Bishop Caggiano Homily for Sunday Mass 6/9

The following is a transcript of Bishop Caggiano’s homily, given Sunday morning, June 9, at St. Augustine

My dear sisters and brothers,

I believe it is fair to say that every society and culture, perhaps from the beginning of recorded history, has valued the role and the health of our families as a building block for society. When our families are healthy, society is healthy. When our families are in crisis, so too is society. We live in a time when our families need our care. Please God, in the years ahead, it will be one of the major initiatives we will work on together as we seek the renewal of our diocese to strengthen our families. Our families are extremely important. And yet, there have been times in history where the families were not just extremely important, they were essential for the survival of individuals. And that, my friends, was very true in the time of Jesus. For in that age, where most people did not travel more than five or six miles from where they were born, in a time when there was no social services, no daycare, where families had to rely upon themselves for their own survival, I cannot overemphasize how important families were. For example, in the time of Jesus, most people did not use a last name because they identified themselves by their family and its genealogy.

I would be Frank, the son of Arnold, the son of Joseph, and you will go back enough until a person recognized to what family you belonged. It was fathers who taught their children their trade, the way to speak, how to write. It was parents that taught their children their prayers and brought them to temple or wherever they worshiped. It was families that bound together in a trade or employment and shared their wages so everyone could eat. When there was conflict, it was families that gathered together to protect their own. So that they would not be overrun in a time when laws were on the books, but they were not followed in ordinary life. Having said all that, let’s take a step back and appreciate the enormity of what Jesus says today in the gospel. When his family comes to him and he says, Who is my family? Those who do the will of God are mother, brother, and sister to me. Jesus is upending everything I just described, and it must have come as a complete shock to the people who are listening to Him. But you and I know, my friends, that the Lord did not say that to make us orphans.

The Lord came with His grace to strengthen our families, but rather what He was teaching them, and they did not understand, and you and I must understand, is that the Lord came to give us a second family, a family born in grace. You and I know that because if you look around this church, this is the family I am referring to. That in every community of faith, we are not just an assembly of those who have the same faith, but we are actually sisters and brothers in grace because our identity comes not from who my father and grandfather and great-grandfather were. Our identity in this family comes from Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection has given you and me the promise of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins. And we come here to be fed by our heavenly Father so that we might have, through the sacred body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus, have the grace and courage to go out and feed one another. With the stuff of life. For when the family of the Church is healthy, there should be no one in the faith who is hungry or homeless or has nowhere to go.

And that the protection that this family gives to us is not the protection against the issues of the world, but we come here because the spirit of the Christ who has made us family gives us the protection of the Holy spirit against Satan and all his evil ones so that there is nothing that can harm us unto eternal life. If that is all true, which it is, then today, my friends, I’m going to ask you to accept some spiritual homework that I will give to myself as well. Because as is true for our natural families, so true for our church family. We can fall into two traps. Perhaps this coming week, you and I can spend some time doing an examination of conscience of where we need work. First, it is the world of commission. What do I mean by that? Sometimes you and I, through our sins, have actually hurt the family of the Church. How? By our gossip, by our judgmental attitude, by the fact that we have refused to forgive. When someone seemingly gives an offense to us, when that person may or not even know they offended us. In many ways, we can create the disunity that Jesus says is the work of the evil one, Beelzebub. It is not His work.

And so there may be in your life and mine things we have done that have not allowed the family of the church here at St. Augustine, wherever we may be, to be healthy, strong, and faithful in the power of the Holy spirit. And we must admit it, we must seek forgiveness for it, and we must try to make it up. Same is true in our natural families as well. And then there is the other side, which is not commission, but omission. The opportunities you and I had to make a difference in the life of someone else, and we let the opportunity slip through our fingers. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next week, procrastination. I’m embarrassed to go over and ask him or her. I mean, I’m not sure she even knows who I am. Or the excuse, Well, I’m sure someone else will help them, so why would I need to do that? Or they look sad, but I’m sure somebody at home is there for them. But do we know that? See, that is why we have We have two families. For the one cannot do, the other does on our road to heaven.

And so I ask you, my friends, in your homework for this week, as I promise to do in my life, what are the opportunities you and I have had which we did not take? And are we ready to accept the next opportunity and refuse to let it slip through our fingers? To to build up the family that we are in Jesus Christ. For allow me just to conclude by saying this, it is not enough for us to build up our natural families, as important as that may be, because natural families come now in all sizes and shapes. They need our strength, support, our help, and we will work to do that together. But that is not enough if we do not do the same thing for our family here in the church, in every parish and school, because it’s from here that we go out into that world and proclaim who we are, who we believe in, with whom we stand in allegiance. And if this family is not healthy, joyful, welcoming, charitable, seeking forgiveness, the face of God’s mercy, if this family, we are not that, how do we expect anyone else to come and join us?