Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This past week was dominated by the arrival of hurricane Irma. Even though we were spared the worst of it because of its westerly course that took it through the keys and led to landfall in southwest Florida, we still suffered its effects.

Our parish sustained minor damage to the Miraculous Medal window on the north side of the church, some fences, little water damage, fallen trees and damage to the roofs. We lost power on campus. All of us, whether at home, away from home or in the parish, we spent most of the week trying to get back on our feet and return to some sense of normalcy in our lives.

At St. Patrick, we were able to resume our regular Mass schedule last Monday and, God willing, the parish office, School and Preschool will reopen on Monday, September 18 with a normal schedule. Thanks to the dedication of our custodial staff and the assistance of our contractors we have been made a lot of progress in our recovery efforts.

Powerful natural phenomena such as Irma are sobering reminders of the vulnerability and fragility of our human nature, a fact that we, men and women of the twenty-first century tend to forget because we are overwhelmed by the many and remarkable collective and individual achievements of our age that oftentimes lead to a false sense of invulnerability and self-sufficiency.

Our technological civilization with its many feats and accomplishments cannot undo human nature, which is essentially fragile and vulnerable. Human beings are contingent, the existence of the universe does not depend on us and we are not its center. Our contemporary culture promotes a sense of self-sufficiency, invulnerability, an extreme individualism that ultimately end in a rejection of human nature present in us and in the other. Many of our contemporaries mistakenly think that they can radically self-define themselves without any reference to a human nature that transcends them and unites us all in a bond that can never be undone.

Events such as Irma make manifest that, as Pope Francis points out in his encyclical on the care of our common home, our common human nature is given to us as a gift but also imposes limits on us. Our existence is frail. All of us, contingent, fragile beings are literally a heartbeat away from eternity. Death is a constant companion in our journey. At any moment we can come face to face with her. At every step of our journey through life we face countless dangers and threats to our well-being. Faced with that fact, some live in fear, others experience an inner rebellion against their nature.

We Christians, do not live in fear and we do not reject our creatureliness, rather we embrace our humanity with all its grandeur, its limitations and its miseries, because we know that this fragile condition has been embraced by God, who in doing so has strengthened us with his power. By embracing our poverty, the Lord Jesus has enriched us with his divinity.

The words of St. Paul in the second reading from the letter to the Romans are both consoling and disturbing. “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

We may be contingent beings but each and every one of us has been willed by God for our own sake. Our life is constantly assailed by uncertainty and powers beyond our control, but Divine Providence orders all events towards our good. Death is not the end of our journey, the unravelling of our existence, but the threshold to the possibility of perfect communion with God for all eternity. Indeed, whether we live or die we belong to Christ who came that we may have life in abundance.

The love of God sustains us in being. No power on earth, no strong wind nor powerful storm surge can separate us from the love of God. Sin can. Our willful actions against human nature present in us and others, our rejection of the love of God is the worst catastrophe that can befall on us.

Faced with natural phenomena such as Irma, it is important to be prepared, to seek refuge, to hide from the wind and run from the water. In preparation for the arrival of Irma, the authorities kept reminding us to be prepared because they have the power to help us rebuild our property but are powerless to bring us back to life. The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, has embraced our humanity precisely so that we can share in his divine life and be united with him here and now amid the uncertainties of ordinary life and for all eternity.

 

Fr. Roberto M. Cid