By Archbishop William E. Lori
These vulnerable men, women, and children – like Abram in today’s first reading – left behind their homeland and came to these shores in hope of a better life. They were fortunate to be greeted in our harbor by a compassionate priest and a devoted doctor, both of Irish descent, They assumed responsibility for the stricken people on that ship. They found shelter for the dying passengers. Father Dolan heard their confessions and anointed them while Dr. Donovan did his best to soothe their sufferings and to save any life that he could. They did not hesitate to take charge of some forty orphans on that ship and with the help of the Hibernian Society opened an orphanage to house them and to teach them a trade or to teach them how to farm.
Moved by the compassion of Christ and his victory over sin and death, Father Dolan – and many priests like him – and Dr. Donovan – and many Catholic lay persons like him – as well as countless religious sisters and brothers welcomed immigrants from Ireland and from many other parts of Europe and transformed their lives. Not only did they help them find housing, education, and employment but they imparted to them the Catholic faith with clarity and fervor and from these generations of Irish-American Catholics there arose leaders – leaders in the Church, including many Archbishops of Baltimore, and leaders in society: in the trades, in government, in the academy, in all walks of life. And most importantly of all, there arose from those generations of Irish Catholics strong, loving, and cohesive families that were the bedrock of Church and society. Not that there weren’t problems and serious problems at that – of course, there were. Yet, the transformation that took place in the mid to late 19th century can still be seen in these still early years of the 21st century. Indeed, many of you are here today to celebrate that glorious heritage, to keep it alive, and to pass it on to the up-and-coming generation.
And what Christ wants to show us is his glory. We find ourselves today atop Mt. Tabor where Christ, who will soon be mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified, is revealed in the glory that was his before the creation of the world. Jesus’ appearance is dazzling – he is revealed as “the light of the world” – as “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” The Father’s voice from heaven is heard: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!” even as the Holy Spirit overshadows Jesus and the apostles with the very glory of God. Moses and Elijah are there on Mt. Tabor, conversing with Jesus, to confirm that he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Friends, this Gospel brings us to the epicenter of our faith (Cf. J. Corbon, Wellspring of Worship, p. 91 f.), to that moment in time when the power of the death & resurrection of the Son of God to change us, to transform us, to make us alive and joyful in God’s glory, is revealed. This is what has fueled the Church’s mission for over 2,000 years. This is what will fuel it until the very end of time.
May God bless us and keep us always in his love!