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First Homily

October 27, 2014

After posting my homily from this past Saturday, I’ve received some requests for my first homily after my diaconate ordination. The Mass was celebrated by my Bishop at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. The Church is very important in Rome because it houses the relics brought back to Rome by St. Helena, mother of Constantine. Given that I had family and friends present from eight different countries, I decided to preach in both English, Spanish and Italian. I didn’t want anyone to be left out!

First the text as prepared in the different languages, then a translation with the full text in English. While homilies are meant to be delivered, I hope reading the text provides for fruitful reflection as well.

Original Version:

Bishop Gaydos, Msgr. Cox, Fr. Reid, Apostles of the Sacred Heart, family and friends, thank you all so much for your presence here not only today, yesterday, or this week, but throughout the many different stages of my life. I am so grateful to be able to share this joyous time in my life with all of you.

One of my hopes this week has been to share with you all a little bit of my life here in Rome. That is the main reason why we find ourselves here today, in the Basilica of the Holy Cross. As you know by now, this morning my classmates and I are spread out all throughout this ancient city celebrating Masses in some of the most famous and beautiful Churches this city has to offer, and she has quite a few. So why this Church, the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

Two blocks from here is the generalate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a congregation of women religious who I have gotten to know all over the world, but also here in Rome. During my time here we’ve had many Masses and celebrations here in this beautiful and historic basilica.

On a deeper and more significant note, I can’t really think of a better Church when we consider what we’re here for, Mass, for the Eucharist. Every Mass celebrated all over the world every day enters into the same sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the relics of that Cross are here, in this very basilica. In a real way this is one of the most privileged places in the world to be able to celebrate the Mass. All over the world, regardless of one’s faith, we see and recognize the symbol of the Cross, and its association with Christianity, here we are reminded that it is not just a symbol, but something real. Just as Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was real.

El año pasado vinieron a Roma dos de mis amigos de la universidad de Missouri, Mizzou. Nos hemos conocido miente estudiábamos el periodismo. Los dos eran Católicos pero ahora no practican su fe. Hemos hecho una visita guiada de la basilica como mucho de nosotros hemos hecho este martes. Al final de la visita, mi amiga me dijo, “Que bonita que todo es muy simbolico.” Pues, yo no quiero negar la importancia de la tradición de los símbolos en la historia del Catolicismo, pero lo que pensaba aquel dia, y ahora pienso, no, creo, y como respondí, “si, son símbolos, pero no solo símbolos porque hay mas detrás, son expresiones de realidades.”

Nuestra fe no puede ser una fe solo en conceptos abstractos, bonita ideas ecc. Es una fe en realidades, realidades que pasaron 2,000 años en el pasado y continúan también hoy mismo. Una fe en conceptos pasa, no dura, no tiene efectos reales. Una fe en realidades puede cambiar y transformar no solo los creyentes, pero todo el mundo. Entonces, en la Iglesia Católica no creemos  que la Eucaristia sea un simbolo, pero que es la presencia real del Cuerpo y Sangre de Cristo, cuerpo y sangre sacrificado su la Cruz.

Dopo il mio primo ano a Roma non potevo tornare negli Stati Uniti. Invece sono andato in Albania per l’estate. Un giorno stavo aiutando nel ambulatorio delle Apostole nella sua missione a Dajç, facendo farmacista. Poi abbiamo ricevuto una telefonata che c’era un uomo da 33 anni, assolutamente brucato, a casa e non poteva venire all’ambulatorio. Quindi siamo andati, io e una suora. Quando siamo arrivati, l’uomo era li, disteso sul letto, coperto con le ferite. Non poteva parlare, gridava pero non c’era rumore. Immediatamente la suora ha cominciato a curare tutte queste ferite, con grande cura. Davvero era difficile guardare questa scena. Io invece ho preso una sedie con la mamma al pie del letto, lei gridava, piangeva. Non potevo dire nulla perché almeno, solo flas pak shqip, quindi pregavo. Dopo forse una ora mi sono realizzato che in un certo senso era la scena della croce, la vittima silenziosa, sua madre soffrente ecc. Poi, tra tutte le ferite quella più profonda era proprio qua, come Cristo, e li c’era questa suora, chiamata Apostola del Sacro Cuore. Ok, basta posso continuare dipingendo questa scena triste ma perché la parlo oggi?

Adesso vi spiego perché. Quella sera quando siamo tornati a casa stavo raccontando la mia prospettiva della esperienza ecc. quella suora ha detto qualcosa che mai dimenticherò. Davanti a tutte la sofferenza che lei vede ogni giorno, includendo quell’uomo, lei aveva solo una risposta. “Se no fosse per Gesù, potrei fare nulla.” “Se non fosse per Gesù, potrei fare nulla.” Quella fede non è una fede solo nei simboli ma nelle realtà. Una fede che riconosce che la croce e reale, il sacrificio, reale, l’eucaristia, reale, ma oltre tutte queste realtà c’e ancora qualcosa, è una fede che può trasformare i nostri cuori, le nostre vite e il mondo. è una fede che realizza Caritas Christi Urget Nos, l’amore di Cristo ci spinge.

L’eucaristia che riceviamo oggi non è un simbolo, anche quella è una realtà, una realtà che deve cambiare i nostri cuori, che ci spinge avanti. Quando riceviamo il nostro Signore, nel Corpo e Sangue, spero che la nostra preghiera possa essere quella stessa della suora, “Se non fosse per Gesù, potrei fare nulla.”

La eucaristía que hoy recibimos, y cada vez que vamos a la Santa Misa, non es un simbolo, pero también es una realidad, una realidad que debe cambiar nuestros corazones, che nos motiva de ir adelante. Quando recibimos nuestro Señor en el Cuerpo y Sangre, espero que nuestra oración pueda ser la misma de la monja, “Si no fuera por Jesus, podia hacer nada.”

The eucharist which we receive today is no mere symbol, it is a reality, a reality which should change our hearts, which should urge us on. When we receive our Lord in body and blood, my hope is that our prayer can be the same of that sister, “If it weren’t for Jesus, I couldn’t do anything.”

*************************************************************************************************

Full English Translation

Bishop Gaydos, Msgr. Cox, Fr. Reid, Apostles of the Sacred Heart, family and friends, thank you all so much for your presence here not only today, yesterday, or this week, but throughout the many different stages of my life. I am so grateful to be able to share this joyous time in my life with all of you.

One of my hopes this week has been to share with you all a little bit of my life here in Rome. That is the main reason why we find ourselves here today, in the Basilica of the Holy Cross. As you know by now, this morning my classmates and I are spread out all throughout this ancient city celebrating Masses in some of the most famous and beautiful Churches this city has to offer, and she has quite a few. So why this Church, the Basilica of the Holy Cross.

Two blocks from here is the generalate of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a congregation of women religious who I have gotten to know all over the world, but also here in Rome. During my time here we’ve had many Masses and celebrations here in this beautiful and historic basilica.

On a deeper and more significant note, I can’t really think of a better Church when we consider what we’re here for, Mass, for the Eucharist. Every Mass celebrated all over the world every day enters into the same sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, the relics of that Cross are here, in this very basilica. In a real way this is one of the most privileged places in the world to be able to celebrate the Mass. All over the world, regardless of one’s faith, we see and recognize the symbol of the Cross, and its association with Christianity, here we are reminded that it is not just a symbol, but something real. Just as Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was real.

Last year two of my friends from the University of Missouri, Mizzou came to Rome. We knew each other when we studied journalism together. The two were raised Catholic but no longer practice their faith. I took them on a tour of St. Peter’s, much like we all did together on Tuesday. At the end of the visit my friend said to me, “It’s so beautiful that everything is very symbolic.” While I don’t want to negate the importance of the tradition of symbols in the history of Catholicism, but what I was thinking that day, and still today think, actually, believe, is how I responded then, “Yes, they are symbols, but they are not just symbols because there is a deeper meaning, they are expressions of realities.”

Our faith cannot be a faith of only abstract concepts and nice ideas etc. It is a faith in realities, realities which took place 2,000 years ago and also continue even today. A faith in concepts passes, it doesn’t endure, it doesn’t have real effects. A faith in realities can change and transform not only believers, but the whole world. Therefore, in the Church we don’t believe that the Eucharist is a symbol, but that it is the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, body and blood sacrificed on the Cross.

After my first year in Rome I could not return to the United States. Instead I went to Albania for the summer. One day I was helping in the health clinic run by the sisters at their Mission in Dajç, helping as a pharmacist. We received a phone call  that there was a man who was 33 years old and was completely covered in burns, he was at home and could not come to the clinic. Therefore we went, the sister and I. When we arrived, the man was lying on his bed with arms extended, covered in burns. He could not speak, he screamed but there was no noise. Immediately the sister began to cure all of these wounds with great care. Truly, it was difficult to even look at the scene. I took a chair and sat at the foot of the bed next the the mother. The mother screamed and cried. I couldn’t say anything, because I only flas pak shqip, therefore I prayed. After about an hour I realized that in a certain sense this was the scene of the Cross, the silent victim, his mother suffering. Furthermore, amongst all his wounds, the deepest was the one closest to his heart, much like Christ. Additionally, there was this sister, called an Apostle of the Sacred Heart. Ok enough painting this sad scene, but why do I bring it up today?

Now I’ll explain why. That evening when we returned home I was explaining my perspective of the experience to the sister. Her response is something I’ll never forget. In front of so much suffering that she sees everyday, including that man, she had only one response. “If it weren’t for Jesus, I couldn’t do anything.” “If it weren’t for Jesus, I couldn’t do anything.” That faith was not a faith only in symbols but in realities. A faith which recognizes that the Cross is real, the sacrifice, real, the Eucharist, real. Even deeper than those realities there was something more, it was a faith that could transform our hearts, our lives and the world. It is a faith which realizes us, Caritas Christi Urget Nos, the love of Christ impels us.

The eucharist which we receive today is no mere symbol, it is a reality, a reality which should change our hearts, which should urge us on. When we receive our Lord in body and blood, my hope is that our prayer can be the same of that sister, “If it weren’t for Jesus, I couldn’t do anything.”

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