This is the first homily I preached for my good friends, the Sister Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Cresson, PA.
“to all who received Him, believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God.”
What a profound statement this truly is! Our Lord took on flesh and entered this world as we all do- in the womb of a Mother. He truly experienced the human condition in all aspects except for sin. This very weakness is His strength that he offers to each of us.
What does it mean to become a child of God? And what is this power that Saint John speaks of?
One very important aspect of being a child of God is to have unity of life. Our Lord took on flesh, but remained God. All God and all man. Yet he does not have schizophrenia. He doesn’t say, “wait a minute while I put on my God thinking cap”. No. His human and divine will were in total cooperation.
As a child, we are called to have this unity of life. We do not have a holy prayer life, then compartmentalize this this while we go and work or spend our time outside the chapel. These words given to us by Saint John are a true clarion call for conversion in our own lives. As Pope Saint John Paul II says of this passage,
“Man is transformed inwardly by this power as the source of a new life that does not disappear and pass away but lasts to eternal life.” (Redemptor Hominis 18). Due to our baptism, each of us have been given this new life. So often we complicate things because of our attraction to sin. We forget that God calls us to be His children.
The birth of the Christ child struck fear in the heart of the powerful Herod. We can see the power of childlike simplicity and trust in God’s will very clearly in the saints. One of these is Saint Dominic Savio, the young boy who had a clear sighted vision of the world. On the day he made his first holy communion, he made four resolutions:
1. I will go to confession very often and to Communion as often as my Confessor will allow.
2. I will keep the feast days holy.
3. Jesus and Mary shall be my friends.
4. Death before sin!
Look at the power that this young boy had within him! If we could make and keep these resolutions, we would be well on our way to becoming saints, which we are called to become anyway! This is the power of the children of God! This is not a weak whining spirituality! No! Since Our Lord took human flesh to himself, he calls us to share in his life and to sanctify every moment of everyday. He lived every moment, from the moment of the Annunciation until his death on the cross, with his eyes focused on God the Father.
I remember a few years ago I received a note from a Sister from Mount Grace convent in Saint Louis, a group of sisters in a pink habit whose charism is adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the envelope was the newsletter for the sisters which contained a photo of some sisters playing ping pong. She noted that “even while we play ping pong, we are praying for you!”. I was greatly edified by this! I know the same is true of you sisters as well. When you go to Loretto and play pool and roller skate with the Carmelites (ha!), I know you are praying for not only me, but the entire Church! Thank you!
Sisters, I don’t think a single one of you would deny the fact that we are physical creatures, and God has endowed us with the senses to experience the world. What a beautiful world which God has created. We experience the beauty and truth of the heavenly liturgy by using beautiful vestments, incense, harmony. Order and beauty-how God creates us.
And yet, because of man’s pride, Adam and Eve turned from God and we suffer from the effects of Original sin.
O Happy fault! God sent His only son, the second person of the Trinity to redeem us. He entered life in the womb of the Blessed Mother who said “fiat” to the Angel’s request. He experienced every human condition except for sin. He lived life, and his life was probably not much different, on the exterior, from his friends and neighbors. He was obedient to Saint Joseph and the Blessed Mother. Talk about humility…God allows himself to be obedient to humans! Rather than viewing those frustrating moments in our lives, which I know NEVER happen in community life, as moments to throw up our hands, these can be moments of greater trust and obedience in the Lord.
This is why those pink sisters can offer their ping pong as a prayer and your daily work and recreation as prayer as well. You see, everything can be a prayer because there is no aspect about our lives that our Lord did not redeem. In fact, everything must be prayer.
Sisters, you are a visible reminder to the world of this fact. We need bold and courageous reminders more and more. You must remind us by your sanctity, your lives of prayer, and wearing the noble and distinctive habit that God is truly present in our world that is working so hard to reject Him. Your childlike unity of life must be a challenge to the rest of us.
This focus is what Blessed Klara calls you religious sisters to live intensely: “She is always busy about one thing: to be pleasing to the Heart of her Divine Spouse.” Blessed Klara also councils: “Only one spirit enlivens her: the spirit of the Lord Jesus; so she has an aversion towards the world and all its vanity, and desires to live the hidden life.”
Due to this unity of life, the saints are not paralyzed by fear. There is so much nonsense happening right now in our culture and the devil is constantly trying to keep us from this fundamental aspect of our lives in Christ. Our Lord wants us to be free-that is why He became incarnate and suffered, died, and rose. He conquered sin and he calls us to share in his victory.
Today we celebrate the great feast of the Visitation when our Blessed Mother journeyed to visit and assist Saint Elizabeth. There she proclaimed the Magnificat and said “He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart, He has put down the might from their thrones, and exalted the lowly”. God cast lucifer and his army of proud angels into Hell. God and his faithful are triumphant in the end, and it is his children who are saved. Let us pray to our Mother to ask her to help us to become the children that God calls us to be. Then when we are fearful, we can have confidence that she will send an army of God’s faithful angels to assist us and to scatter the proud demons far from us.
“We are children of God. —Bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed or overshadowed.