Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Memorial Mass for Haitians - Homily

The last 48 hours we have seen the pictures,
read the words, offered prayers and intentions,
and perhaps even questioned ourselves
in the face of the largest natural disaster
in each of our lifetimes.

What can we say
in the face of such a terrible tragedy
in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?

Or another question raises itself:
How can God – who stands with the poor –
allow for such a tragedy to happen?
Where was God?

I find these questions difficult to answer …
impossible really …
and these questions are not really any different
than what the Israelites in our first reading experience,
when in the face of the terrible tragedy
of the battle with the Philistines, they ask,

“Why has the LORD permitted us
to be defeated today by the Philistines?”

All of these questions and really no answers.
What are we to do
in the face of such huge questions,
it seems only natural
to gather together like we do tonight …
in faith …
in faith in a God
who is the God of Hope.

My friends,
I do not think God is responsible
for any evil in the world.

God does not cause evil.
God does not cause earthquakes or tsunamis or famines
to get back at people for something they may have done.

Evil does not discriminate …
evil just happens
whether by the hands of others
or by the terrible natural disasters
we have all witnessed to over the last many years …

So, where is God then in all of this?

I am reminded of an image
that started my day
when reading this morning’s New York Times.

A collapsed cathedral in Port a Prince …
the remains of a once beautiful cathedral
reduced now to only rubble
with only some of its outer walls still standing.

Yet in that starkness – from the air -
the form of a cross is all that is left to the eye.

Imagine for a moment
in the midst of the chaos and distress of Port au Prince
that a cross stands in the middle of this city.

Where is Christ in all of this?
The crucified Christ –
naked on the cross and his blood pouring out –
laments with the Haitian people.

The crucified One
weeps with his arms
wrapped around women in search of their children,
husbands looking for their wives,
lost and stunned children looking for their parents.

Yet, the cross is not just a sign of death,
is not just a sign of endings.

The cross also signifies hope,
hope for a future,
even though in the pictures, videos,
and words of the days
it just seems so utterly impossible
to think or believe that hope is even possible.

Yet that is our faith.

I am consoled by what Saint Ignatius writes
in his Meditation on the Incarnation
when he describes the Godhead
looking down on all of creation
in its distress, corruption, brokenness,
confusion, dire straits, and tragedies.

There God,
in only what God can do because God is love
gives his very self to the world through his son, Jesus!

Jesus the Christ in his deep love and compassion for creation,
for his all peoples, for the Haitian people,
has chosen to make his home in Haiti …
in Port au Prince.
He has chosen to stand in solidarity with them,
weeping with them,
and offering his hands
and heart for a better tomorrow.

That is what we witness in today’s Gospel reading.
The leper begs Jesus to make him clean.
Jesus in his great compassion reaches out to the leper
and heals and makes him whole again.

And we have witnessed
Christ, the healer, the compassionate One,
who has made himself known
through the hearts and hands
of so many around our global neighborhood.

Even within this SU neighborhood,
all of us have gathered together
in deep care and compassion,
in a variety places across our campus today,
and have asked, What can we do?
How can we be with our Haitian sisters and brothers?

And we do this because of our shared humanity …
and because we have Christ within us
who only knows how to love with compassion.

Mike Bayard, SJ
Ecumenical Chapel
January 14, 2010

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