by Bishop Michael Mulhall.
Bishop Michael Mulhall presided at the Mass of Thanksgiving at Canadian Martyrs in Combermere. This is his homily.
It’s wonderful to mark, especially with Mass, the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph’s House with its history of grace, dedication, and friendship. We think of many people who have worked at St. Joseph’s House, those present today and many in Madonna House community who’ve been moved to other places; we keep especially in mind those who have gone before us who have served at St. Joseph’s House and gone back to the Lord, in the goodness of his grace. We think of all those who have been touched in any way, who have been served by St. Joseph’s House and those who have given back to St. Joseph’s House from the community here.
That’s what we bring to the Mass today. So many prayers of thanksgiving for the fruits of graces that have lasted over 50 years—and longer than that, because really what we’re celebrating is just the formal opening of St. Joseph’s House, when in many ways the apostolate was taking place many years before that. It is part of the community of Madonna House, not just here in Combermere but in all of the field houses across the world.
This is also, however, the charism of the Church, which has been alive and living with us for 2,000 years, because the Spirit of Christ is there.
Let us bring all these intentions—especially for those who have gone before us, and gratitude for the graces we’ve received over 50 years—to the Mass today in thanksgiving to the Lord. Whenever we do that, it sets our dispositions properly and allows us to be very thankful, as well as taking a good pride in all the things that have taken place—recognizing the Lord as the grace behind everything that is good in our lives.
Today we have a remarkable Gospel reading that touches something at the core of our lives (Lk 12:13-21). What is the treasure that God gives to us that can never be taken away? It is his love. What will separate us from the love of Christ when we experience it? It is the experience that is the richness for us. God’s love for us is always there, has always been there; before we were born it was there. It will always remain as an eternal desire of the Lord. But what is the richness that we have towards the Lord? It’s the recognition that the Lord loves us. It is the experience of his love for me.
When I experience his love and friendship, nothing can ever take that from me. Nakedness, the sword, trials, tribulations—what will separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing. And that is our treasure with the Lord: that he has opened his heart to us and invited us, not only into the relationship of creature-Creator, but of friend, into the very depth and recesses of his heart. When I experience that—not just knowing it but experiencing it—it becomes the treasure of my life. It’s the treasure that becomes the sound, tranquil foundation of our peace, our joy, and our love for others.
If this Madonna House of St. Joseph’s, if every Christian good person in the history of the Church has exhibited that, it’s coming from a foundational love that Christ has shown to them. When I experience Christ’s love and friendship, I wish to share it. The friendship that is then shared is no shallow friendship, no social-level friendship, it is a friendship that by its very self becomes an invitation for the other person to enter into a relationship with Christ.
Evangelization as a witness becomes that: my friendship, my love towards another becomes an evangelization of witness to invite that other person into a relationship with Christ. People will ask us, why do you have such hope in these terrible times? (And these terrible times are no worse than any other). Because the Lord loves me, the Lord has saved me, the Lord has invited me into a friendship with him.
When we show friendship and love to others, it begs that question from them. Why are you so kind to me, when I don’t deserve this? Because the Lord loves me; I don’t deserve it, but he’s shown it to me. You can see how the dynamic of evangelization takes place. Not first from words, but from witness, from action. From going into the dirt and the mud and the suffering of what the world is.
This is the very call of the Christian life. It’s the very call of the Madonna House life and Mandate. It’s the very call of our families—the call our Catholic people in this diocese and this parish have lived for many years.
We give thanks for that, because the Lord has invited us into that relationship—to be instruments, to go out and meet our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our family members, those we work with, to invite them into a relationship with Christ by the witness of our love for them. That takes place through God’s working of the Holy Spirit in a way that we could never fathom or understand, and yet it’s the reason why we come and give thanks to the Lord. We come especially to Mass, as the greatest sign of his love for us—not just as Friend, not just as Lover, not just as Creator, but as one who gave his life for us, his life to the very end.
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