A Homily from the Haitian Community Mass
Introduction: Unprecedented Suffering
Last Tuesday, the world watched in horror as your beloved homeland Haiti was shaken to its foundations by a powerful earthquake. Almost immediately the news media began showing scenes of unimaginable destruction and human suffering in the capital city of Port au Prince and its environs. So many people lost their lives or suffered grave injuries as buildings collapsed on every side, among them your relatives and friends. So many landmarks were destroyed or badly damaged such as the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral and with this destruction so much of your precious heritage is feared lost.
St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Bridgeport
As this terrible news swept through the world, your minds and hearts were filled with anguish as normal communications channels – cell phones and email – were cut. Some of you learned that your relatives and friends have survived but many others grieve over the loss of parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and life-long friends. Still others continue to keep a long and agonizing vigil as you await word.
In the wake of this tragedy unprecedented proportions, we continue to beseech Almighty God for his help and consolation. We lift up to His mercy our beloved dead, confident that they have heard the voice of the Son of God (Jn. 5:24) and in the hour of death have opened their hearts to Him. We ask the Lord to give them the peace of His Kingdom where "there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away" (Rev. 21:4). Since last Tuesday, nearly one week ago, I have offered Mass for all those who have died, asking the Lord to take them to himself, to that place of light and rest where every tear will be wiped way. Tonight as community of faith, grieving but strong in faith, we lift them again!
Reaching Out to Survivors
Almost immediately people and nations around the world wanted to help. The United States and many other nations mobilized to send military personnel, rescue workers, doctors, nurses, and badly needed supplies to a suffering country. The outpouring continues but we can only imagine how frightening and frustrating it is for those who lack food, water, shelter, medical care, formula for infants, and perhaps a consoling word. We look with frustration as much of the aid is bottlenecked, seemingly unable to be distributed to those in need, so close yet so far. We recognize that many people are working heroically in an impossible situation yet we pray that ways will quickly be found to distributed the aid to the suffering people of Haiti and that civil unrest will be avoided.
So tonight we hold up to the Lord the survivors of the earthquake, the little children, the elderly, spouses and parents, young people... we ask that our aid, our love, our concern might reach them swiftly. We also pray for all those involved in the relief effort, not only governments but also private relief agencies and their personnel. In particular, let us remember in our prayers Catholic Relief Services which has been in Haiti for over 55 years and had over 300 people on the ground in Haiti when the earthquake struck. It is my hope and prayer that people throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport will be very generous to the collection that is being taken up in all the parishes of Fairfield County and around the country.
Relief work is our immediate concern but we also have to look to the long-term rebuilding of Haiti. With God's strength and the cooperation of many, may beloved Haiti rise from its ruins and rebuild after the pattern of love and justice that is at the heart of the Kingdom of God. May its rebuilding be a sign of the new heavens and the new earth of which the Book of Revelation prophetically speaks. It is also my hope and prayer that the United States will be generous not only in granting temporary protected status to undocumented Haitians already in this country but also in welcoming Haitians who may seek to come here seeking a better life for themselves and for their children.
Standing Firm with the Lord
Even as endure this time of heartrending tragedy and sorrow, dear friends - we must stand firm in the Lord. We must stand together as a united community of faith, strong in our faith in Christ, strong in our support for one another, strong in the witness we give the world. Many times when tragedy strikes people are tempted to doubt the goodness of God and to wonder if he is absent from us. We have only to look upon the Crucified Son of God to know that our God is with us, not only in our joys but also in the depth of suffering and in the experience of death. In this Eucharist we encounter the crucified and risen Lord and we ask him to give to us all the strength of His love, the strength to bear this Cross with our hearts set on eternal life.
Certainly I want to thank the priests and deacons who are here. This diocese is blessed with priest and deacons from Haiti who serve the Haitian community but indeed the whole people of God. I know you appreciate their love, their concern, their priestly presence and I ask you to thank them, as I do, with all your hearts.
Please know that I shall continue to carry in my heart the needs and concerns of beloved Haiti and the Haitian community in the Diocese of Bridgeport, not just today or tomorrow, but always. And with you, I invoke the help of Mary, the Patroness of Haiti. May Our Lady of Perpetual Help show us her maternal love! God bless you!