As he continues getting acquainted with his new diocese, Bishop Edward Malesic traveled to Parma on Feb. 28 to celebrate Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Parish. He was joined by Father John Carlin, the pastor, and parochial vicars Father Christopher Cox and Father Joshua Cochrac. Also assisting were Deacon Dan Gallo and three seminarians. An interpreter used American Sign Language to interpret the liturgy for the deaf. The livestreamed Mass reached an estimated 3,000-4,000 people.
As he introduced the bishop before Mass, Father Carlin acknowledged it was his first time meeting the bishop in person. He said he recalled some advice from Bishop emeritus Anthony Pilla: “Be kind,” which is what he said he has seen from Bishop Malesic during his brief time in the diocese.
The bishop thanked Father Carlin and he parish staff for their warm welcome. “I find this place to be a center of worship, evangelization and service,” he said, referencing the many activities and ministries he learned about while researching the parish. “I appreciate many of you making a consecration to St. Joseph during this year that the Holy Father has dedicated to him – and for your many spiritual exercises during Lent. I am happy to be here and I am happy to be your bishop,” he added.
In the homily, Bishop Malesic noted that the first reading from Genesis, which told the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac -- his beloved and only son -- was heavy and shocking. “It’s as if God asked Abraham, ‘Do you love me?’ And Abraham answered, ‘I love you more than anything.’ And God said, ‘Now prove it. Prove your love. Give me your son.’” He said Abraham was ready to do God’s will, noting that “Faith is demanding. Trusting God is demanding. Love is sometimes put to the test by God.”
In fact, he bishop said Abraham’s life was a series of tests from God and a response of faith from Abraham. God told Abraham he was the only true God, and Abraham bowed in worship. God asked him to leave his ancestral home and go to an unknown land and Abraham began to walk out in faith. Abraham was told that his elderly wife would conceive and bear a son. Abraham believed and Isaac was born. But asking him to sacrifice Isaac went beyond any other expression of Abraham’s fidelity and love.
The bishop said we know now that God would not have allowed Abraham to harm Isaac, but he does want radical faith from every person who believes in him. “He wants our heart to beat for him above all else, or as Jesus would say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and all your mind,’” he said. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice was a sign of his faith and love of God, much like Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would be the sign of God’s love for us.
“The cross reminds us of just how much God loves us,” the bishop said. And at each Mass, he said we make present the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross in an unbloody way, accepting his sacrifice for us and offering ourselves in return.
Even in these desperate, uncertain times, if we have faith, worship God and love God, he will provide, Bishop Malesic said. ”In fact, he already he has already provided. He has given us his son – completely – and without reservation to us and for us/ Even when we feel alone, dejected, unsure and unloved – we can know this: God loves us. Trust God to always love us,” he added.
The bishop said the glimpse offered from the day’s Scripture readings give us a look at Jesus’ divine life, showing us he is more human than divine. And secondly, glimpsing at the transfigured Jesus give us a glimpse of our future with his transfiguration foreshadowing our afterlife in the Resurrection.
“Glory waits for us who believe in Jesus. We can carry any cross because glory waits for us. Love God. Trust God. God will provide,” he said.
In the second reading, St. Paul poses the question, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” he asked.
The bishop told the faithful that “There is a reason to be here, to come before Jesus, who gave himself to us. We have to take the Gospel out of these four walls.”
He also encouraged them to accentuate the positive – to think of the spiritual benefit we get from going to Mass and hearing the word of God.