Feb. 3rd Homily by Fr. Yanas – “Concurring our Fears”

4 Mar 2019 by Mark Trudeau, Comments Off on Feb. 3rd Homily by Fr. Yanas – “Concurring our Fears”

Every so often the Metropolitan Opera House (aka “The Met”) in New York City stages a production of a modern day classic, “Dialogue of the Carmelites, a work by the French composer Francis Poulenc. Based on actual events that occurred during the blood stained French revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, the opera explores a theme that remains a vital one today: the power of faith in overcoming fear.

The main focus of the story is a young woman named Blanche. Born into wealth and privilege, she lives a life of comfort and leisure. She is a timid soul, and easily frightened. One might say she is afraid of her own shadow. On the eve of the revolution, the upper classes are subjected to increasing persecution. Even the Church is badly affected by the revolution. Hoping to find safety and peace of mind, Blanche joins one of the penitential Orders of the Church, the Carmelites. The Superior informs Blanche that religious life is not a refuge for the weak and timid. It sometimes requires extraordinary heroism. Sometime later, the nuns are told by local leader of the revolution that they must renounce their vocation and leave the monastery for good. Failure to comply with the order would mean a certain death for all of them. True to form, Blanche runs away. The other nuns remain steadfast.

In the final act, the nuns, having been arrested and forcibly removed from their convent, are imprisoned and awaiting word of their fate. The sentence of death is passed a short time later. For the mostly wealthy patrons of the opera, the final scene is nothing less than shattering. The enthralled members of the audience are given to weeping openly and gasping. Ironically, the audience consists of mostly unbelievers, who seldom show any sympathy whatsoever for people of faith. The brave nuns, now attired in the simple dress of poor peasants, walk in single file to the place of execution. The mere sight of the guillotine must have unnerving. A mob has gathered to curse and throw objects at them. The nuns, faithful all, are singing the “Salve Regina”, a Marian hymn. Suddenly, a brave woman unexpectedly emerges from the crowd, dressed as a simple servant. It is Blanche. She joins her fellow sisters for the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. Love for life did not deter her and the other nuns from death. She died a martyr for Christ. She and the other sisters were beheaded. She had, at last, overcome her fears.

Clearly, the fear of death poisons life. All of us live in its dark shadow. For St. Paul death is the enemy, the last and most dreaded enemy. Yet Paul shows no fear. Although he was faced with many obstacles, he was emboldened to preach Christ crucified and risen. For this great apostle, the Resurrection of Christ is a divinely revealed truth and the ultimate source of the good news.

In today’s second reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, the great apostle concludes his reflections on the mystery of the resurrection.  One recognizes a note of triumph in his stirring words. “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting” (I Cor.15:55). This hymn of victory is consequential for us.. To believe in the Resurrection of Jesus implies belief in the Resurrection of the faithful. Those who share in the Risen life of Christ overcome death. Like a serpent without a sting, Death no longer casts a shadow over the disciple who truly believes.

Bear in mind that Paul himself suffered a violent death in union with Christ. He dies a martyr.

Paul insists that we accept this mystery with gratitude. And this gratitude can only be expressed in acts of faith, hope and charity. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm and steadfast”, he writes. (I Cor.15:58) We must be steadfast and determined, especially in the world’s opposition to Christ and to Christians and all they stand for.

At the end of the day, one lesson is made abundantly clear. Love conquers fear. And there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others.

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