This week we share a heartfelt homily given by our pastor, Fr. John Riccardo at the funeral Mass for his beloved mother, Thelma. It speaks powerfully to the beauty of marriage and family life centered on Jesus Christ.
William Adolphe Bouguereau, Pieta, 1876
Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This title was given to the Virgin Mary to reflect the sorrows in her life, especially her intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of her son and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In addition to suffering at the foot of the cross, Mary endured many sorrowful events in her life, collectively known as the Seven Sorrows (or Dolors):
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
It was Mary’s “Yes” to the Archangel Gabriel that enabled God to humble Himself, take on flesh, and launch His plan for the salvation of humanity through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. Mary was blessed to be the Mother of God. She was the first disciple of Jesus, carrying the Savior of the world in her womb. She indeed “found favor with God” (Lk 1:30).
Just as God asked Mary’s permission, Jesus is asking permission to dwell within you. He wants you to know His love for you. He took on human flesh so He could search for you like the shepherd searching after the one lost sheep (see Lk 15:1-7). Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, said that all of Scripture can be reduced to just three words, “God is love.” Jesus is God’s love manifested in the flesh and He wants a personal and intimate relationship with you.
Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe (Jan. 8, 1894 – Aug. 14, 1941) died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity” for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by St. John Paul II on October 10, 1982. Present at the canonization was Franciszek Gajowniczek, one of the ten men from his barracks picked to suffer death by starvation as punishment for the escape of a prisoner. His life was spared when Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
Are you holding unforgiveness in your heart towards your spouse or any other family member? Are you harboring bitterness and anger towards anyone? Jesus is quite clear that we are to be generous in our forgiveness of those who have offended us; forgiveness without limit.
Our society at large, and even our Church, is suffering from a lack of holiness. Satan is on the attack to destroy families, the Church, and countless lives. He is using sinful desires of the heart to enslave us. Collectively, we are suffering from heart disease. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians speaks clearly on this matter.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh…Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16, 19-21
Gianna Beretta Molla was a pediatric physician, a wife, and a mother. She was born in Magenta, Italy on October 4, 1922. She was the 10th of 13 children in her family. Shortly before her marriage to Pietro in 1955, she sent him a letter that included the above quote. It tenderly speaks of the love that St. Gianna had for her husband and family. Gianna’s life demonstrates a self-sacrificial love, a love that gives for others without counting the cost. It is a love modeled on the love of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to die for our sins. He gave His life as a ransom for ours so we might inherit eternal life with His Father in heaven.
Sacred Scripture is God’s love letter to His people. Throughout this letter, God uses nuptial imagery to describe His covenantal relationship with us, His beloved children. Just as His love for us is everlasting, so God designed marriage to be an unbreakable relationship between one man and one woman for life. Our culture views marriage as a contract between two (or more!) people that can be broken at any time when the relationship no longer meets the needs of those involved. Hence, we have a twisted view of a God who loves us unconditionally in spite of our sin. Broken marriages lead to a broken image of God.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (HV), written by Blessed Pope Paul VI. It provides a concise, clear, and beautiful teaching on God’s plan for married love and the transmission of life. Specifically, it addressed the evils of contraception.
Much damage has been done to couples and families by contraception. Prior to 1930, all Christian denominations shared this belief. Today, the Catholic Church alone declares that contraception is morally evil. “The Church condemns contraception since it violates the procreative and unitive meaning of the human sexual act,” says Janet E. Smith, expert on Humanae Vitae. “Sex is for babies and for bonding; if people are not ready for babies or bonding, they ought not to be engaging in acts of sexual intercourse…our society [has] lost sight of the fundamental truth that if you are not ready for babies, you are not ready for sexual intercourse.”
Did you know that your happiness is dependent on your ability to focus on others?
Recently, thanks to Craig Pohl, Director of New Evangelization for the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, we learned about Fr. Robert Spitzer’s Four Levels of Happiness. The essence of each level is based on philosophy dating back to Aristotle, who said that happiness is the one thing we desire in and of itself. The level of happiness that is dominant in our lives will dictate our actions and choices. Furthermore, whichever level of happiness dominates our lives will determine the depth and endurance of our happiness.