WASHINGTON, D.C. – His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, USA, called on the faithful for prayer “to support the world-wide celebration of mercy, to be open to the Lord’s mercy, and to be instruments of it.” Archbishop Broglio delivered the message in his homily at a 5:15 p.m. (ET) Mass on Thursday in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. His Excellency was the principal celebrant of the Mass, opening a mid-Lenten “24 Hours for the Lord: 40 Hours Devotion.” The Devotion ran through sundown Saturday, and included overnight Thursday and Friday exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Here follows the full text of Archbishop Broglio’s homily:
Matthew Kelly uses an amazing allegory to illustrate the importance of the Eucharist. It involves a mysterious fatal infection that is spreading across the world. Thousands succumb and the best scientists and physicians are working night and day to find an antidote.
They localize one young boy who has the natural immunity to produce a vaccine. The boys’ parents are summoned and told that their son has the ability to save the world from this terrible plague. Reluctantly, they express willingness to help and ask what will be necessary. The scientist’s words are devastating: “We must have his whole body. He will have to make the ultimate sacrifice to save humanity from this terrible plague.” The parents are beside themselves, but they see that there is no choice.
The vaccine is successful and the human race is saved. On the first anniversary of the cure, the parents organize an event to commemorate the sacrifice of their son. The response is tepid: many are busy. There are conflicting soccer games, a sale not to be missed, a pro football game, chores. The list of excuses is long, but the parents cannot understand. Our son died so that you might have life, can you not come to say thanks?
We gather this evening to give thanks. First we must listen and then respond with decisiveness. The whole process is prayer.
First of all we must be able to listen. That is no mean feat in contemporary society. Everyone buries his or her head into an electronic device. Family conversation can be ruined. Human interaction is faulty.
The Prophet Jeremiah is clear in today’s passage: essential to conversion is hearing the voice of the Lord. Do not harden your hearts. He clearly condemns worship turned into formalism. Remember that the Chosen People repeated a call to listen several times a day: Shema Israel began each of those prayers.
The choice before us is radical: life or death. Indeed the prophet teaches us by remaining faithful to his vocation despite strong opposition and challenges. Jeremiah is one of the few to suffer the ultimate sacrifice for his fidelity to the mission.
Remember that today’s Gospel passage follows Jesus’ instruction about the Our Father and some of the bystanders are amazed at his ability to cast out a devil, but others quickly look for excuses. They are part of the growing opposition which closes mind and heart to the Lord and His message.
We must be attentive, because we can do the same, when the Gospel seems demanding, out of touch, or opposed to our desires, apparent gain or whatever.
There is both great consolation in today’s readings and great desolation. The former is in the knowledge that the Lord is stronger than the devil, than the world, than any temptation, trial, or difficulty. He is within us, dwells in us through Holy Communion. Our impressions are not so important. He is the strongest and victory will be ours. This truth is decisive.
The desolation consists in the experience of the human person’s capability –while exhausting great energy–to find pretexts to be deaf to the voice of God: deform the reality by accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil.
Even today people look for excuses not to participate in the celebration of the Lord’s victory over sin, His conquest of our inability to be saved, His offer of heaven. This annual retreat of Lent is the opportune moment to reestablish the Lord as the center of my life. It is the moment to respond decisively to the Lord’s invitation.
He offers us the words of eternal life. “In order to arrive at this fruit or goal by going directly on the right path of the Scriptures, we must begin by the preamble, that is to draw near with faith to the Father of lights, bending the knees of our heart, so that He, through His Son in the Holy Spirit, might give us the authentic knowledge of Jesus Christ and, with that knowledge, His love.” (Boneventure, prologue to the Breviloquium.)
The well-armed man who guards the door of his house is an image of the devil; certain to have overcome the human person and definitively set him on the path to perdition. The stronger man is Jesus, who is victorious, takes the armor and distributes the booty. Who is not with Me is against Me….
Therefore, we place our trust in the Lord and listen to His voice. Otherwise all our works are in vane and even when we think we have an advantage, it is only temporary. We walk like a blind person and are obliged to turn around and retrace our steps.
George Weigel suggested that the imitation of Christ is our challenge at this juncture of the Lenten journey. We have arrived at day twenty of the forty. We know that the “pilgrim path will get rockier and steeper as the climax of the drama of redemption draws nearer.” (George Weigel, Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches, p. 173.)
How do we go forward? What is our task or our weapon, to draw on the imagery of combat which is so often a part of the Lenten motif? First of all, we pray this evening to support the world-wide celebration of mercy, to be open to the Lord’s mercy, and to be instruments of it. What better way to do that than to gather in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament and converse with the Lord of the universe?
A contemporary spiritual writer took a bit of poetic license with St. Augustine and wrote that God desires communion with us. That is the nucleus of the celebration and the life of the Eucharist. “God does not only want to enter into human history, converting Himself into a person who lives in an epoch and in a specific country, but also wants to be our daily food and drink in every time and place”. (Henri Nouwen, La forza della sua Presenza, pp. 61 ff.)
It is so appropriate that we gather here to mark this special day of mercy proclaimed by our Holy Father. This National Shrine is a place of constant healing where priests are available to administer divine pardon to those who seek it.
Pope Francis wrote in the Bull of induction for this Holy Year:
“So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 17.)
Just as the parents of the child sacrificed to give life in the allegory invited others to commemorate his loving gesture, the Lord allows us to participate, to be present, and to share in His one sacrifice that gives eternal life. We are here. We have heeded His call. We pray that others might soon join us to give thanks and be renewed.