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"Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh."

- Luke 6: 20-21


 

Thank you for your kind words and expressions of love on my 50th Anniversary of Ordination.  I was ordained in St. Peter’s, Rome on December 20, 1968.  I did not return home until after exams in June 1969. When I returned, I had a Mass of Thanksgiving and reception at St. William on Sunday, July 20, 1969 (the moon landing happened that evening). Going through some old papers, I found my homily for that Mass of Thanksgiving. I believe the message is still relevant especially as it pertains to you, the people of St. Dominic, over these past eighteen years!

Homily - Mass of Thanksgiving – St. William, July 20, 1969

Every person, I think, at any given moment in his or her life can stop, reflect and say thank you to someone. Thanksgiving is one of those universal sentiments and perhaps the most used word in any language. And, precisely because it is such a common experience, we tend very often to take it for granted. We take for granted the fact that “who we are” depends on the people we have met, the people who have loved us and the people we have loved. We take for granted a very basic fact of psychology that unless a child is loved, he can never live a mature and fully human life. And, so, once we think about it, it is possible to make a long list of those to whom we owe thanks. We have heard this sort of thing done many times in the cliched line “I want to thank all of those who made this possible.”

But there is something different here this evening because we are believers; we do more than make a list. The difference is that our thanksgiving takes the form of the Eucharist (the Mass) in which we recognize and thank God, the source of all the love we have to be thankful for. And so, in this Eucharist we say, “Thank you God for loving us so much.”

I used to think that the God we prayed to and thanked in this Church lived somewhere beyond the roof (the priests were always looking up there somewhere). Today, I realize that the God I thank is the God that exists between us and in us. And the love of God that I am thankful for is the love I received from Him through you. For the love of God comes to us through human hands and from human hearts. It has always been that way and It must be that way.

It was Christ who first showed us the fullness of the love God has for us. A man like us in everything but sin, He showed us by living a human life and by loving us with a human heart. How else would we have known God’s love for us? The mystery of the Incarnation (God becoming man) is really the mystery of God’s coming through human hands. There were human words and human actions and a human death. For those without Faith, those words and actions and that death were merely the idiosyncrasies of the son of a carpenter turned religious fanatic. But for those of us who believe, it was God’s love coming through human hands.

And so too today, the love of God continues to come through human hands. Because we have received the spirit of Christ in some mysterious and very real way, the love we have received and the love we find ourselves able to give is really God’s love.

This evening I thank God – not the God up there beyond the roof but the God right here among us – for the love He has shown through you. And I thank you for allowing that love to reach me. I thank God for the love He has shown me in the married love of the two people who gave me life and have nourished me. I thank God for the love He has shown me through a loving sister, through relatives, through friends, through a parish, and through the hands of the Bishop which made me a priest.

We can thank God with words and I can thank you with these words, and that is relatively easy. But we only really thank God and one another with our human lives. Lives in which we allow His love to reach other people. And so, in this Mass we thank God for loving us through human hands and human lives. And we offer again our own hands and our own lives to the completion of Christ’s work on earth – showing our sisters and brothers the great love God has for them.

Fr. Jim