HOMILY THEME: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC


HOMILY: John 3:16-18

It was one of those human-interest fillers that newspapers seem to use for wont of a more spectacular story. “Couple’s dream home built on wrong lot; map mix-up causes headaches in Halfmoon [New York],” read the header on the local news section’s page four of the Albany, NY Times-Union several years back. The magnitude of the young couple’s headache was revealed in the details of the story: “Imagine building your dream home, then finding out you built it on someone else’s property. It happened to a young couple in Halfmoon. Now they’re trying to figure out how to fix it. The couple says an outdated map is part of the problem, but they say someone should have picked up on that sooner. Kim and Michael have a house at 168 Pruyn Hill Rd. The problem is that lot belongs to Sheila McBride. ‘They should be building over there on lot 164,’ McBride pointed out.”

Who of us has not built a house on the wrong lot? Who of us has not laid a foundation on shifting sand rather than on stalwart rock? Who of us has not spent dearly for what has quickly proven to be of little value?

In the gospel passage we hear today on the feast of The Most Holy Trinity, Jesus proclaims, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Indeed, the faithfulness of God’s love is the only foundation upon which to build if we are to inherit eternity in the world to come and a great measure of peace and happiness in the present earthly existence. And, by extension, the faithfulness of God’s love is the sole foundation upon which the church continues, assuring eternal life to its members even as its wide embrace extends in welcome to those who have not yet heard and accepted its saving message.

On my early morning rounds at the hospital, I knocked on the door of a patient whose wife, a hospital employee, had asked me to visit. Weakly gesturing me in, Armando whispered a welcome in broken English, hoping not to awaken his daughter, an intensive care unit nurse, who slept beside him in a recliner. As we struggled mightily to communicate with limited success, his broken English and our mutual whispering compounding the problem, Armando finally gave up and nudged his daughter awake. “Hey, Angela, wake up. I need help.”

Drowsy daughter coming to consciousness, she at once recognized me and smiled, “Thanks for coming to see my father.” Then, acknowledging her father’s frustration in communicating, the two began a rapid banter in Italian, she indicating that he was tired and scared as his chemotherapy treatments continued with little apparent improvement in his condition. When I then offered him the Sacrament of the Sick, a wide smile broke over his face as he pulled from beneath his hospital gown the well-worn rosary that hung around his neck and whose beads were worn from prayer. But the wider smile was mine when Angela broke in. “Dad, show him your pillow.” Only then did I notice that Armando was clutching tightly to his chest what seemed an ordinary pillow until he turned it over. And there, embroidered on the side held close to his heart was the image of Saint Padre Pio with the inscription “Pray, hope and don’t worry,” embroidered beneath.

As Armando smiled broadly in acknowledgement of his discovered faith, Angela offered commentary. “Dad keeps that pillow with him all the time since he’s been sick. He never goes anywhere without it. It’s his security blanket.” Admiring the pillow but even more Armando’s deep faith, we three prayed, anointing him with oil and asking Padre Pio to intercede with God on this faithful son’s behalf.

Leaving his room, I smiled to myself in the knowledge that I’d met a man who had built his house on the right lot! Armando had entrusted himself to the best that medicine had to offer in treatment of his cancer, all the while trusting more in the rosary beads about his neck and the Padre Pio pillow clutched to his heart. Yes, here was a man who’d built on the right lot!

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