Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Homily for the Feast of St. Andrew Avellino

Mass offered on the Feast of St. Andrew Avellino

The members of Juventutem Boston rely on the friendship and generosity of several priests, all of whom (Deo gratias!) are gifted preachers. One of them, Fr. Juan Carlos Rivera Castro of the Society of Jesus, recently said Mass for us on the feast day of St. Andrew Avellino. His homily is printed in full below.

You also must be ready, because at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man is coming.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We’re gathered tonight to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to honor God in the person of St Andrew Avellino. We know about St Andrew that “he was outstanding for his abstinence, patience, humility and contempt of self.” Whatever was good and holy in this man belonged to God.

But what is striking about his life is precisely the way that life ended: “After giving heroic examples of virtue, worn with old age and broken by his labors, as he was beginning the celebration of Mass, after the third repetition of the words, “I will go into the altar of God”, he suffered a stroke and apoplexy and died peacefully soon afterwards fortified by the sacraments.”

Our saint, dear brothers and sisters, was taken from this life suddenly, unexpectedly, without time for preparation. This is what we know as a sudden death. And this should make us tremble! For a sudden death is a terrible thing!
We should be scared of a sudden death! We must pray to be delivered from a sudden death! A Catholic does not want a sudden death!

But die we must! We may be afraid to think about it but who’s telling us tonight that we must remember that we’re going to die. Is it not our Lord who says, at an hour that you do not expect, the Son of Man is coming? The world doesn’t want you to think about death. No, it hides away those who are dying! The world never speaks about death; instead, it speaks loudly about enjoying this life. How much those who are of this world spend money and time to remain alive as long as possible. This is complete and utter madness!

Not so the case with us, dear brothers and sisters; we who are Christians. We know that we will die and we must pray every day to have time in order to prepare for a good death. What is death but the definite encounter with our Lord? What can be more joyous than to meet the One we love with our entire being? But the moment of greatest joy is the moment of greatest truth! Accordingly, what can we hide at that moment? Are we going to deceive our Lord? Are we going to lie to Him? What a stupid idea! He knows everything and before the light of His face your life is an open book!

What excuses are you going to make for your sins when you meet Him? That you were afraid? That you had too much pressure? What are you going to do when you realize at that moment that throughout your life He was always giving you the necessary graces to become a saint but you rejected that grace? Shudder, tremble, be afraid that you may not be ready to meet our Lord. That He may come at the middle of the night, when you least expected Him.

But we have an intercessor in heaven, our good St Andrew who is right now praying for you. Use this time and the coming days to ask him to help you meditate on your death. Imagine yourself at the hour of your death: what would you like to do at that hour? What decisions would you have made? Taste your mortality and hear how the Lord will call you someday, at some specific time. It may be tomorrow! We never know!

And so, dear brothers and sisters, let us be saints, that is, let us be like those servants whom the master, on his return, shall find watching. Let us get ready to die. Let us remember too those poor souls in purgatory some of which may have die unexpectedly. If you help today that soul, he or she will become an intercessor in heaven so that, God willing, you may be spared from a sudden death. Amen.

Fr. Juan Carlos Rivera Castro SJ