Feast of Saint Angela Merici
Sacred Heart Academy, Louisville Ky.
January 27, 2017
Have you heard that a week ago, we had an Inaugurated a new President of the United States? Did you also hear that there were millions of women, and men, but mostly women who participated in the Women’s March in Washington DC, throughout the United States, and across the world? Some might say it is foolish for me to speak about the Women’s March, others may say it would be cowardly for me not to speak about it, and I have spent too many years of my life being a coward. There were many good and genuine reasons for these women to band together in solidarity; a few of those reasons were equal pay for equal work, respect for women the world over, and a call for safeguards against sexual harassment. These are issues that the Catholic Church is fully behind. There were other issues, life issues, that the Church has another take on, in fact, there is another March, the March for Life, happening today were equally large crowds will march for the sanctity of life. The Catholic Church holds that all life is sacred and everyone deserves to have the natural dignity inherent to the human person recognized from the womb to the tomb.
Our first reading today speaks of not turning back, of holding fast to the mission we have received. When the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us that “we are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life” I believe it is telling us to hold firm to our foundations. It is my fear that Christians and Catholics alike have forgotten where we come from, that we have forgotten how the early Church spread like wildfire amongst the slaves, the poor, women, and others who felt disenfranchised. This is where we come from – a Church for those who felt they belonged nowhere else.
This is the vision of Church that Saint Angela Merici held when she looked upon the poverty-stricken girls of her hometown and decided that they were worth a decent education. Saint Angela may have begun the first religious community of sisters to work outside the cloister, but the heart of her mission was an ideal to serve the less fortunate that dated back to the very beginnings of the Church. Saint Angela did not see the poverty, and she did not see them as just girls, she looked upon them and saw the human dignity that they posed and loved them for it.
We have all undoubtedly heard the parable of the mustard seed, we probably have heard about how something so small can create something so big, but we may be blind to another aspect of this parable that deserves mentioning. If we look at this parable with the eyes of a first century Jew, we will realize that the Jewish people of that time had no use whatsoever for mustard, none. It was a weed and when we take it a step further the idea of planting a weed in your field where it will grow and take up a lot of space was lunacy. A Jew who planted mustard in his field would undoubtedly face mockery from his friends and neighbors for the ridiculous nature of his actions. That is what Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to – a mustard seed (us) growing into a huge bush (the Church.) The Church must never lose sight of this fundamental fact concerning the Christian life that we are to remain open, no matter what, to all people who may feel marginalized or left out. Whether that is the poor, the immigrant, someone who is gay or lesbian, people of color, people questioning their gender identity, it doesn’t matter – they are all birds of the sky welcome under the one protective bush that is the Church. This is the way the early Christians saw the Church, and this is the way Saint Angela saw the Church, this is the way we are called to see the Church.