A. Last night we rejoiced to confer promotions and honors upon those who have faithfully upheld the ideals of the Order and supported its mission. This afternoon we gather to invest new members of the Middle Atlantic Lieutenancy of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. All this we do, (as Msgr. Jameson reminded us so eloquently), at the conclusion of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a year proclaimed by Pope Francis – so that we might open our hearts more fully to Jesus as the Face of the Father’s mercy and ourselves become “merciful like the Father.”
B. The Year of Mercy and the mission of our beloved Order go hand in hand. Let us see how one lends strength to other as we open our minds and hearts to the living Word of God proclaimed in this Holy Mass, celebrated in honor of Our Lady Queen of Palestine.
II. The Year of Mercy
A. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has invited each of us to walk through the door of mercy, symbolized by holy doors at the major basilicas in Rome, here at St. Matthew’s, & throughout the world. At the threshold of that door we find the Person of Christ waiting for us. There he stands, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, he who suffered, died, and rose from the dead, so much does he love us.
B. Even though we may be life-long Catholics and faithful members of our Order, let us not exempt ourselves from walking through the door of mercy . . . . . . as if to encounter Christ for the first time . . . . . . so that we may be surprised by joy, surprised by our meeting with the Christ who loves us more than we could ever ask or imagine.
C. And let us admit it: As we experience the rough and tumble of daily life, our trust in God’s mercy may easily be compromised, in ways known only to God and to our consciences. The Year of Mercy is a providential opportunity for us to open our hearts afresh to the only One who can satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts for God’s infinite love and life without ceasing. So with this Jubilee Year drawing to a close, let us allow the Lord to remove from our lives whatever has put distance between ourselves and him, so that, drawing close to Jesus, we may truly embrace the joy of the Gospel, principally by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Mercy.
III. Encountering Christ
A. Pope Francis tells us that we find God’s mercy by encountering Jesus. But we do not encounter Christ as if he were a mirage, a fiction writer’s creation, or the deceased founder of a religious movement. No, we encounter the Risen Lord We encounter the Son of God sent by the Father as our Redeemer, We encounter the Savior who was born in time and lived in that land we call holy.
B. Christ walked through the doors of time and history and culture so as to open for you and for me the gates of heaven. Our Savior brought this about by being born in a stable at Bethlehem, by growing in age, grace, and wisdom in the home Mary and Joseph at Nazareth, by going from town to town preaching the Good News and curing the sick, above all, by his Death on Calvary, his Resurrection in a Garden, and his Exaltation at the Father’s right hand – the very incarnation of mercy.
C. For nearly a millennium the Order of the Holy Sepulchre has dedicated itself to preserving the earthly places where Christ accomplished his saving mission, and where the earliest Christian communities were brought together by the preaching of the Apostles, the Eucharist, and charity for the poor and needy. We seek to preserve these places, not as mere monuments to the past, but rather as places of pilgrimage where the Gospel might be understood more vividly and where followers of Christ might deepen their attachment to the One who loves them like no other. And amid the tumult of the Middle East, the Order remains a force for peace and a witness to the Lord’s reconciling love, as it offers support for the small number of Christians in the region, and support charities, schools, churches, and hospitals with greatest generosity . By engaging in this work, we ourselves walk through the ultimate door of mercy, into the empty tomb, the sepulcher, there to encounter the Risen Lord in his triumph over sin and death.
IV. Our Lady, Queen of Palestine
A. Mary, the Mother of the Risen Lord, lovingly invites us to walk through this door of mercy. Chosen by God to be the Mother of his Son, sinless from the moment of her conception, she conceived the Word of God in her heart before she conceived him in her womb. She made her unblemished and total act of trusting faith in God’s mercy when the angel announced to her that she would be the Mother of the Savior. “Let it be done to me according to Thy Word!” No wonder her cousin Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.” And, as today’s reading from the Book of Revelation teaches us, Mary fully cooperated with God’s mysterious plan to vanquish the powers of sin and death and to open for us the door to life eternal. With what love and trust do we acclaim Mary as “the Mother of Mercy.”
B. Intimately involved in all that the Lord did to save us, Mary now joins us in this Eucharist just as she prayed with the Apostles. In the power of the Holy Spirit, her memory is now the Church’s memory as in this celebration of the Eucharist, (under the veil of signs,) Christ in his mysteries truly becomes present to us in his saving power. Let us turn to her in this Year of Mercy, asking Mary to pray with us and for us, that we might have a faith like hers – a beautiful trusting faith – a faith that bears witness to the mercy we have received by engaging in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. By our witness to God’s mercy, we can win back those who have left the Church and attract those who are searching for God’s mercy. Let us resolve to be agents of God’s mercy, at home and abroad, By living our faith, by serving those in need, by supporting and defending our fellow Christians in the Middle East and by preserving for all time those places made holy by him who is the Face of the Father’s mercy, he the Son of God and the Son of Mary.
May God bless our beloved Order, our new investees and may he keep us all, forever in his love!