Sunday, September 21, 2014

Family Day at SJS


In the closing prayer of today’s Mass, you will hear the words “may God bless us through the mysteries we have celebrated and through the way we live our lives.”  Today is one of the happiest days of the year in this holy house, as we welcome those family and friends who by the way they have lived their lives, have raised up priests for Christ and for his Church.

For, you see, the very reason these good men are part of Saint John’s Seminary is because of the choices their families and friends have made: choices for life, for faithfulness and for holiness. Thank you for all the sacrifices you have made for them.  May Christ reward a hundredfold.

I am also very happy to welcome the family of Father Francis Murphy, whose generosity made possible our new tabernacle.  Ann, his twin sister is with us, along with her husband John, and their daughter with her husband, along with Fr. Murphy’s grand-niece.  Please join me in saying thank you to the family and friends of this good priest.

I invite you all to join me in offering this Mass for the repose of Father Murphy’s soul and in gratitude for his sterling example of priestly ministry.


Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins, 
and so prepare ourselves 
to celebrate the sacred mysteries.


“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call to him while he is still near.”

As we welcome the families and friends of all our brothers in this holy house, I think of my own parents who first brought me to seminary some forty two years ago.  My father has since died and my mother’s health is fading.  And here I am, in my early sixties (with emphasis on the word early).  How life goes by…how everything changes.

Everything except the Lord.  He was there at the beginning, he through whom all things were made, he who named me in my mother’s womb..  He will be there at the end of time, sitting on a cloud to judge the living and the dead.

And he is there at every moment in between.  

Stilling the hearts of an anxious seminarian, overwhelming him with his grace, and with an unlimited supply of enthusiasm, hope and passion.

He is there.

Inspiring the soul of the newly ordained, urging him on to save the world, to evangelize the margins and to do great things for Christ and for his Church.

He is there.

Guiding the actions of the middle aged pastor, making him wise and patient and slow to judge…kind and giving but unwavering from the truth.

He is there.

Strengthening the limbs of the aging priest, weighed down by the burden of his years, tired of everything except the altar of God, which even in his dotage brings  joy to his youth.

He is there.

Quietly closing the eyes of the priest about to die, singing the Nunc Dimittis and granting him eternal rest in the arms of God.

He is there.  Always and at every moment of our lives.

There on the day when Francis J. and his wife Margaret brought their son Frank to Saint John’s in 1957.   Little did Frank know on that day what lay ahead of him: that he would become a priest and teacher here on the College Faculty, that he’d be sent for his Ph.D. or that he’d live the last years of his priesthood caring for the children at the Nazareth Center in Jamaica Plain or the Sisters of Charity at Mount Vincent in Wellesley.  

But God was always there, in every moment of the life of this good priest. And with him when he died and left a bequest to Saint John’s for a new tabernacle before which we pray throughout the day and even at night.  A tabernacle which is, likewise, a sign that God is always there.

When this Tabernacle was first blessed, Bishop Matano prayed for three things: That through our adoration of the Body of Christ reserved in this tabernacle we might be drawn closer to the mysteries celebrated on the Altar, that God might make us more holy, and that we might find in him an inexhaustible fountain of living water, leaping up to provide eternal life.

One at this Altar in Holiness
To be one with Christ at this Altar means we are one with every person who prays before every altar throughout the world.  I remember when I first went off to seminary, it seemed so far away from my home, my family and my old friends and the life I used to have.  And no matter how many times I meditated on the calling of the disciples or tried to hear the Lord’s voice saying “Come, Follow me,” it was still so hard not to look back and to focus ahead.

One seminarian, not of Saint John’s, had just such a tough time his first year, away from home, away from friends and everything which had provided him with such support and security.  He thought of leaving innumerable times and prayed repeatedly for God’s grace…just to do his will.  I spoke to him recently after he had returned from his summer apostolate and he was a completely changed man.  His eyes are now firmly fixed on the extraordinary surprises God has waiting for him over the next horizon.  His heart no longer clings to the securities of the past.  He has abandoned himself to following the Son of Man, who often has no place to lay his head.  He only wants to be joined to that Altar, to be obedient to God.

In Holiness
The God who invites us to holiness, to be transformed in him.

When I was a little kid I thought I knew what holiness way.  It was to look like those dusty old plaster statues, with a placid look on your face, gazing longingly beyond this vail of tears to the eternal glories of heaven.

What I was missing was how you get to be holy.  It’s hard work accepting God’s grace and struggling to reflect the love of Christ and let go of my own stubborn desires for fame and fortune and calling the shots.

But God can make you holy, if only you let him.  God can so change our hearts by the mysteries we celebrate here that we forgive rather than judge, that we seek out the ones whom everyone else would reject just to love them.  God can so change us that we speak the truth, even when they will hate us for it.  God can so change us that we rejoice, like Mary, in our littleness rather than trying to grab for all the gusto we can get.  God can so change us that we seek only to decrease that he may increase.  God can so change me that you no longer see me, but Christ Jesus in me.

Through the mysteries of this altar God can do anything, even make me holy.

Eternal Refreshment and Peace
And so come, my friends, come be refreshed and strengthened by the Holy Eucharist celebrate upon this altar and reserved in that tabernacle, as was Frank Murphy in every moment of his life, as are his friends and relatives who join us today, as are my brother seminarians and priests, as are each one of us who are led to this table by the Good Shepherd, by still waters, where he refreshes your soul.

For he is always there.