Homily for the Mass of Hope and Healing – For all those who have lost a child, born or pre-born.
One of the most eye-opening things for me in the first two and a half years of my priesthood has been the number of couples who struggle with infertility. But equally eye-opening has been the number of couples who, though able to conceive, struggle to bring their babies to full term. It’s easy to assume, not knowing any different, that the ability to bring a child into the world is a given for any young couple, something they are guaranteed on the day of their marriage. The reality, as I’ve learned, is quite different. Human life at all stages is a beautiful but fragile thing. And this fragility is a source of pain and heartbreak for many couples, whether they are unable to conceive, or whether they can, but later lose their child before or after birth.
Many of you, perhaps all of you, know that heartbreak personally. You’ve known the discouragement and despair as conception after conception has ended in miscarriage. You’ve known the ache in your arms that were meant to hold your little ones. You’ve known the empty cribs and empty rooms, the silence of homes that were meant to be filled with the cries and laughter of your children for years to come. You’ve known the faded dreams and dashed hopes: of walking her down the aisle, of playing catch with him for the first time, of teaching them about Jesus Christ and His Church. All of you—whether mothers, fathers, grandparents, or friends—all of you have known the loss of what was, what is, and what could have been. You’ve known all this heartbreak, and because of it, you have known the heart of God.
You have known the heart of God because the heartbreak you have experienced in trying to bring your children to birth, or in trying to bring them to full maturity, is the same heartbreak which our Lord experienced in trying to bring us to spiritual birth and spiritual maturity. For the cost of our spiritual birth and maturation was precisely the heartbreak of our Lord on the Cross. In trying to do this, our Lord’s heart was broken, pierced by a lance. Jesus’ heart broke for us, and it broke out of love. Your hearts have been broken too, and they have been broken out of love: love for the children you were trying to bring to birth and full maturity.
When you hear, then, the invitation of our Lord tonight—“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart”—when you hear this invitation of our Lord tonight, know that it comes from a heart that beats as one with yours. It knows your pain, it knows your hurt, it knows your heartbreak. In Jesus’ broken heart, you can find rest for your broken hearts. In Jesus’ heart, you can find—as our first reading said—that “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, [that] his mercies are not spent.” For “they are renewed for us each morning, so great is his faithfulness.”
So let us entrust our hearts to Jesus tonight. Let us entrust our broken hearts to His. If we do so, if we yoke our hearts to His, we will know the rest that He promises us in our gospel. And we will have the kind of unshakable trust that inspired St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast we celebrate today, to write these words in her breviary:
Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing frighten you
All things are passing
God never changes
Obtains all things
Whoever has God
God alone suffices