African Heritage Mass
Holy Cross Church, Durham
November 6, 2016
Dear Friends in Christ, allow me to begin today by expressing profound gratitude for the gift that you and your community have been to the Church and our diocese throughout your history and until the present day. Your vibrant faith, love for the Lord and His Church, and care for one another are sources of inspiration for all of us.
As we celebrate your rich heritage in a special way throughout this month, November is also a sacred time that the Church asks us to be mindful of All Souls, our family members, friends and fellow parishioners who have gone before us in death. At this and every Mass, we thank God for the gift of their lives and pray for their eternal peace.
A powerful way we commemorate All Souls in our diocese each year is to celebrate Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton Grove, as we did on Friday. Following Mass, we process out into the cemetery and bless the graves of my predecessors, Bishop Waters, Bishop Gossman and the graves of countless priests, religious and laity who lived and served in our diocese. The procession is powerful for a number of reasons.
First, it reminds us what life here on earth is all about—a procession, a journey to our final destination, the one for which we all long----life with God forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, is it so easy to go through each day living and acting as if it is all about this world as if it will never end. We can get so caught up in earthly concerns that we forget to focus on spiritual and heavenly matters. Today, is a perfect opportunity to be reminded that, just like those who have gone before us, we too one day will die----the hour we do not know. Thus, nothing can be more important than for us to stay vigilant, ready, prepared to meet our loving and merciful God so on the day he calls us to himself.
Secondly, a procession reminds us that we walk together on this earthly journey, encouraging one another, helping each other to carry our burdens, loving and respecting one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, as God’s holy family. In these unsettling times in our nation, we must show our world that nothing divides us and that instead we live in harmony with one another, just as God has intended.
What a great example we have in Saint Martin De Porres, known for his tireless efforts to serve the poor, the sick and all those that the world so easily forgot. He was known as Martin the charitable. Imagine if the same could be said about each one of us! This is the prayer of St. Paul for us today. Listen again to his words: “May Our Lord Jesus encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”
Finally, the procession reminds us that on our earthly journey, it is the Lord who always leads. He shows us the path to life, both now and forever, for as Jesus says today: Our God is the God of the living. He assures us that we who live with him now, embrace his cross and follow in his footsteps will know the fullness of life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Renewed by these promises and strengthened today with the gift of the Holy Eucharist, may we continue our earthly procession and journey by walking together as brothers and sisters, allowing Jesus to lead and guide us, and with our eyes fixed always on our final destination, our heavenly home. My prayer for you today are the words of St. Paul: May Our Lord Jesus encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word both now and always. Amen.