This is my Sunday homily for 9 May 2010, 6th Sunday of Easter for FDU Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, Newman Catholic Association (Teaneck, NJ). Mass is Sunday 7:30 p.m. during Fall + Spring Semester at FDU Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck (Metropolitan Campus). To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “May 9” in the calendar
[__01] It is part of the challenge of growing up to learn how to keep secrets, to keep a secret.
I don’t mean keeping a secret just so that someone can escape truth and consequences. It would be wrong to conceal something just to avoid responsibility or trouble. Sometimes, we are asked to keep secrets for the wrong reasons, hiding the truth for someone who needs to be corrected, challenged or updated.
[__02] What I’m suggesting here, however, is that friendship, family and loving relationships call us to listen, to keep confidences once in a while. And, after gaining the confidence, the information, we really need to pray about what do we do next, with the information that we have.
How and when are we to speak about this?
[__03] For example, a secret emerges in the early years of Jesus’s life, when he is 12 years old, Joseph and Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem for Passover.
Returning home, they discover he is not with them. Each one had thought Jesus was with the other or with some other family member.
After 3 days, Joseph and Mary find Jesus, and Mary says, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
So, to this question, Jesus responds with another question. You’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, but he is the son of God, after all.
And Jesus said, “Why were you looking? Did you not know that I would be in Father’s house [about my Father’s business]? But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them to Nazareth and was obedient to them. And, his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 3:45, 49-51)
This is the secret, the secret of the Messiah, of who Jesus is, one which is gradually revealed And, this first comes as privileged information for Joseph and Mary and for his apostles.
To Mary is also revealed a prophecy about the suffering and death of Jesus and the pain this will cause her. Only a mother would understand – and Simeon the prophet who predicts the Passion of our Lord, tells Mary, “and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed [a sword will pierce your heart.]” (Luke 2:35)
The secret shared with Mary is given so that – in our suffering – we may also turn to Christ and each other for new life in our sorrows.
[__04] Mothers keep secrets. Mothers are our back-up sites for information and are more reliable than any other media.
Yet, it is a burden for mothers to keep all these secrets. And, it is a burden, really, for any of us to keep a secret.
To keep confidence, to have that kind of a relationship. But, that it also part of our Christian calling, to have that kind of love and support for each other.
[__05] Our Gospel reading from Chapter 14 of the Gospel of John sheds light on a secret being revealed to Peter and apostles. They feel uncomfortable about the secrecy being imposed on them.
They ask a question to Jesus right before this Gospel passage begins, wondering, “What happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”
“What happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22)
Peter, James, John, and the apostles would prefer more publicity, an app for the iPhone, advertising. It’s going to be hard to communicate the Good News of the Gospel simply by word of mouth.
In other words, in secret.
[__06] Yet, that is what they are being sent out to do, to witness personally – by their lives – in simple ways, and to face others one on one.
And, this is also the challenge that all of our mothers have had to face with all of us.
Our mothers have probably wished at times – for more apps, for more magic – for easier ways of teaching and raising us.
But, Mother’s Day, as always, is not reminder of the spectacular, but of the simple.
[__07] And, our mothers have also had the challenge of meeting – and loving -- each of us one-on-one.
As much as our mothers can guide us and help us, our mothers can make us do anything we don’t want to do.
Consider another example of Mary and Jesus – a few years older now – at the wedding of Cana in Galilee:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
(And) Jesus said to her, "Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servers, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:1-5)
At this point, one might wonder about the identity and capability of our Savior. It seems that Jesus is not going to act on the information.
This currently “secret” shortage is about to become a more well-known crisis and the guests will not be happy.
Will Jesus do nothing?
Yet, Jesus does respond to this simple fact – “they have no wine”, a petition brought to him by his mother.
This is something that our mothers – and our fathers too – do for us. They present the simple fact of who we are, maybe not telling us what to do, but just presenting the simple fact of what we are called to do.
And, this, therefore brings us out of the darkness, the darkness of a secret that might be painful, and into the light of God’s love, forgiveness, mercy, and into the light of God’s own presence in whom we can always trust our deepest desires and secrets.