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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 12, 2021
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Springdale on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. It is based on the Gospel of John 19:25-27.
One of the greatest experiences of my priesthood was to become the founding pastor of St. Monica Parish in Edmond, Oklahoma. I think you can identify with that excitement and how the things you do as a community leading up to getting your own church building sets the tone for all that follows, so I would like to share with you a story about humility, which continues to impact me and the founding parishioners of that parish even today.
It relates to Our Lady of Sorrows in the Gospel reading you just heard because there we see the Blessed Mother’s great humility at the foot of the cross.
At St. Monica we came up with a logo and motto for the parish that I later chose to be my episcopal logo and motto. The motto was: “The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth." It was taken from Psalm 37:11. Why did we choose that motto? Well just like you here at Our Lady of Sorrows, when St. Monica was founded, we had no buildings and so we celebrated Sunday Mass in a public school cafeteria and for weekday Mass we met in a parishioner’s home.
Mary humbly accepted us in exchange for the Son of God, thus showing us again that true greatness lies in self-sacrifice. That means trusting God, living by his standards, and embracing suffering like Mary did when that is what fidelity to him requires.
Then once we bought a house to serve as a rectory, I moved our weekday Mass to that house, and that’s when the problems began. Some of the neighbors started complaining about too much traffic in our residential neighborhood and too many cars parked on the street. So, we had to decide what to do.
We could have defended our rights to use the streets like everyone else. We were doing nothing illegal. We could have pointed out that those very neighbors fill the streets with cars whenever they have parties or a garage sale. But the question we asked ourselves was: “What would Jesus do?” He was courageous in defending the humble — the poor, the oppressed — but he turned the cheek when it came to defending himself.
And so that’s what we did. We moved weekday Mass back to that parishioner’s house (where there was plenty of parking) until our parish center, then under construction, was ready for use. We humbled ourselves and we had good relations with the neighbors ever since. We “inherited” the neighborhood. We were humble and so we inherited the earth, so to speak.
You here at Our Lady of Sorrows are a young parish and as such you will face challenges and growing pains, and every time you will have to decide what attitude to take.
If you look to the Blessed Mother, you will see how she accepted humbly all seven of the sorrows we remember on this feast: the prophecy of Simeon on the day of Jesus’ presentation in the temple; the flight into Egypt; losing her 12-year old Son for three days in the Temple; meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary; and her presence at Jesus’ crucifixion, being taken down from the cross; and being buried in the tomb.
In each of these events, Mary humbly submitted her will to God’s will and thus had a vital role in our salvation.
This humility is the underlying theme of everything we do today. Most of you adults here today have already been confirmed and following this Mass 11 of your young parishioners will be confirmed, receiving the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to then be used in humble service of the Lord.
And in this Mass six children will receive their first holy Communion, the Eucharist in which Jesus humbles himself so much as to allow us to take his own real body and blood, soul and divinity into ourselves, uniting us to him in the most intimate way possible.
The Lord is our master; we are his servants. And so, Jesus reminds us that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Mary did just that, not least of which in today’s Gospel where from the cross Jesus gave her to us to be our mother and gave us to her to be her sons and daughters.
She humbly accepted us in exchange for the Son of God, thus showing us again that true greatness lies in self-sacrifice. That means trusting God, living by his standards, and embracing suffering like Mary did when that is what fidelity to him requires.