Today’s Gospel passage from St. Luke proclaims, “God has visited his people!”
This is the reaction of the people when they witness Jesus raise a young man from the dead and return him to his mother. I believe this gospel declaration begs the question of all of us—when was the last time we had an experience in life that caused us to feel that God was visiting God’s own people, or, that somehow we felt God was in our midst? Certainly there are such stories being related in the midst of people being saved from the life-threatening storms and floods of late. At the same time, even as people mourn the loss of loved ones, words of consolation, presence at funerals, and overflowing charity can still cause one to feel that God is present—God has not abandoned me/us.
Today my own heart is filled with a depth and gratitude and love for all of you for the outpouring of affirmation and celebration of these past couple of weeks. Truly, at times, it has been overwhelming. These weeks are now added to my own list of times when I profoundly felt God visiting God’s people and St. John’s words say it in another way: “Those who abide in love, abide in God, and God in them.” If at times, as a priest, I have felt the absence of God, or of Jesus at my side, I now have new memories to erase any doubt and to reinvest in God’s sufficient grace. I am truly grateful!
I pray that all of you have experienced the reward of your own goodness and that these days and our days going forward together are filled with the conviction that God is visiting his people—all the time! We just need to stop, look, and listen. We spend our lives re-understanding and rediscovering Jesus’ mission to redeem and “to raise from the dead.” Perhaps one of the most important elements of the gospel witness today is that Jesus “returned the son to his mother.” Who of us could not feel the depth of that! Think of parents whose sons and daughters were returned to them both in all of the recently reported acts of terror and of natural destruction. We may extrapolate this truth of Jesus’ mission to our experience of him repeatedly restoring us to life in his Holy Body and of being returned to our Holy Mother, his Church.
I include in my heartfelt thanks, then, the gift of time I spent with you this past weekend in reflecting on the current moment of our parish life and ministry here at St. Rita. More than 600 of you filled out the in-pew survey and each page is speaking eloquently of “God visiting his people” here at St. Rita, here in this precious little part of his vineyard. Again, I pray that you know and feel the reward, which is God’s grace and blessing, over your gift of goodness and personal best hope for this faith community of St. Rita, going forward! And may our going forward be ever conscious and mindful of Jesus’ amazing grace effective in our midst.