On Saturday, April 16, I presided at the 8th Annual Memorial Service for Victims of Violence, War, and Genocide in Africa at St. Thomas More Parish. Below is the homily I shared:

This is the 8th annual gathering in the Archdiocese of Louisville to gather as one body of Christ.  We gather to remember, to seek to be healed, and to go forward in hope – all because we do so in the pattern and through the gaze of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

We remember.  We remember acts of violence and war but especially the events of genocide in Rwanda in which the lives of as many as a million innocent people were senselessly taken in a 100 day period in 1994.

You, whose families were directly affected by this act of genocide, find it painfully easy to remember.  The memories are etched forever in your minds and hearts and souls.  But you who are young – who are not yet 22 – you depend on your parents and grandparents to supply the memory.  It is important.  It is one very good reason for you to observe very closely today.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), tells of the importance of grandparents, and he presents it in a very vivid way.  He says that grandparents remind the young that history does not begin with them!  So today in Church our memorial service allows us to remember…remember the pain and injustice.

Some ask why God permits this evil that we painfully recall.  Going back to Sacred Scripture, we respond that Jesus, the Son of God, came not with an answer to our suffering in this world but to walk with us… to accompany us on our way.

God did not spare his only son the suffering for all humanity.  He did so not to exalt suffering of the innocent – that would be cruel – but to find in the witness of suffering the path of unselfish, life-giving, and sacrificial love.  In Jesus, upon whom we gaze as he hangs upon the cross, we find compassion.

We seek to be healed.  We remember not to hold close to us the anger, resentment, and even vengeful thinking that we might be tempted to take on. No, we remember with the mind and heart of Jesus, who suffers with us, and we begin to be open to healing. Healing is slow and requires patience, trust in God, and faith.

We are told that healing is at the roots of what it means to be deeply human.  The famous cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead is said to have identified in a convincing way for her the first sign of civilization.  It was not a shard of pottery indicating table manners or a remnant of a wheel indicating economic progress.  It was a “healed femur.” The femur is a bone connecting the knee to the hip. For her, finding one that was healed indicated that someone had to help the injured one.  That act of helping – of compassion – of suffering with the other in a way that leads to health – was deduced from this femur that had been healed. How else but someone tending to the injured one and bringing her food and balm could the healing have occurred?  So we seek a lasting healing that comes from the balm of Jesus Christ in and through His community – His church – the community of believers.

We remember; we seek to be healed, and we go forward in hope.  The healing allows us to look forward in hope.  In fact the tendency to look forward in hope is a sure sign that healing has begun.

When Pope Francis traveled to Michoacán in Mexico, on one occasion he spoke to young people.  The area is mountainous, and the mountains have been the source of great wealth coming from the silver veins coursing through those mountains. Pointing to them, our Holy Father said that the wealth of the area is not in the minerals in the mountains but in the hearts of the young.  He said, “You are the wealth.” Then he added to the surprise of some, “But you are not yet the hope. You are not yet the hope of your family, of your church, of your nation.  To be the hope, you must think less of yourself and more of others. You must become unselfish and giving!”

This is the message and the power – the grace – of Jesus: to become unselfish – to be ourselves and our best selves.

I said that you who are young have a lot to learn from your elders, and this of course is true.  But it is also true that we have a lot to learn from the young.  I brought a book just published from one of our parish schools in Louisville – Ascension Catholic School.  The book is very attractive. It contains many pictures that have reproduced the actual drawings and colorings of kindergarten students.  It also contains the message that each student wrote to describe the drawing created.

Illustration of message from page 18 of Kindergarten Devotions.

Illustration of message from page 18 of Kindergarten Devotions.

Here on page 18 (of Kindergarten Devotions by Mrs. Ackerman-Denson’s Kindergarten 2015-2016) is one powerful message.  It says:  “Today play with someone that you don’t want to play with.”  This very wise message is the message of one who has hope for the future … of one who, though little, has begun to receive and make part of her life the words and vision of Jesus.  Peace comes when, through God’s power, we take the first step.  It comes when we act unselfishly and become our best selves. It is the action in which the wealth of our lives, all gifts from God, takes shape in the world, and hope is born.

Oh, and this little girl added to her message: “That will make God feel happy!”

Jesus told us that, unless we become like little children, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  May we allow Jesus to reign in our hearts!

Today we remember, we seek to be healed, and we go forward in hope.

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