with Sisters, Lydia, Moira, Paula and Maria Paz
of Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery
of Redemptoristine Nuns
Yesterday I promised a bit more about Fr. Bruce's wonderful homily last evening. He has provided me with the barest outline. I hope that even this will offer something for you to contemplate and extend the blessing of our Novena and Father's presence with us.
Readings: Hebrews 5:7-9, Psalm 31, Luke - Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
During the years I spent on the island of St. Lucia I luxuriated in the sun, the warmth, the water and the fruit. But there was another side to life there - a great deal of violence. Once I was called to the hospital by the family of a young man who had been shot and was not expected to live because the rudimentary hospital in St. Lucia could not possibly provide the surgery necessary. I comforted the young man, a victim of gang vengeance, blessing him with an icon of the Mother of Perpetual Help. Everyone was so afraid - I was afraid. The next morning I returned to the hospital. The bed was empty and I assumed the worst but asked the nurse about the young man. I was told, "Oh, Father he went home - home with his mother. The bullet moved away from his vital organs to a place where it could be easily removed. We sent him home." Then I was really afraid. This was the fear of God, that wholesome fear that comes from utter and total awe.
Think of a time when you were afraid. What did you fear? What are you afraid of now? For most of us the worst fear is the fear of death, our own death and the death of those we love.
Tonight's Gospel story is about Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the temple for his presentation to the priests. There is lots of fear in this story. Mary and Joseph are filled with that holy fear as they fulfill the prescriptions of the Law. Simeon is afraid that he will not live to see the salvation of Israel. Mary must have been struck with fear at Simeon's prediction that a sword would pierce her heart.
The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help could also be called "Jesus of Many Fears." We do not often think of Jesus being afraid. After all Jesus is all-powerful; he turns a few loaves of bread and some fish into meals for thousands; he is not afraid of men ready to throw stones at the woman caught in adultery: he is not afraid of Lazarus already dead and buried.
But we do know that he must have experienced fear. He must have asked himself, "Am I the one and if I am what does that mean for me?" "Will I have the strength to do what must be done?" "Will I fail?" "What happens after death?" "What is my fate, my destiny, my future?" "What is the will of my Father?" I see the cross, the nails and the lance!" Just like us he knew fear, many of the same fears we experience.
But there is good news. For me the good news was delivered on June 17, 1967, the day on which I was baptised into Jesus Christ. Because of our Baptism we do not have to be afraid. After all, we are dead already. In Baptism we died in Jesus Christ which means that we will live forever, saved from sin and death, to share in everlasting life.
Mary of Perpetual Help holds us as she did Jesus and says, "Do not be afraid. I will help you. Don't be afraid! I will calm your fears."