4th Sunday - homily
There is a woman whose family I’m friends with in Southern Maryland that I’ve been praying for for a few years now. Her name is Maria Stefko Turner. Maria became pregnant with her third child about four years ago. During her pregnancy, her doctors discovered a tumor in her body. They advised her to abort her baby in order to save her own life. Maria thought and prayed long and hard about it. She chose to continue with the pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. We’re going to hear a lot about “choice” this election year, specifically a “woman’s right to choose”. Maria made the right choice, a heroic choice for life. Last week, Maria lost her battle with the cancer, dying at a very young age.
I tell this story not to sadden us today; actually, I find it to be a very inspiring story about heroic and sacrificial love. I tell it because it directly relates to the Gospel we just heard, the beatitudes. There isn’t one particular beatitude that describes Maria; they all do. She gave up everything for her child. Pope Benedict XVI has written about the beatitudes in his book, “Jesus of Nazareth”. He writes that the beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus and a biography of his life. They are a biography of the life of Maria Turner and all of the saints who have ever lived. The beatitudes are a biography of every Christian who lives a Christ-like life.
The beatitudes are about who we are. They are what we are all about as Christians. They turn the values of the world upside down. The world would say, ‘why be merciful or meek or pure of heart’? The beatitudes are who we are, and we live them out through things like the Archbishop’s Appeal. There isn’t one specific beatitude that describes the Appeal; they all do. The appeal is all about giving to others who are in need. It is about being generous even if it hurts.
Maria Turner gave everything she had for her child; she gave her own life. Jesus Christ gave up everything for each one of us on the Cross; he continues to give us his life in the Eucharist. Our Lord gave when it hurt; Maria Turner gave when it hurt. There will be many people in our Archdiocese who will give to this Appeal when it hurts. They have mounting bills in all kinds of things, and yet they continue to give to those in need. The world would say, ‘why give? Keep it for yourself’.
We may not be called to give our very life for others like Christ or Maria Turner did. But, we are called to give to others even when it hurts. Anyone who does give generously to others in need when it hurts is making a heroic choice for life and for love.
Pope John Paul II once said to youth, “the world needs you because the world needs Christ, and you are Christ in the world.” The people in this Archdiocese who are in need – St. Paul calls them the ‘lowly and despised’ in the second reading – need us. The poor and lowly in the Archdiocese need us because they need Christ and we are Christ in this Archdiocese.