Columns From Bishop Brennan

Bishop Brennan’s Mass of Hope and Healing Homily

The following is the homily delivered by Bishop Robert Brennan during the Mass of Hope and Healing at Resurrection-Ascension Church in Rego Park on Oct. 13.

Thank you very, very much for being here tonight. Thank you one and all for your presence. 

Thank you for being here, whether it be seeking that hope and healing at every level, or here to be a support, to be a brother and sister in Christ, to help build up, to bind wounds, and to show the tender compassion of our God. 

I join first with Bishop DiMarzio in thanking all of those people who have built up this great tradition of our Mass of Hope and Healing. Coming here almost a year ago, I was so impressed by a gathering like this, by the work that is done in the Diocese of Brooklyn. I thank you for all that work, every person, those here tonight, those who’ve been here before, those whose labors have borne the fruit in our being together tonight. 

I thank those who’ve joined in the days since I have come, to help pick up the baton, and continue to build upon this very good work. One of the things that gives me great confidence and hope, of course all of our hope comes from Jesus himself, but one thing that gives me confidence and hope is the goodness of so many people who are around, who want to build up, to offer hope and healing. So again, I thank you very, very much. 

In thinking about tonight, not really sure which direction to begin with, the image of the story of the Good Samaritan came to mind. We all know the story pretty well. The traveler who was making his way, was beaten, robbed, and left for dead at the side of the road. When we think about the terrible reality of abuse, I think of the assault and the robbery, even; it takes something away. 

I think of that person in the parable left in suffering, alone, and I think of the terrible suffering that so many survivors have borne, very often alone, bearing such terrible wounds, thinking of the lasting effects. I think of the religious leaders in that parable who are so conscious of what they felt they needed to do, that they passed along the road, leaving the person who was beaten and robbed, who was suffering alone, just passing by. These are the very people who should have probably bent down. Oh, there were excuses you can read into the scriptures, and you can see the different conjectured reasons. But in the end, the reality is they walked by. 

In the Gospel tonight, these are the readings of today, Jesus speaks very, very directly to the religious leaders of his time. “Woe to you,” He says, very strong words, “woe to you,” He says. Be concerned about the externals. And, of course, I hear those words ringing in my head, and we hear those words spoken in the Church today. Woe to you. (Luke 11:47-54) 

Jesus’ woes, if you will, Jesus’ calling out, are also an invitation. They are an invitation to wake up. An invitation to be attentive, an invitation to respond with His own love. And so, beginning here in Queens and in Brooklyn, Jesus’ words speak directly to me and speak directly to all of us in leadership in the Church. But they invite us, they challenge us to respond with His own tender heart. 

Of course, there was the Samaritan, the one on the outside, who stopped, bent down, who dressed the wounds of the traveler who was suffering, placed him on his own mule, and carried him off on that healing. 

In the first reading today (Ephesians 1:1-10), Paul calls on the Church to be Holy, to be attached to Jesus Christ, to be united with His heart, and then to be attentive to all people who are suffering, for any reason. As we reflect on the terrible reality of abuse, whether it be it within the Church or in other places, the Lord calls us together. He reminds us that He’s here, present in our midst. 

You know, some scholars say that the image of the Good Samaritan is, in fact, the image of Christ himself. It is Christ who comes from the outside and steps into our reality, who sees us in our hurt, who meets us along the way, who binds our wounds and lifts us up. 

We know, we believe, we profess regularly, that Jesus Christ is present in our midst. He reminds us that when we are gathered together, when we come together in prayer, He is here in our midst. He comes to heal us, but He also comes with that challenge to go deep, to go far. 

In preparation for this evening, I was reading an article given to me, an open letter by the faithful, by the faithful of the Church, to survivors, with this statement, an apology, really: “Indeed, the Church should have been a sanctuary for you. I’m sorry it was a place of trauma instead. Truly sorry.” Though I read those words from another, I speak them from my own heart. While the Church should have been a sanctuary for you, I am deeply sorry that it was a place of trauma for you. Indeed, what you suffered is not your fault, or your doing, and I’m so sorry for that. 

We come together in this Mass that we might encounter Christ, that we might encounter Christ in the way we need to encounter Him. Whether it is that we need to have our own wounds healed and set free, or whether to be challenged by Him to look out for one another. We call out to Him, but we call out to one who loves us, the one who shows us the way toward tenderness, toward peace and toward healing. 

Thank you, too, for your kind patience and your goodness as we strive to pull together. As we work to continue to build on the good things that have preceded us. We’ll have the opportunity to invite you to speak more to us, so that we can, in fact, be truly attentive, really listen, really understand, and walk with one another on that road, that path, to hope and healing.