Nov. 9, 2016
Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for the first diocesan Blue Mass held Oct. 30 at St. Joseph’s Church in Malone
What has come be known as the Blue Mass has been traditionally celebrated in the Fall because this is when the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel (on Sept. 29). St. Michael is considered the head of the angelic armies and the patron saint of police officers and security forces. In a certain sense, all of you in Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, Park Service, and Corrections are like guardian angels who defend us against the evils of our day.
Yes, evil is all around us and because of your vocation of service, too often, you see it up close and the brutal havoc that evil brings when it has its way.
We call this the Blue Mass because it is the most common color of your uniforms. You form a thin blue line that protects and defends our communities from evil and all that would harm us.
An archbishop once commented that “celebrities win notoriety because they ‘show off,’ heroes who place themselves in harm’s way for the safety of others, win honor because they ‘show up.’”
Yes, you are there to form the blue line and we thank God. May we never forget how fragile the world is in which we live. May we never take you for granted.
There’s no doubt that we live in troublesome, terror-filled times. Many are frightened. The sanctity of every human person is too often rejected and violently trampled upon.
We are sickened by man’s inhumanity to humanity as we watch the news. Being bombarded by such disregard for human life, our hearts can become hardened. We can become disillusioned, cynical and quite negative.
You and I begin to question a wrongdoer’s ability to make amends, to right wrongs and start again. We can become judgmental, maybe even revengeful. Mercy and forgiveness are far from our minds and hearts - once a criminal, always a criminal, it seems.
Soon Clinton Correctional will mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its beautiful chapel dedicated to St. Dismas, the Good Thief. We remember how Dismas acknowledged his criminal behavior as he hung alongside our crucified Savior. On that Mount, on that very day, he was promised paradise by Jesus. An onlooker, another criminal, scoffed at the whole idea.
There is hope for every one of us! Our First Reading from the Book of Wisdom calls this to our attention: “Lord, you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.” Yes, Lord, we do believe that every person is redeemable. It’s never too late, if they decide to turn to You.
In our Gospel story, Zacchaeus, tax collector and extortionist extraordinaire, joined the crowd to see this Wonder-Worker. Short of stature, Zacchaeus made the effort to climb a tree to see Jesus, and then everything, everything changed. His encounter with Jesus caused him to give away what he had greedily obtained.
In the middle of great disbelief and the scoffing of pious onlookers, Zacchaeus scandalously hosted Jesus at his very home.
There is hope for every one of us. Yes, Lord, we do believe that every person is redeemable. It’s never too late. We dare not scoff!
We all yearn to live in peace and harmony. Sometimes, as Rodney King wondered years ago, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
Because society has yet to provide the justice about which our Bible speaks, all you public servants will continue to serve in harm’s way. Because the human person continues to carry the effects of original sin and fails to live up to our baptismal calling, we will sin against our neighbor and your presence is required as we suffer the consequences of such behavior.
We trust in your protection from those unable or unwilling to repent, mend their ways and live in peace, from those who refuse to respect their neighbor.
My sisters and brothers, we need to continue to foster the truths that our faith hold so dear: the worship of God alone; obedience to His commandments, including respect for every human life; protection of marriage and family life; freedom to live our faith in the public square; and justice due every human person. We have much to do!
Paul writes to the people of Thessalonica in our Second Reading, telling them that he always prays that God will bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith. Christ-led, Christ-fed, Hope-filled, that’s our prayer, too.
May God keep you safe, you who protect and serve us so faithfully here in our beloved North Country. You have our trust, our continuing gratitude, and our promise of prayers.
May God be praised…forever may God be praised!