Hello! I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to meet many of you at the parish. For those that I have not gotten the chance to meet, my name is Jonathan Hernandez. I am the seminarian assigned to Our Lady of Mercy by the Diocese. Perhaps you may have noticed that during the summer months this year I was absent. I was asked by my vocations director to stay at our cathedral and do a program called CPE (Clinical Pastoral Experience). This program was extremely helpful for my vocation. Through that experience I received the opportunity to serve at a hospice center, a homeless shelter, and bring communion to the sick on a consistent basis. I was able to encounter others’ sufferings in different forms and was in a privileged place where I was often let into places of deep suffering. Often faced with a loss of words this summer, I felt the Holy Spirit guiding me in how he wanted me to minister to each person I was with. I felt Christ wanting to heal his sons and daughters.
This summer experience made me realize that I too was suffering in ways that I didn’t acknowledge. As a seminarian, I experience a constantly shifting environment. Often, I am bombarded with activities, homework, and responsibilities. This can all be very tiring. While praying with the suffering of Christ, I realized at a heartfelt level that suffering should point outwards. Suffering is part of the human experience, and we weren’t meant to take it on all by ourselves. At the minimum, it should be given to Christ. Furthermore, it is when our suffering points outwards that we realize our suffering has a greater meaning. For example, we are called to love our neighbor even though this isn’t the easiest thing to do. Our neighbors often hurt us in words and deeds. Scarred by their actions, we can wallow in the injustice, or we can allow ourselves to feel the hurt, bring it to Christ, and try our best to treat them with the love and respect they deserve as people made in the image of God. Even if they do not reciprocate, we are loving as Christ loved.
What I have just described, is made possible only through a life anchored in Christ. It is his grace and his strength that allow us to abide in his vineyard. We hear St. Paul affirm this in the second reading: “I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). When we refuse to give our sufferings to God, we are pointed inwards, and this can become a truly dangerous place to be. In the Gospel reading today Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast. As the King came in to meet the guests, there was one who was not dressed properly: “…how is that you came in here without a wedding garment?” (Mt 22:12) May this remind us to put on the life of Christ, configure and unite our thoughts, words, and actions to him. Give him your sufferings, and live for others, so that you might not be caught without a wedding garment!
God bless you, Jonathan