St. Bernadette Souborious

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/10/07 at 12:00 AM

After a wonderful pilgrimage to France, it’s so very good to be home and with all of you again. I am very grateful to all of you who prayed for us while we were away. Please know that I was praying for all of you in the holy sites we visited.

Truly, this pilgrimage to France was a tremendous opportunity to pray, to visit very holy places, and to honor our Lady and learn more about her and the saints.

On this particular trip the saint who captivated me the most was the humble St. Bernadette Soubirous, and the place that made the greatest impression upon was Lourdes, Bernadette’s hometown.

Born in 1844 into a pious family, Bernadette’s early years were relatively happy and peaceful. But financial devastation was visited upon her family when she was 9 or 10, and the Soubirous family fell increasingly deeper into debt and penury as Bernadette grew into adolescence. They all suffered terribly from their poverty.

Eventually the family became homeless and was forced to move into a single-room dwelling that was once the city jail of Lourdes, but it had been abandoned because it was deemed unfit for the prisoners.

Throughout her childhood Bernadette was small and sickly, and she was considered mentally dull – so much so that by the age of 14, she had still not yet been allowed to receive her first Holy Communion.

But it was at the age of 14 that something happened to Bernadette that not only changed her life and that of her family, but that changed the town of Lourdes and indeed the whole world.

While out collecting firewood near a grotto alongside a river on February 11, 1858, the Mother of God appeared to Bernadette. Dressed in white with a blue sash and with golden roses on her shoes, the Blessed Virgin Mary invited Bernadette to come back to the grotto every day for a fortnight.

Between February and April of 1858, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette 18 times, and she revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, confirming a dogmatic teaching that had been solemnly proclaimed just 4 years earlier by Pope Pius IX.

Over the course of the apparitions, our Lady gave several messages to Bernadette that led the small town of Lourdes to become one of the most important religious shrines in the whole world, hosting 5 million visitors each year.

One of the key messages our Lady gave to Bernadette is that that we must be willing to pray and to do penance for sinners.

And like so many other saints, St. Bernadette suffered greatly throughout her life, offering up all that she endured for sinners until she died in 1879 – praying for the conversion of sinners and making reparation for their sins.

In addition to poverty and frequent illnesses, as the apparitions to Bernadette occurred, she was subject to many humiliations and tough examinations by various authorities.

And for years after the apparitions, inquisitive townspeople and visitors alike constantly harassed her.

But Bernadette bore all these things with equanimity, eventually entering a convent in Nevers, where she died at the age of 35 after a long and extremely painful illness.

Through all that she suffered, St. Bernadette was steadfast in making a sacrifice of herself for the sake of sinners. And it is for this reason, and not because she received apparitions from Our Lady, that St. Bernadette is a great saint.

Bernadette is a great saint because she imitated Jesus so well by suffering for the sake of sinners.

In our first reading from Isaiah we hear of the prophecy that tells of how Jesus will give His life as an offering for sin. Isaiah prophesies of how our Lord will justify sinners through His suffering.

Our Gospel confirms this prophecy as Jesus tells His apostles that He did not come to the earth to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

And Jesus did this because He is our great and merciful high priest, our priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses – even though He Himself never committed a sin.

In His great love for all souls, even those He knew would turn away from Him and ostracize and persecute Him, Jesus our great high priest was willing to mount the altar of the cross and humbly offer Himself in sacrifice for our sins so that we might be saved.

And it is for this reason that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.”

Think about it: if Christ was willing to die such an awful death for us, is there anything necessary for our salvation that He would ever deny us?

Truly, my dear brothers and sisters, there is no sin, no matter how great and terrible we may think it is, that our Lord is unwilling to forgive. His mercy is like a vast ocean, and our sins are like a drop of water that is quickly lost in the greatness of His mercy.

And so as we meditate on today’s readings, we should understand that we have nothing to fear from God if we are willing to turn away from our sins and humbly confess them in the great Sacrament of Reconciliation. For God wants to show us His great mercy!

So please, my dear brothers and sisters, make use of this great sacrament. Go to confession, repent of your sins, and do your best to make reparation for them.

Our dear and blessed Lord will never deny mercy to anyone who asks for it with integrity.

And if your sins are great, then take consolation in the fact that your repentance and conversion will give our Lord and the saints & angels even greater joy and satisfaction!

But let us, too, meditate on the life of humble and great St. Bernadette. And like her, may be willing to imitate our Lord by offering all that we suffer in this life not only in reparation for our own sins, but also for the sake of sinners everywhere.

May we pray daily that those who are in a state of mortal sin may repent and be reconciled with our Lord through His never-ending mercy. And may we be willing to suffer whatever our Lord allows so that sinners may be converted.

St. Bernadette once wrote the following brief prayer: “O Jesus, keep me under the standard of your cross. Let me not just look at you crucified but have you living in my heart.”

Truly, my brothers and sisters, it is by imitating our Lord through a willingness to suffer for others that He comes to live so deeply in our hearts. May this simple prayer of St. Bernadette become our prayer too.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine. St. Bernadette, pray for us.
21 October 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
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