Complete text of the homily
HEAVEN HAS COME CLOSER TO EARTH
Homily by Fr. Rafael Alonso - September 17, 2016 - Zurita, Cantabria, Spain
Fr. Rafael Alonso, founder of the Home of the Mother, gave this homily on September 17, 2016. Father opens up his heart while speaking to the community and puts Sr. Clare as a model for us to follow. His words are by no means a reflection of the Church’s judgement on the holiness of Sr. Clare. Father is expressing his own personal opinion based on his own experience with Sr. Clare for the past 15 years of her life as Servant Sister.
Dear brothers and sisters: all of you who are here present and all of you who are following on the Internet as we begin to transmit the Mass every Saturday throughout the year 2016.
A Year of Grace with Both Roses and Thorns
We wanted to start of the first Mass celebrating the Eucharist in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and remembering in a special way all of our spiritual and material benefactors. If we take a look at everything that has gone on this past year, we see that there has been an outpouring of grace in many ways. So many people close to us who have shown their love and other graces received which were painful graces. One of these painful graces that we have to mention was Sr. Clare and the girl’s passing from this world to the next. Of those 5 girls, three were candidates (Mayra, Maria Augusta and Jazmina). Valeria was 15 years old and, therefore, too young to be a candidate, yet her heart’s desire was to die as a Servant Sister. She was practically living the life of a Servant Sister already. Catalina, who was 23 years old and a convert, had asked permission to enter the Servant Sisters. Mother and I were going to admit her into the community on our next trip to Ecuador.
Dear sisters who are present here: Sr. Estela, Sr. Merly, Sr. Thérèse. You have lived this difficult moment in your lives with much suffering. We, to the best of our abilities, have always tried to be by your side to console you and encourage you to continue on, as you are already doing, with complete and total generosity. The sooner you know this, the better. In these circumstances Mother is able to console you. I am talking about Mother Ana, not our Blessed Mother, while she, as too, can console you. Mother Ana as well as Sr. Reme have lived near death experiences, and in our human language we could say that they are experiences that are nearly a cause of despair. Nonetheless, the Lord has willed to leave them here with us a bit longer. And now the same with you, because if you had not planted the seed of love in the hearts of so many young people in our school by your daily self-giving, I would very probably be celebrating a funeral Mass for 11 sisters instead of 6 right now.
However, the Lord must expect something great from you now. Ever since that Saturday, April 16th, when you were buried under the rubble, it is as if you have been reborn. God has shown great mercy toward you, but I want to point out that this has been a painful grace for you and for all of us. And from that moment on, with eyes of faith, we see that this was our foundation in Heaven, because they were the first Servant Sisters to go. This evening in the car, Fr. Peter reminded me that when the first book of the Fraternal Letters came out I dedicated the book to you all. He has a good memory and remembered something I wrote on one of the books. I didn’t remember this because I don’t have as good a memory as he does. I only remember what he told me in the car, I don’t remember what I wrote in that book. He remembered that I wrote to one of the sisters: “Will you be the first sister to go to Heaven? Wait there for the rest of us who are left here on earth.” I don’t remember what sister I wrote that to, but if it was to Sr. Clare that would almost be a prophetic act without me even knowing it, which is what makes something prophetic in the first place. If I wrote that to another sister, then she has to start thinking about Heaven, because any one of us could be the next one to go and we all have to be ready. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sr. Clare went straight to Heaven without having to pass through purgatory. Having known Sr. Clare and after hearing all the testimonies from sisters who lived with her during her last years, listening to them talk about her obedience, joy, willingness to serve, dedication, docility, patience, humility, etc., I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she went right to Heaven.
LEARN FROM MODELS MORE THAN FROM RULES
The figure of Sr. Clare is stirring up interest every day. It seems like a dream that in the beginning of this new year we are celebrating a Mass for a deceased sister who is still very alive. So alive, that she is in our hearts and has become a true example for us to follow.
In a meeting we had yesterday, we said that one learns better by good examples than by rules. Yes, rules are necessary, but if you have a good example, it is much better. For example, how does a child learn to speak, to behave himself, to decide, to have good criteria, etc.? He learns from his mother. But if there is a mother who spends her time hitting her child, who is harsh, too strict, cruel and lives a morally degrading lifestyle, then it is difficult for something good to come out of that environment. If something good does come out of it, it is thanks to God’s grace. This could happen and does happen. I know some cases where things have turned out OK for the child, but in other cases the child is rejected by his family and thrown into the streets, etc. As a consequence, he becomes a street child and, since he has no good examples, he goes from here to there getting into all kinds of trouble and letting himself be led by all the cruelty that he has seen in his family. It is more and more common to see these kinds of situations, because we are living in a hypocritical society, very hypocritical. It is a society that is laying foundations for future tyrants and criminals. They idealize certain things that should never be idealized.
Jaime Balmes wrote in El Criterio that one learns more by example than by rules. And this is what we need more than ever: examples. While we live we can all be examples in one way or another. Sadly, all of us are weak and fall. We must be careful when choosing our models and choose those who have already reached perfection. In this sense, Sr. Clare and the others girls have now become examples for us, each in their own way and to one extent or another. One sister said that it is as if “Heaven has come closer to earth” after Sr. Clare’s death. Her death has made us realize how weak life is, and, at the same time, what a miracle it is! Living is a weakness. In any given moment, we could croak and move to the other neighborhood. That is why the Lord repeated frequently, “Keep watch and pray, so as not to fall into temptation.” And the Lord also said that we should “Stay awake, because when we least expect it, the Son of Man will come.” We must abandon the path of the foolish virgins and choose the path of the wise ones. Or we can use the Parable of the Sower, which was read to us today and said that we must always be attentive so that our hearts can accept the seed planted by God, the Word of God. May there be no thorns or thorn bushes that choke His Word. Keep watch so that the devil does not come and take away what belongs to God, just like the seed that was sown on the path.
We always have to be attentive so that the Word of God can take root in our heart and produce fruit a hundredfold. We have to learn how to distinguish the Word of God from other words that are not from God, and that come deceiving and promising us a happiness and material things that later have their drastic consequences. They leave you saying, “Oh no, I made a mistake and there is nothing that can fix it. I messed up. If only I would have listened to my conscience. If only I had been more generous. If only I would have been more docile. If only I would have been more responsable. If only I would have been more patient. If only I would have been more…! and you can add a whole list of complaints. Then you will realize the responsibility we have to live our lives well and bear fruit in our lives. The Lord explained in the Parable to the Pharisees and all those who were listening: “They have ears and do not hear, they have eyes but do not see”, which means that they do not want to see nor hear the truth.
We will find many Pharisees in the course of our lives, but we must not forget that the Holy Spirit is always at work, and a person who is made of stone, has a heart of stone, can be converted into soil, soil that absorbs. This was said by a Holy Father, but I don’t remember which one right now. I just read it this morning. Perhaps in some moment of our lives, some of us, maybe all of us, most likely not, some of us may have had a heart of stone, a very hard stone. The Holy Spirit has changed our hardened heart into a heart of dirt that knows how to accept the seed of God and it is now bearing fruits for Eternal Life. This is what we have to procure, because in today’s first reading, St. Paul speaks to us about the Resurrection. He tells us that we are going to rise. And he explains this to the Corinthians, because there were many Corinthians who had their philosophy and thought that the resurrection impossible. Even now some say that Jesus Christ did not rise. His Apostles made Him rise because they loved him so much and made Him present in their communities, but He did actually rise. So we are debating between the disbelief and belief in the resurrection, as we have been ever since the first centuries, from the moment that Christ rose from the dead until now, the moment in which we are living. Among the Apostles was St. Thomas, who said, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and put my finger into the holes, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.” This gives us an idea of how some of the Apostles were, even though they had heard the testimonies from the other apostles.
So we can’t be alarmed that this might happen to us, but we who believe, by the grace of God, have to place our heart in Heaven. I am going to rise with this body, this same body that I have right now, with these hands. And how will it rise? I don’t know, but it is going to rise for sure. Some rise to Life and others will rise to death, eternal death and eternal separation from God. The body will be united to the soul to suffer or rejoice forever. Let us not be foolish and lose such a great prize for moments of passing pleasure in this life. We have to be people who think. We should say, “Lord, with your grace you have brought me here. Don’t leave me until I get there.” And “there” is where Sr. Clare is, because I believe, Lord, that you have the power to do this. You have given me the life of the Sacraments to help me, and you search for me in every prayer. I am going toward you, and you come toward me. We find each other in prayer. Moreover, I believe that you will place people in my life that will help me towards my ultimate end in life, that is, being with Sr. Clare and the girls in Heaven; those who have preceded us in the passing of this world to the Father.
I normally reject a manner of preaching of some people who say, “Our brother or sister who is already in Heaven, etc.” I reject it, because sometimes the moral and personal life of that person does not conform what is being said about them; they were dishonest, adulterous, a robber, and so many other things in their life that went against Our Lord’s Commandments. That doesn’t mean I can condemn that person. I can never do that, but I can certainly not canonize him or her. I can neither canonize someone, nor can I condemn him or her.
However, I have this interior persuasion that our Sr. Clare was one of those people who was very close to us, and later you are amazed when you discover who that person really was. They say, “Do you know who you have by your side?” “Of course, this is so and so,” you respond. And who is it? And you look it up on Internet. And you find out that that person was an amazing person who stood out for this, that and the other, and you never realized it, because you never really knew him or her.
We have the feeling that with Sr. Clare something like that has happened. As time has gone by, the person of Sr. Clare seems to be growing more and more, because we are getting to know her in God and getting to know who she really was. The same thing happened with John Paul II or with this spiritual giant, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was beautiful in a spiritual sense, because she wasn’t exactly a beauty queen from Hollywood, but her soul was full of beauty.
And this is how we have to think. We have to always look up and say, “I have to live my life in such a way that I can go up there when it is finished, because I do not know if my life is going to be long or short.” If I had Sr. Clare, who was only 33 years old, in front of me (I am 69 years old), I would say to her, “Sr. Clare, who is going to die first, you or me? And she would say, “I don’t know Father.” And that’s true. What she says is true. But if I were to say to her, “Do you know you are going to die before me?” she might have been surprised and said, “Oh.” Before we did not know this, obviously, and now everyone knows what happened. And if I would have continued asking her, “Are you ready to go? Because you are going to die this year and you are going to stand before Jesus,” what would have been her reaction? It probably wouldn’t have been very different from the reaction you would have if I were to ask you the same thing right now. So the next question is this: Are we ready to be with the Lord? Or is our heart captivated by fleeting things here in life?
OUR LADY AND SR. CLARE AS MODELS
This is my idea for the homily: place Our Lady and Sr. Clare before you as models. Fr. Peter, what is the title of the thesis you are going to do?
Fr. Peter: “Mary as Model of Participating in the Mass.”
Mary as model of participation in the Eucharist. Think that for this year we have to choose Our Blessed Mother as a model for participating in the Eucharist. I told Fr. Peter that he wasn’t going to be able to find much information about that. He replied that maybe the Church Fathers have talked about it. Then I asked him if he knows Greek and Latin, because he is really going to need them.
Our Lady would have assisted at the celebrations of the Eucharist. Our Lord gave Mary John as her son, and John was an Apostle. As the Acts of the Apostles say, the believers, the followers of Jesus, went to the Temple to listen to the readings, and they did what they needed to do in the Temple. After that, they would get together in the houses where the fractio panis took place, that is, the action that Jesus did the night before he suffered. So, Our Lady would have attended those celebrations. You are able to think, because you have a brain. Think about how Our Lady would have attended those celebrations. That’s why we said before that we have to learn from models, not from rules. Mary is the best model for how we should participate in the Eucharist.
Fr. Peter chose this subject because our first two missions are the Eucharist and Our Lady. May you and I reflect and observe these models that the Lord has put so close to us: Our Lady who is always near as our spiritual Mother. How does a mother teach her son to talk? She corrects him, saying, “You don’t say it like that, you say it like this. Repeat.” Our Lady does that with us. She makes us repeat things. If we are not prideful, if we don’t get mad about things, if we aren’t foolish, we will do what our Blessed Mother tells us.
The other model that our Lord puts before us is Sr. Clare. We have to take her as such. She was a funny and beautiful person. She had everything. Since she had so many qualities, she is a very attractive person, but she never wanted to attract people to herself. When I was talking to Sr. Merly and the Sisters that lived with her, they were surprised by Sr. Clare’s strength and courage to always bring souls to God. She would always say, “I am not here to entertain you, I am here to bring you to the Lord. And don’t fool yourself. You can’t get close to the Lord if you don’t do this, that and the other.” She was a model, and we can also say that she was a teacher. May God, Our Lord, who has given us these models, bless us, and may we open our hearts to all that God has given us.
In the parable, we read, “He who has ears, let him hear.” We must also try to have ears to hear, and if we don’t have them, we must ask the Lord for them. “Lord, give me ears that hear, give me eyes that see, that is, ears that hear what you say, and eyes that see what you do and what you want me to do. Also, may my will always go in the direction that you want.”
Nothing else. May we all be good.