‘We Are a People of One Faith, One Baptism, One Hope, One Lord’

Bishop Opens Diocesan Family Festival With Mass

On Saturday, Oct 22, the feast of Pope St. John Paul II, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, opening the first annual Diocesan Family Festival. The complete text of the bishop’s homily follows herein.

Dear sisters and brothers, welcome to the Family Fall Festival of the Diocese of Birmingham here at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament! It is an out of the way place to be together around Jesus! Our celebration of Mass this morning is followed by activities, games, food, and exhibits which help knit us together as a diocesan family. Thanks to all (there are too many to name!) including the benefactors of this event, who have helped make this day possible. I thank you for this blessed opportunity to be together! We have come from parishes and institutions, from near and far to be united together in faith as we meet up with familiar faces from parishes and past events. Today we also meet new friends who share our faith and values. Together we proclaim one faith, one baptism, one hope, one Lord. We are one family united – on a journey toward a common destiny – to be one with Jesus for eternity!

I convey special greetings and prayers from Bishop Baker as well! In a particular way, I express my gratitude to the priests, deacons, women and men religious of various charisms who join us today. Our seminarians have come back home for the weekend to be with us! What a blessing it is to have them back!

My friends, our Eucharistic Revival is underway! This revival is centered on Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Jesus is the center of all history and our goal. It is He Who offered Himself for us and for our salvation! He redeemed us from our sins and helps us live as free people - not free to do whatever we want, but free to do what we must to be fully God’s dream!

Our readings today help focus our minds on the gift of faith. From the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we read: “How beautiful the feet of those who bring Good News!” How beautiful the feet! Imagine where our feet take us in the course of a day! They have brought us here today! Yet, we are told that those which bear the vessel that brings good news are beautiful – like nothing else. With Jesus, the Good News, we have healing, we have hope, we have joy, we have forgiveness, we have a glimpse of God Himself, speaking and acting in our midst. The trumpets sound, the fanfare announces, and voices are raised: Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Let us welcome Him among us. The Eucharistic Revival already is sounding the notes that awaken us to see and hear the sentinel who bears the Good News that we have been waiting to hear. With that, our task is to carry this Good News to the ends of the earth!

Our Gospel shares the intimate story of Jesus after His resurrection when He meets up with the Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They had been in the boat fishing all night and had caught nothing, but they spotted someone on the shore who asked: “Children have you caught anything?” Then He was recognized. It wasn’t just anybody. The timbre of His voice, the silhouette He cast, His gestures. It all fit. It was the surprise of the moment. It was so familiar they couldn’t conclude anything else: It was the Lord! Peter jumps into the water and swims to the shore to beat the boat. Imagine their surprise - their joy! He was there. A fire was cooking with a roasted fish on it already. Who knows where Jesus got the fish from or how the fire got started? Still, they were so happy to see each other again. It was an amazing reunion after what they had just experienced with our Lord’s crucifixion, death, and burial. Yet, He was alive right in front of them!

Then, at a certain point, Jesus turns to Simon Peter. Remember he had just betrayed Him on the night of the crucifixion: “I don’t even know the man!” Yet, Jesus asks him a very personal, intimate question: “Do you love me?” “Yes Lord, I love You,” Peter responds. He asks that three times and with each answer Jesus indicates more intensely: “Feed My lambs … feed My sheep!”

During the Eucharistic Revival, that is the question asked of each of us from our Lord. Even with all of our denials and betrayals and sins, Jesus is whispering it in your ear. At times, He is shouting it from the mountain top. He is showing you His love through the love of your marriage or the magnificence of a sunset, or the providential coincidence of events and gestures. “Do you love Me?” How will you respond? We could say like Judas and Peter, “I don’t even know Him.” Or, “Yes, Lord …. You know I love You!  Why do you keep asking me the same question over and over, Lord?” But those in love need to hear the answer again and again. It’s not like a husband who says, “Why do you keep asking me if I love you? I told you on the day we were married, I love you … and I meant it!” But there’s something inside of us that says, we need to say it over and over again. Yes, Lord … I hear You … You know, I love You!

Our presence here today, in this Eucharist is Jesus asking us: “Do you love Me?” We come forward again at communion - our union with Him - to say, “Amen! Yes Lord, I love You!” Then, through your words, your life, your gestures, “Feed My lambs” - share this gift! Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with those who are hurting, with those in need, with those who are wounded and broken. This Christian Catholic community is a community that hears God’s Word and loves Jesus Christ and shares it far and wide. It is in our DNA. It is what we do as we teach in our schools, as we accompany those who are broken and wounded in our Catholic Social Service Networks and Centers for Concern. It is what we do in youth group and what we do in our Catholic hospitals and care facilities. It is what we do distributing food downtown to the homeless and hungry. What we do is immense and has a great impact. I can’t imagine what would happen if it were all to go away. Truth be told, we did it well before any government program thought about it. It is because we know we are loved and want to share that love others to accompany them to a life of joy and freedom and wholeness.

My dear friends, stay close to Jesus! Tell Him you love Him when He asks you! Don’t be afraid to receive the Good News from the beautiful feet of those who bring it to you. In Jesus, we have a unique treasure that money can’t buy! We have this Catholic faith community here in central and northern Alabama. We are a people of one faith, one baptism, one hope, one Lord, and we are one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. We are people on mission for Christ! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!

Throughout the festivities of today, may we grow in our faith to witness who we are as Catholics – people who love Jesus and the Church, the Body of Christ. We are people who are on a journey together to eternal life.

Through the prayers of the Divine Child, Divino Niño here before us, as well as Mary, our Blessed Mother, who loved her Son above all and continues to point Him out, may we draw close to the One Who gives life in abundance. May God bless you.