In his homily during Mass on March 21 at Holy Name Parish in Cleveland, Bishop Edward Malesic shared examples illustrating the importance of giving of ourselves in order to follow Jesus.
First, he talked about an acorn that had no desire to be planted so that it could become an oak tree and provide shade, shelter, perhaps lumber for a house or firewood. Instead, the acorn wanted to retain its status quo – to stay on the shelf so it didn’t have to deal with change.
“It would not die to itself so that it could come to life again for others,” the bishop said.
Another example looked at a man sitting in a church pew. When asked if he would die to himself in order to give his life to others, he also said no, indicating he liked things the way they were. Although reminded that if he died to himself, God would make him what he was intended to be – “a person of great faith, a lover of neighbor, a person who picks up the cross and follows Jesus” – he declined, pointing out, “all that stuff is difficult.”
So, like the acorn that chose to remain on the shelf, Bishop Malesic said Christian opted to stay in the pew and pray only for himself.
“He takes the body and blood of Christ that were offered for him, but he never offers himself back to God in return,” the bishop said.
He explained that love “is a decision to give up some of yourself – sometimes all of yourself – in the words of today’s Gospel – to die to self – in order to find the life that God wants us to have to produce something good for this world.”
The bishop said spouses give their lives to each other and show that marriage is a great exchange of two people “who form something that looks like Christ’s self-giving love for his Church.”
Similarly, priests die to themselves in order to serve their congregations and children may be called to do the same thing for their elderly parents.
“My dad is 103 years old and I know that I have to care for him as he did for me,” he said.
“To love by giving of ourselves to something other than ourselves is to follow the way of Jesus. To be planted in the ground, to be planted in Christ is what leads to an eternal springtime for us. To keep everything for ourselves and for our comfort is to lose it all,” Bishop Malesic said. Conversely, he explained, to give everything we have is never to lose anything at all, “because God adds so much for us as we grow toward him in love.”
Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates or lets go of his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life, he said.
“May God make all of us saints – the oak trees of the heavenly kingdom,” he added.
Msgr. Richard Antall, Holy Name pastor, Father Tom O’Donnell, pastor emeritus, and Father Jim McCafferty, a son of the parish, concelebrated Mass with the bishop.
A baby who was baptized earlier that day was in the front pew with her family. Bishop Malesic promised to keep her and her family in his prayers. He also took photos with the family after Mass.
The bishop also received a gift from the parish: a long-sleeve, white “Holy Name on Broadway” T-shirt. The parish is selling the shirts a fundraiser.
After Mass, Msgr. Antall took Bishop Malesic to Absolute House, a sober house located in the former parish convent. There he greeted residents and offered a blessing and encouragement for their continued success.