HOMILY WEEK 25 06 – Year II

Radical Discipleship and Redemptive Suffering:

Optional Memorial of Blessed Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin

(Eccles 11:9-12:8; Ps 90; Lk 9:43-45)


Blending reflections from The Word Among Us and Bishop Robert Barron with today’s readings provides us with a strong invitation to be radical disciples of Jesus following him into a redemptive suffering full of meaning and purpose.

Beginning with the comment from Ecclesiastes 12:1 (… before evil days come), TWAU suggests that Qoheleth, the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, would probably have appreciated these verses from the seventeenth-century poet Robert Herrick: “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, Tomorrow will be dying.”

Qoheleth urged his readers to do the same thing that Herrick counseled: “Let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.” Why? Because “the evil days” of old age are coming. Soon enough the time will come when we will take “no pleasure” in life, so we might as well enjoy our youth while we can.

We might wonder why this passage is in the Bible. It doesn’t sound very inspiring. But perhaps that’s the point. Qoheleth had the courage to describe life as he saw it – before the coming of Christ, that is. Because we are here one day and gone the next, Qoheleth saw life as a “vanity of vanities.”

There is both a striking parallel in the gospel today to this realistic message from Qoheleth, yet also, we know by faith, a radical difference. Luke describes Jesus in the springtime of a wildly successful ministry of preaching, teaching, and even raising the dead to life again, leaving “everyone amazed at what Jesus was doing.”

In the midst of all that popularity and success, Jesus becomes very much like Qoheleth and Herrick, with their “evil days are coming” and the “flower will be dying” comments, as Jesus solemnly informs his disciples that “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”

Unlike the disciples hearing that prediction of his passion, we know that all that collusion against him by the religious leaders and Roman occupation would lead not just to the crucifixion, but the transformation of that evil darkness into resurrection and the experience of eternal life here and now in the kingdom of God.

According to Bishop Barron, Jesus spoke frequently of his “hour,” the culmination of his life’s work, and this hour coincided with his cross. And in what is perhaps the most disturbing mystery of the New Testament, this macabre glorification through crucifixion, is not simply the result of evil human choices; it is also willed by the one whom Jesus called “Abba, Father.” Somehow, it is the deepest purpose of the Incarnation; somehow it is why he was sent.

Here, I would add that the reason Jesus was sent by the Father was not so much to make atonement for the sins of humanity, as to reveal to humanity the depth of the Father’s love for us and all of creation, that would not be possible to comprehend any other way.

Barron continues to say that therefore, the assault on death was the ultimate mission of the Son of God. There could be no place untouched by the divine mercy, no refuge from the press of God’s relentless love. Because the Son has gone to the limits of God-forsakenness, we run from the Father only to find ourselves, at the end of our running, in the arms of the Son.

As a parent would go anywhere in order to rescue his or her child, so God, the parent of the human race, went into the darkest reaches of body and soul in order to save us (and reveal to us the depth of God’s love). And therefore, this is the meaning of the cross: God is heart-broken love.

TWAU continues by inviting us to contrast the outlook of Qoheleht with the life that Jesus proclaimed. Where Qoheleth saw darkness and death, Jesus showed that the promise of eternal life in heaven overcomes the darkness. Where Qoheleth saw a life of temporary pleasure that gives way to the futility of death, Jesus proclaimed a message of true, deep-down joy that comes from a living eternal relationship with his Father. Where Qoheleth told young people to eat, drink, and be merry because that’s all there is, Jesus urged us to live for heaven and the joy that awaits us there.

Not only that, when we are able to accept suffering without bitterness or resentment, as Jesus did on the cross, then our suffering is mysteriously connected to his, takes on deep meaning and purpose, and becomes redemptive.

And suffering surrounds us – from incredible flooding in Pakistan, deadly heat-waves in Europe, a senseless war in Ukraine, wildfires in California, a global Covid 19 pandemic, gender confusion and opioid addiction in North America – there is no shortage of pain and suffering in our world. Our response is to be faith-filled radical disciples, open to transformative redemptive suffering, and already living in the kingdom of God with a love that provides both care and hope to all. This is a welcome description of how the New Testament fulfills, completes and powerfully transcends the Old Testament teachings.

Today is a good day to ask Jesus to share with us his vision of life. Let his promise of resurrection life us up from the vanities of life. Let his presence – right here, right now – fill us with joy that will sustain us through the hard times that will inevitably come. And always remember that we belong to Christ, now and for all eternity. For Jesus is our resurrection and our life.

Today, the Canadian church honors Émilie Tavernier who was born in Montreal in 1800. By the age of 28, she had endured the death of her husband and three children, drawing her closer to Our Lady of Sorrows. Émilie devoted her life to the poor, sick, orphaned and imprisoned, setting up Houses of Providence for their care. With the blessing of Bishop Bourget, she founded the Sisters of Providence in 1843, and became their Superior in 1844. Her last words as she lay dying in 1851 were “humility, simplicity, charity, but above all, charity.” Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin was beatified in 2001 – someone who could bless and let her light shine.

The Eucharist is a vigil that Jesus left us, to forgive, heal and sustain us until he comes again. May it empower us to be radical disciples open to the suffering that comes our way into redemptive suffering with deep meaning and purpose.


Updated: September 24, 2022 — 3:55 am

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