The following homily offered at Sunday Mass at St. Aloysius Parish, Jersey City, NJ. I visited there to share information about our NJCU/Catholic campus ministry about 1 miles from St. Aloysius.
READINGS, 2013-04-14: [Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 | Psalm 30 | Revelation 5:11-14 | John 21:1-19]
HOMILY: [__01] Stretch out your hands. Follow me.
In this Gospel, Peter the Apostle was told by Jesus to stretch. Peter is told about the importance of stretching.
This is for spiritual – rather than physical – conditioning.
Jesus says to Peter: “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”” (John 21:18-19)
Stretch out your hands. Follow me.
[__02] I am Father Jim Ferry, a visitor to St. Aloysius for Sunday Mass today.
I am a Catholic chaplain at New Jersey City University. On this college campus – at N.J.C.U. - I am a “parish priest” to the students, the faculty, the staff as my “parishioners.”
This “parish” exists, as you know, between the borders of Kennedy Boulevard and West Side Avenue, between Audubon and Culver.
I serve NJCU as part of a team sponsored by the Archdiocese of Newark, Campus Ministry Division.
This team includes my associate and colleague, Cody Carter, as Catholic campus minister and me as chaplain. Cody is with me today; and we will be at the doors of the church after Mass with information and some free books about our Catholic faith and about evangelization.
By the way, we come here today not for any fundraising or donation. We only ask that you stretch out your hands to pray for us and our effort to reach students with spiritual and social events.
[__03] For example, on campus, the day before Ash Wednesday, we held a Mardi Gras (Carnival) with music, dancing, cuisine, and decorations/photos of Carnival and Mardi Gras from around the world.
So, both our “feast” of Mardi Gras/Carnival – with its religious origins…and our “fast” of Ash Wednesday Mass. These were held in the center of campus, in the Gilligan Student Union Building.
The university provides excellent facilities and space for the purpose of the Mass at Tuesday 12:00 Noon and other gatherings.
Last week, a lunchtime presentation and discussion on the history of the Papal Conclave, and the election of Pope Francis was held, also in the Student Union in which we have a chaplain’s office on the 3rd floor.
We offer the Catholic sacraments on campus.
[__04] Perhaps you are an NJCU student or you know someone there, a friend, family member, neighbor.
Regarding NJCU, we can give you our names, email addresses, telephone numbers after Mass.
Regarding other campuses, we can also provide information, served by the Archdiocese of Newark, here in northeast New Jersey. This would include Rutgers University in Newark and other campuses.
Please help us stretch out our hands.
I am grateful to Father Joe D’Amico, pastor, for his welcome to St. Al’s.
Our goal at NJCU is to build up a community of students for social and spiritual events, for all students – resident or commuter – full time or part time – day or evening.
As you know, at a Catholic university, the institution itself takes responsibility for Catholic identity and the celebration of Mass and the sacraments. For example, St. Peter’s University and Seton Hall would take responsibility in this way.
But, at institutions such as Rutgers or NJCU, the university simply welcome the archdiocese to serve and carry on the faith … for us to take on this responsibility.
[__05] “Stretch out your hands. Follow me.”
Isn’t it true that a college student is being stretched – academically / mentally – every day?
For example, the college curriculum does not simply ask us to read and memorize but also to respond and make comments. As college students, we were – or we would be– asked to contribute.
On a desk at the library or a desk in the classroom, this could mean stretching out ..our books, our notes… This calls us to
· DILIGENCE -- Careful review and study of difficult material
· HUMILITY – to ask a question out loud. Perhaps, asking a question, raising/stretching our hand in class.
· GENEROSITY – to help a classmate or someone in need.
[__06] Stretch out your hands.
In our faith and Catholic practice, we are called to stretch in terms of
repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness.
We do not have to read Shakespeare or or Sociology to be “tested”. You and I are tested every day off campus and on campus.
Are we not “tested” to give generously to our families, to share our time, to be patient with those who do not love us perfectly?
Are we not “tested” to be generous to our children whose behavior might provoke us …or cause frustration?
Are we not tested to obey our parents whose rules we not always understand?
We are tested when we repent of our sins. But, we can “complete” this test simply by admitting our faults when we go to confession. In this, the examination – the examination of conscience - is complete.
[__07] Our Savior also asks us to forgive others. This is also a difficult exercise.
We pray the Our Father – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
We are also called to forgive the person from whom we do not receive a sincere apology. Such reconciliation, though difficult, is a blessing. It is way for us to be free from bitterness, darkness and to find the bright light, the bright sun of Easter morning outside the tomb.
Such stretching leads to peace, with God’s help.
[__08] Our faith journey calls us to open our hands and hearts.
As we know, Peter the Apostle is told to stretch out his hands. And, he is asked “Do you love me?” three times.
And, this is a parallel to Peter’s three denials. On the night before the crucifixion, Peter does not stretch out his hands.
He avoids, keeping his hands in his pockets, three times.