Sunday, June 23, 2013

Introduction Homily at Holy Trinity & Holy Rosary–12 Sun OT C

Hello, my name is Fr. Matthew Hardesty, I go by “Fr. Hardesty,” and I’ve been assigned by Archbishop Kurtz as the Pastoral Administrator of Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary.  I cannot find the right words to express how blessed I am to be assigned to these two parishes.

I’m also very glad that Deacon Joe Dant has been able to be with me at all of the Masses so that I can thank him publicly for all his good work and leadership.  He had led you well during the difficult time following Fr. Chris’s death and he has been a great friend and help to me in transitioning to take his place.  There will be more words of thanks after Communion.

Let me explain briefly what a “Pastoral Administrator” is.  A Pastoral Administrator has all of the rights and duties and privileges of a pastor but without the title “Pastor.”  It is a policy of the Archdiocese to assign all first-time pastors as Administrators first so that if the guy has a difficult time or needs more time as an Associate Pastor somewhere else, he can be more easily moved.  To move a pastor requires a whole canonical process through the Tribunal.  After the first year if all goes well, and I certainly suspect that it will, then the Archbishop will re-assign me here as pastor.

I would like to also tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m originally from Owensboro and went to Catholic schools there until I went to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY.  I was a Computer Science major and got a job in Louisville as a Software Developer for an investment firm.  I did that for three years and it was during that time that I discerned the priesthood and applied to the Archdiocese of Louisville rather than the Diocese of Owensboro.  I felt like God had led me to Louisville and to serve the people of the Archdiocese.  I entered seminary in 2005 at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained in 2011 at the Cathedral in Louisville.  My first Priesthood assignment was as the Associate Pastor at St. James in E’town, St. Ambrose in Cecilia, and St. Ignatius in White Mills.  I was there for two years and was then assigned here.  So I’ve only been a priest for two years!  I ask for your patience as we learn and grow together!

I have actually been here before.  When I was a seminarian, Fr. Chris invited me to here to give a vocation talk and I remember thinking back then, “Man, it would be awesome to be assigned here some day…” and here I am!  Another interesting story concerns my chalice and paten.  Before my Priesthood Ordination I was chatting with Fr. Dale Cieslik who is the Archivist for the Archdiocese.  I asked him if there was a chalice and paten in the Archives that I could use rather than having to spend thousands (!) of dollars on a new one.  He investigated and ended up finding the chalice and paten of Fr. Larry Hardesty, one of your former pastors!  When I was ordained I was able to inherit it and it is a tremendous honor to be able to use it.  If you would like to see it, come on back to the sacristy any time and I would love to show it to you up close.

When I moved in a couple days ago, a group of guys graciously helped me unpack my boxes from the U-Haul trailer.  Once everything was in the rectory I sat down and thought, “Now what??”  Then I started thinking about what my goals and priorities are and how God is calling me to be your shepherd.  I would say that my top priority is the liturgy, the Mass, the Eucharist.  My deep conviction is that if we give all our energy and focus to excellence in the liturgy then many graces and blessings will follow.  Vatican II taught us that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the life of the Church.  Everything we do in the Church must flow from the Eucharist and lead back to, and be surmounted by, the Eucharist.

In focusing on the Mass, there are many symbols we could take as our launching point.  But the readings this weekend point us to the cross.  Remember from our first reading, the Prophet Zecharian foretold the way to identify the Messiah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 1432, explains that “It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin…The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced.” The cross, or to be precise, the crucifix, is the ultimate sign of love. This sign, so vivid and real, should motivate us, every time we look at it, to love God and each other with the same love that it shows, and to never want to offend that love. The cross is the standard for love and the standard for each of us today.

This is what our Lord meant when he said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” The Gospel mentions that he said this “to all.” The cross cannot be ignored by any of us, it is essential for continual conversion. If we never give the cross much thought, never contemplate sacrificial love, our hearts may be blinded to the day-to-day sacrifices that we need to make in order to increase and express our love for our family and friends. We may never be called to give our lives for our family. We may be simply called to put down the newspaper, turn off the TV, or step away from the computer. We are called to choose to love our family more than those things, so we take up that cross, and show them our love.

It is conversion brought about by these day-to-day crosses, or lack thereof, that either makes or breaks families in this country. Dr. Gregory Popcak, a Catholic marriage and family therapist, writes about how people often ask him what the greatest problem is in family life. They expect him to say alcoholism, or contraception, or pornography, or infidelity. To be sure, these are huge problems that should not be ignored. But he writes that in most families that are struggling, one member or another loves their comfort zone at particular moments more than the family.

Now, just because I have no natural wife or children does not mean that I am exempt from the need for continual conversion by taking up the daily cross – by choosing sacrifice out of love, over my comfort zone. How easy it is for me to have a full day – morning Mass, preaching, parish activities, taking Communion to the homebound, visiting patients in the hospital, celebrating a funeral, then attending an evening meeting – and finally coming home and plopping down in front of the T.V. But, if the Church is truly my bride, a bride I love and want to give my entire life and heart too, undivided, then I should never be eager to get away from her. You and I should identify ourselves not by our comfort zones, as if to say, “I am in this moment a guy sitting here watching T.V… or whatever.” We should identify ourselves by what we truly are: “I am a father and husband,” for example, or “I am a son of parents who love me.” We must let who we truly are at a deeper level be the lens through which we make choices and interact with each other.

I could choose to relax, that’s no problem; but relax with my bride who I love, the Church. I could spend some time in prayer, reflecting on the day. Or I could call a parishioner who I know is alone, or do some spiritual reading. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He is referring to our worldly life and our eternal life. If you or I wish to save our worldly life – the life of his our own choosing and pleasures, free from any sacrifices of love – then we will lose our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of those God has given to us.  But, if you and I, with the help of grace, work through daily conversion, through daily taking up our cross, big or small, to lose our own life of choices and pleasures; to prefer God and our families over ourselves, then we will save our spiritual lives and the spiritual lives of our families.

Our families need to help each other out, to pray and study together, and support each other. If you have too often neglected the cross, today is the day to take it up. We are not alone in making sacrifices of love, we are not left to our own devices. The prophet Zechariah foretold that God would “pour out… a spirit of grace and petition and open… a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.” The Lord has sent us the Holy Spirit of grace and petition and he purifies us through His Precious Blood and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is at the foot of the Cross that we learn what true love is and where we will be given the grace to embark on continual conversion. The cross must be the focal point of our parish and our families. The restoration of true authentic family life and the salvation of our families depends on it. It truly is a great joy for me to take up the cross with you; to serve you and give my heart undivided to you; to make sacrifices for you and to love you. Let us pray for and support each other as we grow in love and life together.

No comments: