Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted
Select Homilies from the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Mass of Healing and Reconciliation: The faithful love of Jesus
Following is the text of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for the annual Mass of Healing and Reconciliation March 22, 2012, at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.
— Jn 5:35
The works that Jesus came to accomplish reveal the love of the Father. Jesus speaks of these works when He says (John 3:16), “God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.” The primary way that Jesus revealed His Father’s love was through His suffering under Pontius Pilate, His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. Christ continues today to reveal His Father’s love in this way. That is what is happening now as we celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
The Last Supper, the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the Eucharist we celebrate now are ONE and the same Sacrifice. This is the way that God reveals His love to us. We cannot know God’s love without Christ’s death and Resurrection; we cannot remain in His love without the Eucharist, where this mystery continues to be present. “Let me solemnly assure you,” Jesus says (Jn 6:53), “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
This explains why we have this Eucharistic Sacrifice for victims of abuse and their families, and why we do not simply have a social reception with speeches and prayer. The only “work” that can bring healing to those who have been abused and to their families and friends is the “work” of the Lord Jesus. He alone has the merciful love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death. He accomplishes this “work” of healing by becoming both priest and victim, by acting as priest and victim in His Passion and Resurrection, which are re-presented here and now in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Priest and Victim, Jesus makes His own the suffering and death of every human person, and He transform it by His love. We call this “work” of Christ the Paschal Mystery.
In Isaiah the Prophet, God revealed this mystery of how His Son would redeem the world, how He would be both priest and victim, both suffering servant and Lord of life. Listen again to the prophecy of Isaiah, which foretells how God’s Son, the Priest and Victim, would redeem a broken world (Is 52:13-53:12),
Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before Him… there was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him. He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held Him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He endured… He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all…like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, He was silent and opened not His mouth… through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear.
What wondrous love is this, the love of God revealed in His Beloved Son, the priest and victim at Calvary and at the every Eucharistic Sacrifice. This is the only love that can bring healing to a victim of abuse or to any person. The priest and victim, who is Jesus Christ, took all our sins and all our sorrows, nailed them to the Cross, and transformed them by His love.
In His suffering and death, Jesus was not offered up by Pontius Pilate or by Caiaphas. He offered up Himself; He freely chose to die on the Cross; He was not forced to do so. As the priest of the New Covenant He offered up Himself as the perfect victim, the unblemished lamb who takes away the sins of the world. In this work of love, Jesus makes Himself one with every victim, and offers to every one of them the love that overcomes all wrong and heals all strife, overcoming even death itself.
At this Holy Mass tonight, then, Christ our Priest offers to the Father the total gift of Himself, the Lamb of Sacrifice, by which He reconciled the world. And at this Mass, Christ, making use of the voice of His servants, we bishops and priests, prays for peace, healing and reconciliation, especially for all who have been abused and for their families and friends.
Las Sagradas Escrituras no esconden los sufrimientos de Jesus, ni los de su Madre Maria, ni los de sus seguidores. En el episodio de la agonia de Jesus en el jardin, se ve que el dolor de Jesus era tan fuerte que “el sudor caia a tierra como grandes gotas de sangre (Lk 22:44).” Sin embargo, el Senor vivia el proceso entero con una actitud de oracion intensa y de apertura plena a la voluntad del Padre. Por eso, recibio la fuerza para continuar adelante, a pesar del sufrimiento inmenso.
Con el Evangelio segun San Juan, recordamos la escena al pie de la Cruz. Junto a Jesus estaba su madre dolorosa. Estando alli, Maria estaba presente en el momento mas importante en la historia del mundo, el momento de Nuestra salvacion. Sin embargo, al mismo tiempo fue el momento mas doloroso de su vida, quando murio su Hijo amado en la Cruz.
En esta Misa, estamos reunidos en la presencia del Senor Jesus y su Madre para rezar por todas las personas que han sufrido mucho, por los victimas del abuso en la Iglesia, y por todos los sobrevivientes del abuso en la sociedad, junto con sus familias y sus amigos. En la celebracion de los sagrados misterios de la Eucaristia, ponemos los sufrimientos y dolores de nuestros hermanos en las manos de Jesus, pidiendo la gracia de reconciliacion y vida nueva.
Los sufrimientos de Jesus son como el centro esencial del Evangelio, el punto principal del mensaje cristiano. Por eso, nosotros no estamos muy lejos de Cristo quando sufrimos, mas bien somos muy cerca del Senor, el Salvador. Por eso, el Apostol San Pablo escribe a los Romanos (8:35ff),
¿Quien nos podra separar del amor de Cristo? ?El sufrimiento, o las dificultades, o la persecucion, o el hambre, o la falta de ropa, o el peligro, o la muerte? … Pero en todo esto salimos mas que vencedores por medio de aquel que nos amo. Estoy convencido de que nada podra separarnos del amor de Dios.
En esta Misa, en comunion con todo el pueblo de Dios, pedimos perdon por nuestros pecados y por los abusos hechos por miembros de la Iglesia. Al mismo tiempo, tengamos confianza en Cristo y su promesa de estar con nosotros, todos los dias hasta el fin del mundo. Donde esta Cristo, alli esta la paz, alli esta la esperanza y la vida. Donde esta Cristo, alli esta tambien su Madre dolorosa, la Reina de Paz, rezando por todos su hijos, los miembros de la Iglesia.
At the foot of the Cross, as Jesus the Priest and Victim offered His perfect sacrifice of love to the Father, there stood Mary, His mother. She shared in His sacrifice through the compassion of a mother’s heart. Her heart was pierced with incomparable sorrow; her tears mingled with His saving Blood, and she joined Him in praying for healing of the heart and soul of every human person. Even in her own sorrow, Mary’s faith in God’s love endured. Even then, she trusted His promises and plans. This is why she is called “Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of hope, Sorrowful Mother and Queen of Peace.” This is wny she can teach us how to enter with faith into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the epicenter of the world. This act of love infinitely surpasses all others. Here and now, Christ, the Victim and Priest, draws into Himself all the brokenness and pain of the world, unites it with His own Sacred Heart and offers it to the Father.
Blessed John Paul II says that, in Christ’s priestly heart “is engraved whatever is most profound in the life of every human being… It is in this way that man’s life becomes inserted, by means of the Eucharist, into the mystery of the living God.”
The fruits of love offered by Christ the Victim are infinite. They surpass all that we could ever ask for or even imagine. However, they are effective in us only if we open up our hearts and receive them in faith. He will not force us to be healed; He will not compel us to accept His new life. He will, however, never cease to call, to shine forth, and to invite. In addition, Christ gives us His own Mother to be our Mother, too. She continually urges us to trust in this wondrous love of her Son, to let its saving action penetrate into the deepest recesses of our souls, healing our memories, bringing the light of truth to the darkness of doubt, and transforming sorrow into compassion.
Even though the Apostles fled in fear when Jesus was arrested, unjustly condemned and crucified, Mary remained near her Son. She could not “do” anything to stop the horrible atrocity but she could accompany Him to the place of Sacrifice. Her presence was not purely passive; her presence was a loving solidarity expressed through understanding and compassion. When “nothing can be done” medically, legally, or therapeutically, there are other deeper needs that can still be met through loving presence. The Mother of Jesus offered these to her Son; even at His greatest suffering. Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross told her Son that He was known, understood, accepted and loved.
As Jesus was dying upon the Cross, He entrusted His Mother to us. To “the beloved disciple” Jesus said, referring to Mary, “Behold, your mother.” And to His dearest Mother, Jesus said, referring to the beloved disciple, “Behold, your son.”
What an unequal exchange for Mary! From being mother of the Savior of the world, she was asked to expand her heart to become also the mother of us sinners. From loving the Creator, she is asked to love us creatures. To all of this, Mary said, “Fiat” “Let it be done to me according to your will.” Because of her strong faith, Mary could see that her Son had made Himself one with His brothers and sisters in their victimization and their need of mercy. Out of love for Him, she would do the same.
Just as she was present to her Son at the foot of the Cross, then, so she is present with us in our times of sorrow. To be sure, it remains hard for us to keep faith in God when we are assailed by doubts and when our hearts are broken. It is especially hard for those who have been abused by a member of the Church or by parents or another family member.
The sexual abuse of young people and other crimes of abuse make us keenly aware of how such sinful activity undermines the common good, and sows doubts and insecurity in people’s hearts. Whenever such wrongs occur, both victims and perpetrators are harmed. The offenses make it difficult for anyone involved to continue to have faith in God. Difficult but not impossible, for nothing is impossible with God. And in our pain, Our Lady of Sorrows, our Blessed Mother, is always near to show us the way.
The Virgin Mary can help us to trust again, for she understands the pain felt by persons who have been abused and by their loved ones. She knows about sleepless nights and the temptations to abandon hope. As Mother of Jesus, Priest and Victim, and as our Mother too, she helps to trust again in the words of her Son, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” The Lord desires to give us rest. Healing of mind and heart may take time. But it can happen because the love of Christ. Together with Mary, those who have been abused, their families and friend, indeed all of us, can enter into the presence of Christ her Son. In communion with Mary, we also pray for perpetrators of abuse, that they will repent and make amends for their sins through the grace of Christ. We remember the words of Jesus on the Cross, “Father, forgive them.”
Only in Christ is it possible to find peace in this world. Healing and wholeness evade us apart from Him. The peace our hearts long for is one that the world cannot give. But His peace is poured into our hearts by Jesus. He can heal the broken-hearted. He can renew our hope.