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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 28, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at St. Mary Church in North Little Rock on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. It is based on Jeremiah 14:17-22.
I am always amazed when the Scripture readings for Mass — in today’s case, Tuesday of the 17th week of year 2 — just happen to fit perfectly with whatever feast we just happen to be celebrating that day. And that is certainly the case with today’s feast of Blessed Stanley Rother.
Today’s first reading comes from the prophet Jeremiah, who like Blessed Stanley, served the Lord in a time of great social upheaval. Like all the other prophets, Jeremiah brought God’s word of truth to bear on the issues of his day, and he did so out of a place of deep love for his people.
He was heart-sick over what the ordinary people were going through, all the evils they were facing — domestic and international military threats, hunger and disease — and we see that compassion clearly in this passage which sounds like what Blessed Stanley would be saying, but in fact comes from Jeremiah: “Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk out into the field, look! Those slain by the sword ..."
The days of Jeremiah and Blessed Stanley were fearful times and given the COVID-19 pandemic, we live in fearful times too — although in our case it is a different kind of threat, but still a time of tears, insecurity and loss.
Here I think of Blessed Stanley looking in the ditches by the roads for the bodies of his slain catechists. ”Even the prophet and the priest forage in a land they know not." I don’t know about the priests in Jeremiah’s time, but almost half the priests in Guatemala had to flee at one time or another during the 1970s and 80s, and about 300 of them permanently. “We wait for peace to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.”
The days of Jeremiah and Blessed Stanley were fearful times and given the COVID-19 pandemic, we live in fearful times too — although in our case it is a different kind of threat, but still a time of tears, insecurity and loss. Like many countries — and unlike the half-measures taken here in the United States, Guatemala has been shut down completely; 100 percent in an effort to contain the disease and only reopened yesterday, but even so there are many cases in Guatemala, including in Santiago-Atitlán where Blessed Stanley gave his life.
No one could go to work at all. For people on the margin barely getting by already, hunger and starvation is a reality. The local parish is putting together what they call “bolsas solidarias” (solidarity bags) containing basic food for the needy, probably just beans and rice, something like that. You and I know that whatever the adversity, we in the United States are not going to starve, but that’s not the case in the third world.
It is predicted that more people will die of hunger due to COVID-19 disruption of the economies of poor countries than due to the disease itself. You and I — like all the prophets — are called to bring God’s word of truth to bear on the issues of our day, and to do so out of a place of deep love for God’s people. We should be heart-sick over what the ordinary people were going through here and in the third world, all the evils they were facing, the hunger, the fear, and not just COVID-19.
Heart sick over the brokenness of our society when it comes to race and what a burden it is to be born Black in America. Heart sick over the suffering of those young people who through no fault of their own lack the legal status they need to have a future in this country, and so on. The words of Jeremiah apply as much to us as they did to Blessed Stanley: “Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. ... We wait for peace to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead.”
Jeremiah was vindicated in the end, but of course he didn’t live to see it. Blessed Stanley Rother was vindicated in the end, but of course he didn’t live to see it either. You and I will be vindicated in the end too, so long as the words we speak are God’s truth and we do everything we do out of a deep love for God’s people. Of course, we may not live to see it either, but that’s how things work in God’s plan.