being listened to provides the tinder so the fire of the Spirit can ignite the heart. 3. We can’t be afraid to witness to Jesus, our knowledge and love of Him, and how He continues to do mighty deeds in our midst. That neurosurgeon took a big risk publishing his conversion. 4. We have to trust that Jesus will be present in our churches as we continue, with His grace, to be faithful to His command: “Do this in remembrance of me.” He is there to welcome all who undertake their journey home during this Year of Faith. I close with the words of Pope Benedict in today’s homily:
Vatican II’s true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the Apostolic faith, animated by the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people in the church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.
May all of us members of the Order of Preachers, and all who journey with us take hold of the grace of this Year of Faith and proclaim in word and deed the loving truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.