Homily by Bishop M. Burbidge.
Mass celebrated in honor of Porto Charities' Advocacy Awards on June 24th, 2023
It is a great joy and privilege to celebrate Mass this evening for all of you associated with Porto Charities, those dedicated to the service of persons with disabilities, and you, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Allow me to begin by expressing profound thanks to all of you who carry out and support the work of Porto Charities. You are a special gift to those you serve, to our diocese, and to the entire Church. At this Eucharist, we thank God for you and ask for his continued blessings upon all your endeavors.
Porto Charities has chosen a wonderful theme for the Gala that will follow tonight’s Mass: “Embrace.” In imitation of Jesus, we must embrace all persons; uphold the dignity that is theirs as children of God; and extend compassion and assistance to those who need us the most, including our brothers and sisters with physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities. We must embrace anew our goal of providing education and employment for all people. We must embrace one another and support and encourage those who are carrying burdens and crosses. We must embrace the faith we profess and the values and virtues we hold dear. In other words, we must embrace the Gospel of Life.
It is this Gospel that the Lord calls us to bring into the world through our example, service, and witness. As we do, we are reminded tonight “to live fearlessly.” Basically, these are the words that Jesus conveyed to his disciples three times in the Gospel passage just proclaimed.
It is likely that the disciples may have questioned how they could be freed of fear in light of what else Jesus conveyed to them. As he sent them into the world, Jesus did not deceive his followers. He told them that proclaiming and living His Gospel would not always be easy. There would be moments when they would experience disappointment and failure. Others will reject them and dismiss them. At times, they would have to suffer. So, how could they “live fearlessly?” Perhaps you sometimes ask the same question as you try to be faithful to the Lord, his commands and the Gospel of Life. I am sure as you try to do what is good, holy, and just, you often meet push back and rejection from those you encounter.
In the midst of these experiences, you may wonder how it is possible to “live fearlessly?” In search of the answer, embrace the consolation and assurance God offers to you in his Word this evening. Look to Jeremiah in our First Reading. He was a prophet, sent to preach the truth of God’s Word. What were his experiences? His friends turned on him. He became a laughingstock.
He was even beaten and jailed. Yet, he persevered and never gave up. He trusted in God’s promises: “I will never abandon you.” I will be there to deliver you.” Thus, Jeremiah found the strength and courage to “live fearlessly.”
How can you do the same? Embrace the beautiful images Jesus uses in today’s Gospel: a sparrow does not fall to the ground without the Father’s knowledge; all the hairs on your head are counted. The Lord is telling us that He knows us, loves us, and holds us ever so close to Himself. You can only “live fearlessly” if you are convinced of his great love for you; a love that does not disappoint nor ever fails. We are reminded this evening that sadly in our day and age not all people revere, cherish, and protect the sacredness of all human life; that the dignity that belongs to all persons as children of God, including those with various disabilities, is not always upheld and respected. Thus, the Lord calls us to embrace the Gospel of Life and to proclaim it to all those we meet through our example, witness, and service. As we do, he assures us of his great love and promises to strengthen us and to remain with us always. So, trusting in his faithfulness and nourished by the precious gift of the Holy Eucharist we are about to receive, may we go forth tonight and embrace anew the Gospel of Life. May we embrace one another in love. May we go forth and serve generously and live fearlessly.