National Day of Prayer and Remembrance – June 1, 2020

We have many questions to ask ourselves during these troubling and uncertain times. What is happening in our world? What is happening in our country? What is happening in our city? What is happening in our lives? What is happening in our families?

Pope St. John Paul II said in his 1987 farewell address in Detroit, to the people of the United States of America:

“America, your deepest identity and truest character as a nation is revealed in the position you take towards the human person. The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.

“The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protection for all people, the unborn, but especially the human person.

Where do we find our hearts? Where do we find our souls? Where do our brothers and sisters today find themselves? Maybe it’s in our fearfulness. Maybe it’s in our anger. Maybe it’s in our hatred, our frustration, our jealousy, our envy. If this is what our hearts and souls are full of; then we are doomed, we have lost our souls. We have lost our hearts. We have lost our country.

A wiseman once said, if you feed your hearts and souls with evil and anger and hatred and vengeance, your lives will become evil, anger and hatred. You will only know evil, anger and hatred and again it becomes a part of life. But if you fill your hearts and souls with peace, hope and justice and love, then you will know what peace, hope, justice and love are. You will not only know them, but you will experience them.

From the Scriptures today we hear the first reading about Adam and Eve. Their hearts and souls are turned away from God. When they realize their sinfulness, they hide themselves from God. Yet God calls, “Where are you?” Adam answers, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” God calls each and every one of us in a special way out of sinfulness. Sinfulness – like nakedness – we have no way to hide or cover ourselves from God. God sees into our hearts and souls. He calls us out of the darkness, of our evilness, into the light of His mercy, and peace, and love. We must awaken in us an awareness. Pope St. John Paul II said, “Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God. Each person is sacred. This is the dignity of America, the reason she exists, the condition for her survival – yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.”

Jesus, in the Gospel, in a moment of defenselessness, reminds us each and every one of us, even in our most difficult moments, our most difficult times and trials and tribulations… Even in our moments of pain and suffering and anger, He too, as he lay upon the Cross said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then He said to His disciple, John, “Behold, your mother.” Jesus does not leave us alone. He leaves His loved ones not abandoned, but loved with the care of a Mother, a Mother who is His mother, who is our Mother. Today Jesus will not leave us or abandon us. He sends us the Holy Spirit to heal and guide us as we celebrated yesterday on the Feast of Pentecost. He will also give us Mary, His mother, who was not afraid to say to God, “Let it be done unto me according to Your Word.” We too must not be afraid to pray, and as we sometimes pray and as we sometimes too sing our greatest hymn in “God Bless America” we sing these words:

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above.

From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home.

God bless America, land that I love
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above.

When we sing that song our hearts are stirred, stirred with a greater awareness of who we are, our identity. Yes, we are American. Yes, we love God. We bless the Lord for the gift He has given us. And yet when we come to pray, let us stir our hearts too. Let us stir our hearts and minds when we say?

“Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

St. James Cathedral, Orlando

For a link to the homily, click here.