Monday, January 21, 2013

Homily for Saint Marianne Cope Post-Canonization Celebration, Kalaupapa

January 14, 2013
She was a rising star. This young woman who had matured so well because she cared for her family as a young bread winner was excitedly welcomed by the Sisters of St. Francis. This young Sister shone so brightly that she was quickly tapped to be a mentor to the novices. Within just a few years this rising star was placed in charge of schools, and she shone in her founding of two New York hospitals. Her brilliance was the cutting edge of health care in her time. Her light caught the eye of her Franciscan Sisters, and they elected her their Superior.
The light of stars does not shine on just some small part of the earth, and so when a letter came from a far away island kingdom asking for Sisters to serve the sick, others could only see their own stretched resources in the midst of so many needs in their little corners of the world. But this rising star named Mother Marianne knew instinctively that the best stars lead to journeys of adventure and great discovery. And so this rising star from the East travelled with six Sisters to these tiny dots of land in the vast Pacific Ocean, to Hawaii Nei.
Even here this rising star quickly changed the darkness, neglect, and filth of a warehouse for the rejected into a place of light, dignity, and joy. The eyes of a king and queen sparkled with the light of Mother Marianne, and they noted her brilliance with a star of honor, the Royal Medal of Kapiolani.
Yet this rising star that was Mother Marianne Cope was very well aware of St. John’s admonition to beware of idols.  She knew that her light was a created light whose only purpose was to lead others to the true and uncreated light. She knew that her light was a mere guiding star to the merciful healing brilliance of Christ, and that day by day he would grow greater as she became smaller, ever narrowing her world. Her move from the great expansive State of New York to the little obscure islands of Hawaii, from the capitol city of Honolulu to the dead-end nowhere of Kalaupapa, was symbolic of her light becoming smaller so that Christ could become greater. She was hungry for this work that few others would even consider doing, because she daily had her own hunger satisfied by the living Bread come down from heaven.
Mother Marianne was not just a star that flashed in the heavens long ago, but she has now been fixed as a heavenly light for all time, so that she can continue to shine on Christ wherever he may be found. From her place in heaven she leads us on an exciting pilgrimage to the most unlikely places to encounter Jesus. She knew the story of his being found in a stinking stable, and therefore did not find it odd to find Jesus in a place reeking with the decay of diseased bodies.  She believed the story of his being cruelly confined to a rough-hewn cross, with many wishing that he would just disappear, and therefore found Jesus in those who had been cruelly confined, with the hope that they would soon disappear, on this rough cross of Kalaupapa.  She took part every day in the memorial of Christ’s rising from the dead, and therefore she was able to bring so much life and joy to this place of the living dead.  She, who directed others as their Superior, knew that her greatest joy was in submitting herself to Christ.  Saint Marianne’s light shines on Christ, the all powerful God who has made himself so little for us.  Her brilliant light leads to Him who is the Light of the World, and so this rising star is happily dimmed in the presence of the source of all light.
In these days when we quarantine God so that we will not be contaminated by the contagion of his commandments, we so much need a light that will guide us to break open the frontiers of fear.  At this time when little people are disposable because they are hidden away in the darkness of a womb, we need a star to show us that no matter how difficult life may become in caring for them, no one is disposable.  In these days when we make ourselves ever greater and dim the light of truth, we need a strong star that knows how to be absorbed into the Great Light, to become dimmer in oneself, so that the Light of the World can become even brighter.  We thank God for sending this star to us, for setting her forever in the firmament of heaven, and for making her our living lesson that making ourselves smaller and more obscure brightens the world all the more with the light of Jesus Christ our Lord.  We thank God for Saint Marianne Cope! +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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