Beginning tomorrow, we will be gathered once again in the pedestrian-packed streets of SoHo. Our mission will be to find souls lost amid the smoke and din of the largest street festival in New York City. Like many elements of our post-Christian culture, this festival has nearly completely lost its original, mysterious purpose, focused on the eternal, and is now fully rooted in the temporary, the transient, the tasty snacks and alluring trinkets of the streets that draw us in, but never fully satisfy. Our goal will be to break through the veneer of gayety and find the souls that we know are out there, seeking God even when they don’t know it. Our mission is to find them, and turn their eyes to heaven, to the eternal life after death that awaits us all. Our mission is to bring them home.
Our focus will be the Eternal and, in particular, three aspects of it.
Mystery. In today’s “scientific” culture, “facts” rule the day. “If you can’t prove it with facts, it can’t be true.” “Man is all-knowing, and can use his mind to discover and know everything, eventually.” Once you accept this false premise, this smallness of the universe, there is no longer room for God. God is bigger than this. God is eternal. God cannot be fully comprehended by our mere mortal minds. God is mystery. Ironically, the San Gennaro festival’s origins revolve around a mystery—the liquefaction of the blood relic of one of the early saints of the Church, San Genarius. Most of the souls we will meet this week don’t know this, and certainly don’t believe this. This ancient Church tradition may or may not be true (I will be sending you a photo later for you to judge), and certainly our Catholic faith does not depend on this nor does it require we believe this tradition. But it does require that we take a leap of Faith and believe that God is “the alpha and the omega”, the beginning and the end. And it does require that God could liquefy the blood relic of one of his martyrs for the Faith if we so wanted to. So let’s remind people that Faith is not a science, but it is nevertheless as much a part of our humanity as our need for food and water. Let’s not be afraid to admit that we believe in the mystery of God.
Confidence. One of the ironies of the modern age is that while many are pursuing the secular dream and have abandoned God, deep down inside them they can still feel His tug. Their consciences bother them. They are unsure of their path. And deep, deep down, they fear they’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. In contrast to this nagging sense of unease, our missionaries, rooted in their Creator, will be standing confidently beside the sausage stands. We are confident because we know the Lord is with us, as we prayed this morning in the Magnificat: “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1Cor 1:9)
Joy. Christian joy, one of the great characteristics of our Faith that conquered the Roman Empire, is different than the “happiness” being pursued in today’s culture of shallowness and one night stands. Joy is born of Confidence. It is deep rooted. It has integrity. It is no shakable. As Christians, we know we are beloved sons and daughters of an almighty God. We have personally felt that love. We have a relationship with Him. We know He loves us, despite our flaws and failings. This gives us the deep, abiding joy that the Holy Father talks about in “The Joy of the Gospel.” And this is the joy we will bring to the streets of SoHo this week. When the revelers get a whiff of this, let me assure you, they’ll be saying, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
September 11, 2019