Today we welcome all of you once again to this annual observance of our Diocesan “Blue Mass”. Celebrated in many dioceses across the country since the 1930’s, this Mass honors the “men and women in blue”; but we honor not only those dressed in blue – for today your uniforms come in all shades. We honor all of you – law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency personnel. You are the first responders – that thin blue line – that make our neighborhoods communities and not jungles.
In today’s first reading, St. Paul talks about his efforts to do the Lord’s work. “For this,” he says, “I labor and struggle in accord with the exercise of his power working in me.” Your work as first responders is indeed the Lord’s work. “To serve and protect” is more than a slogan – it is a worthy and noble vocation, a true calling and a path to holiness for those who embrace this calling as a way to respond to God’s commandment: love your neighbor as you love yourself. And while loving our neighbor can indeed be a labor and a struggle at times, we must always be conscious of his power working in us.
Often times, the Blue Mass is observed on or about the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. St. Michael who defeated the forces of evil and stands guard at the gates of heaven is a fitting patron for law-enforcement officers. We invoke his intercession asking that he be our “defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.” The 91st Psalm reminds us that “the Lord has put angels in charge of you to guard you in all your ways.” And I am sure that more than once in the line of duty you have felt the protection of your own guardian angel. But, you too are angels 24/7 doing good, saving lives – you also defend us everyday “against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.”
But just as these invisible messengers of God protect us, each one of you carries out your duty often unnoticed and unappreciated – until we get into a jam and need to call 911.” And transcripts of those 911 calls reveal how drastic and heartrending are so many of those emergencies you respond to. And on this the eve of that ill fated September 11 of six years ago we recall how the 911 transcripts of that day underscored the heroism and nobility of your profession.
Jesus didn’t take the Sabbath off when it came to doing good, and you too must often work Sundays and Holidays, sacrificing time you could have spent with your families. And as we can see from today’s gospel, Jesus–just like you–spent much of his time responding to “distress calls.” As you respond to those “distress calls” that come to you, keep Jesus as your model, your guide and your source of strength. The gospels recall how Jesus responded to people’s distress with great compassion, for he understood the frailty of our human nature; but he was also no push-over. While treating everyone with dignity, he administered tough love. He never condoned behavior unacceptable in the eyes of God or harmful to one’s neighbor.
And as you try to respond the way Jesus would to those distress calls that come you way, don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed to allow Jesus to respond to your own distress. In other words, never hesitate to “stretch out your hand” to the Lord so that he may heal you in body, mind or soul. Because you so often see the darker side of our fallen human nature, so as not to give into cynicism or discouragement – the occupational hazard of your jobs – you like the man with the withered hand also need his healing touch, a touch that can be found in peer support but also in prayer and in the Sacraments of the Church.
Today gives us the opportunity to lift you up in prayer. We ask God to keep you safe from all harm; and we pray for the repose of the souls of all who have fallen in the line of duty. And we thank God for you as you serve and protect us. In defending the weak, in protecting the honest, in fostering peace in our communities, you recognize that our lives are gifts from God. Yes, our lives are gifts from God – so that in turn we can give them to others.
St. Michael the Archangel, patron of police officers, pray for us.
St. Florian, patron of firefighters, pray for us.
St. Luke, patron of medical personnel, pray for us.
Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us and lead us to Jesus, to Jesus who heals us and enables us to be healers and forces for peace and justice in our community.