By Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv., Minister Provincial of the Our Lady of the Angels Province
“Today and every day, we stand in the shadow of the cross – a shadow that is cast from the light of the resurrection and we know that our lives are a mixture of cross and resurrection.”
The following is an excerpt from the May 26th, 2022 homily of Fr. Michael Heine, Minister Provincial of the Our Lady of the Angels Province.
This year when we celebrated the Ascension of the Lord, I shared a funny story of Jesus ascending into heaven. As He arrives, the angels are hooting and hollering as they welcome Him back. One of the angels steps up and says “Jesus, You did great work down there on earth with Your teaching, preaching and healing. Who is going to take over for You now to continue the mission?” Jesus, pointing to earth, says “take a look.” The angels peer down and all they see are ordinary women and men. They scratch their heads with their long-feathered wings and say, “yikes – what’s Your plan B?” Jesus looks at them and smiles. “I have no Plan B – they are all I have.”
Seriously, believe it or not we are Jesus’ Plan A. In the midst of this grace-filled world, the Lord looked at us and said, “go and rebuild my Church.” He continues to look at each one of us and say, “go and by your life continue My work.”
Today and every day, we stand in the shadow of the cross – a shadow that is cast from the light of the resurrection. We know that our lives are a mixture of cross and resurrection: Times when we feel the Lord is so close to us, we can touch Him and times we wonder if He even knows where we are. It is not only during the Easter season that we rejoice with Jesus at His victory over death and all that is evil: it is also our victory everyday.
In our grace-filled world, it may seem that there is more cross than resurrection. A first glance at the current secular culture shows us many questions and challenges: the economy of exclusion, the idolatry of money, the iniquity that generates violence, the primacy of appearance over being, where our churches and vocations face decline. We may feel overwhelmed. We may feel weak. It is in times of this weakness that the risen Lord tells us as he did Saint Paul – My Grace is enough for you for in weakness power reaches perfection. Even when it doesn’t seem possible, we are plan A.
As our Franciscan community transitions to new leadership, we are asking ourselves what will be our plans for the future, where are we going? Yes, I am all for planning because without a road map we travel aimlessly and to quote the famous NY Yankee Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” But a map only works if you know both your end and your starting point. Said another way, you cannot get to where you want to go if you don’t know where you are.
My dear friends and companions, where are we? Are we just as confused as the disciples? Yet like the disciples, and like Francis and Clare, we need to be rooted in Jesus Christ, continuing that love relationship with Jesus who has called us. As individuals, and as a community, we need to listen to the voice of Christ who speaks to us in so many ways, especially in the unexpected places and people.
We may feel overwhelmed. We may feel like the disciples who were scratching their heads. But friends, where we are today is where God wants us. We may be waiting with the apostles and our Blessed Mother for that nudge of the Holy Spirit and when we grab onto that Spirit and allow that Spirit to reign in our hearts, we will set the world on fire!
I gotta tell you that I am very excited about these next four years. Excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Many people have congratulated me and in the same breath said “my condolences!” I do ask “why me?” and I do question the Lord, hoping He can make it a bit clearer and understandable. I know, and I know you do, too, that the Lord does work in unique ways. But we also know that if we just trust Him and allow His plan to unfold, we will look back and say, “oh yeah, now I understand.”
When I would speak to my Spiritual Director these past 4 years and share my struggles trying to discern where the Lord is leading me, he would quote to me from the book of Esther – Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.
Friends, we were born for such a time as this. We are Plan A. We are all Jesus has and that is exciting and a reason to be filled with joy! †
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