Vespers Homily

Homily of Bishop-elect Checchio 
Evening Prayer ~ Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Metuchen
March 8, 2016
Today, we commemorate the memory of St. John of God, who offers us a wonderful model of service for our ministry.  In our Office of Readings for today, the Church had us reflect on these words of St. John:  “If we look forward to receiving God’s mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength.  With outstretched arms, God begs us to turn towards him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors.”
How right our good saint is.  As servants of God’s love, we as His sacred ministers, after having received that mercy first, must always be ready and look for opportunities to offer that mercy to others.  This is certainly one of the tasks Pope Francis has highlighted for us during this Year of Mercy.  
Just last weekend, the Holy Father reminded us again that God waits for us, always, and he never tires and hence, we shouldn’t either.  After all, as we reflect back on our own original encounters with God, our first experiences of His love, His mercy, isn’t that what led us to feeling called to become deacons or priests?  It was from His love, that we heard the gentle call, “Come, stay with me.”  How we wanted to share with others what we had found, God’s love and mercy.
However, at times, we can get lukewarm, or take it for granted, or perhaps just become fatigued.  St. John of God experienced these types of things too, as we also read these words of his in the Office of Readings today:  “So many poor people come here that I very often wonder how we can care for them all, but Jesus Christ provides all things and nourishes everyone.”
Perhaps, St. John wrote this right after he had been consoled by praying Psalm 138, one of the Psalms we prayed this evening:  “I thank you Lord, with all my heart, you have heard the words of my mouth.  I thank you for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.  On the day I called, you answered; you increased the strength of my soul.”
My brother priests, deacons and wives, and seminarians, we need to constantly encourage one another in this renewal of our friendship with God.  Yes, our life of fellowship with God and one another must be the sole goal of our ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.
I’m so grateful that you could gather with me and Bishop Bootkoski to pray this evening as I begin to join you in our lives of communion together.  As we pray this evening, we again ask for a deepening of our commitment to the Lord and one another, and hence a renewed proclamation of the Gospel for which we were ordained.  
It is then that we can have confidence in our fulfilling the mission entrusted to us, as St. James reminded us in his letter this evening:  “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it?  Such faith has no power to save one, has it?  So it is with faith that does nothing in practice.  It is thoroughly lifeless.  Show me your faith without works, and I will show you the faith which underlies my works.”
Indeed, thanks be to God, the Church of Metuchen has many good works to show, the fruits of its proclamation of the Gospel.  Amongst the many good works taking place in this diocese, I was able to witness just a few of them today with brief visits to your parishes, St. Matthias Catholic School, St. Peter’s Hospital, and the Ozanam Family Shelter – a home for struggling families and single mothers run by Catholic Charities.
Yes, I know your many good works will inspire me and I’m already praying that the Lord might expand my heart, so that I may truly love the many people that count this Church as their home, over 640,000 of them, and to reach out in service to the many others who are in need.  Your good and impressive works have already given me confidence as I prepare to unite myself with you and the Lord here in this beautiful local Church of Metuchen.  For that, I’m so grateful, and thank God.

Homily of Bishop-elect Checchio
Evening Prayer • Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Metuchen
March 8, 2016

Today, we commemorate the memory of St. John of God, who offers us a wonderful model of service for our ministry.  In our Office of Readings for today, the Church had us reflect on these words of St. John:  “If we look forward to receiving God’s mercy, we can never fail to do good so long as we have the strength.  With outstretched arms, God begs us to turn towards him, to weep for our sins, and to become the servants of love, first for ourselves, then for our neighbors.”

How right our good saint is.  As servants of God’s love, we as His sacred ministers, after having received that mercy first, must always be ready and look for opportunities to offer that mercy to others.  This is certainly one of the tasks Pope Francis has highlighted for us during this Year of Mercy.  

Just last weekend, the Holy Father reminded us again that God waits for us, always, and he never tires and hence, we shouldn’t either.  After all, as we reflect back on our own original encounters with God, our first experiences of His love, His mercy, isn’t that what led us to feeling called to become deacons or priests?  It was from His love, that we heard the gentle call, “Come, stay with me.”  How we wanted to share with others what we had found, God’s love and mercy.

However, at times, we can get lukewarm, or take it for granted, or perhaps just become fatigued.  St. John of God experienced these types of things too, as we also read these words of his in the Office of Readings today:  “So many poor people come here that I very often wonder how we can care for them all, but Jesus Christ provides all things and nourishes everyone.”

Perhaps, St. John wrote this right after he had been consoled by praying Psalm 138, one of the Psalms we prayed this evening:  “I thank you Lord, with all my heart, you have heard the words of my mouth.  I thank you for your faithfulness and love which excel all we ever knew of you.  On the day I called, you answered; you increased the strength of my soul.”

My brother priests, deacons and wives, and seminarians, we need to constantly encourage one another in this renewal of our friendship with God.  Yes, our life of fellowship with God and one another must be the sole goal of our ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.

I’m so grateful that you could gather with me and Bishop Bootkoski to pray this evening as I begin to join you in our lives of communion together.  As we pray this evening, we again ask for a deepening of our commitment to the Lord and one another, and hence a renewed proclamation of the Gospel for which we were ordained.  

It is then that we can have confidence in our fulfilling the mission entrusted to us, as St. James reminded us in his letter this evening:  “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it?  Such faith has no power to save one, has it?  So it is with faith that does nothing in practice.  It is thoroughly lifeless.  Show me your faith without works, and I will show you the faith which underlies my works.”

Indeed, thanks be to God, the Church of Metuchen has many good works to show, the fruits of its proclamation of the Gospel.  Amongst the many good works taking place in this diocese, I was able to witness just a few of them today with brief visits to your parishes, St. Matthias Catholic School, St. Peter’s Hospital, and the Ozanam Family Shelter – a home for struggling families and single mothers run by Catholic Charities.

Yes, I know your many good works will inspire me and I’m already praying that the Lord might expand my heart, so that I may truly love the many people that count this Church as their home, over 640,000 of them, and to reach out in service to the many others who are in need.  Your good and impressive works have already given me confidence as I prepare to unite myself with you and the Lord here in this beautiful local Church of Metuchen.  For that, I’m so grateful, and thank God.