30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass for the Installation of Fr. Rich Gray
Pastorate of Our Lady of Sorrows/Our Lady of Perpetual Help
October 25, 2020
I am happy to celebrate this Mass for the installation of Father Rich Gray as Pastor of this pastorate with two churches named for the Blessed Virgin Mary: Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We address Mary as “Our Lady of Sorrows”, for, standing beneath the Cross, she shared, more fully than anyone else, in the Lord’s Passion and Death. Before he died, Jesus entrusted his Mother to the beloved Apostle John, and at the same time, he gave Mary to us, as our spiritual mother. So it is that we address Mary as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, for Mary always prays with us and for us, especially in the Eucharist, and Mary is ready to intercede for us in every need, spiritual and material.
Under both titles, Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, let us invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for all of those who suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, especially parishioners and loved ones who have succumbed to COVID-19, those who currently suffer from it, and those who live in fear of this deadly menace. We entrust to Mary’s care all who are experiencing economic hardship or any of the other hardships imposed on us by the isolation that began last March. Let us also ask Mary’s prayers that a vaccine will be found and made available to all, and that more effective treatments for this virus will soon be discovered.
And surrounded by Mary’s love, we celebrate this joyful ceremony of installation. It is to Mary’s loving intercession, Fr. Gray, that I entrust your service to the people of this pastorate. And I do so with deepest gratitude for your devoted pastoral service in all the parishes where you previously served.
“You Shall love the Lord Your God”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to us, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In two short phrases, Christ our Teacher summed up everything that God taught the People of Israel through the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus is teaching us that love of God and neighbor fulfills the law, that “love is the heartbeat of sanctity” and that “without [love] virtue is dead”
Now in order to fulfill this command to love, we first must experience love. Years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote, ‘[We] cannot live without love. [Without love] we remains beings who are incomprehensible to ourselves, [our] lives are senseless, if love is not revealed to [us], if [we do] not experience it and make it [our] own, if [we do] not participate intimately in it’ (Redemptor Hominis, No. 10). It is in Jesus Christ that you and I encounter that love for which we were made. For, Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Son of God who became one of us so as to reveal the Father’s love and at the same time to show us how deeply His Father loves and values us … this is the cornerstone of our faith!
As a community of faith, worship, and service, every parish should be a place where many encounter Christ and experience the depth and beauty of his saving love for us. For, as Pope Francis teaches us, the parish must provide “an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, worship, and celebration …” and it must be a community that “encourages and trains its members to be evangelizers” (EG, No. 28).
We encounter the love of Christ in the proclamation of Scripture and in the preaching of the Word and many other forms of instruction. Every line of Scripture speaks to us about Christ and his love for us, even those parts of the Bible that may be difficult to understand or unsettling. The first responsibility of every pastor, myself included, is to preach the Word with joy, conviction, understanding, and attractiveness, and to raise up many others in the parish community who can share the Word with our families, especially in these days when so many are struggling, and with our children and young people, as well as with the unchurched & alienated.
We encounter the love of Jesus in a most beautiful way in the Sacraments: in the saving waters of Baptism that wash away sin and impart the new life of grace, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where the burden of our sins is lifted from us, and replaced with the pardon and peace won for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Here at the altar, our gifts of bread and wine are changed, through the words of the priest and the action of the Holy Spirit, into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ himself, in the Holy Eucharist, the Banquet of Christ’s Sacrifice. Here young couples come before the Altar of God and ask God to seal and strengthen their love in the Sacrament of Marriage. Through your pastor’s attentiveness to the sick and the dying, the love and strength of Christ reaches us in the Anointing of the Sick and in the Funeral Rites that offer us consolation and peace in time of bereavement.
As a parish family, you also encounter the love of Christ as you seek counsel from your pastor in moments of difficulty, as you support one another in living the Christian life in the world of today, and as you band together to share your blessings with others, especially the poor.
Our Response to Our Encounter with Love Incarnate
As your Pastor accompanies you in moments of joy and sorrow and facilitates your encounter with Christ’s love through Word and Sacrament, the Holy Spirit calls forth from us a response of love – As Jesus taught us in today’s Gospel, we are to love God with every fiber of our being and we are to love our neighbor even as we love ourselves. Indeed, we really cannot say that we love the God whom we cannot see if we do not love the neighbor whom we can see. (cf. 1 Jn. 4:20).
When, as a parish family, we are united in love of God and love of one another, then our love overflows beyond the walls of the Church, out into the community. Our love expresses itself in works of charity, in giving of our time and talent, in reaching out to members of the parish who may be overlooked or absent, and in bearing witness to the love of Christ by the manner of our lives. In this way, the parish is not only a safe haven in time of trouble, as it should be, but also a center of intense missionary activity, for our mission is to go and teach and to share with others that love which we have encountered and experienced. I know Fr. Gray is counting on you, not only to be his parishioners but also to be his coworkers!
Renewed Invocation of Mary’s Help
Father Gray, may your ministry here be filled with joy and with the love of God. Together, let us invoke Mary, the Star of Evangelization and our Patroness, so that, under your leadership, this pastorate may grow in holiness of life, in generosity of service, and in renewed dedication to spreading the Gospel and extending the mantle of the Church’s love. And may God bless us and keep us always in his love!