Saturday, March 05, 2016

Come, Let Us Return to the Lord

“Come, let us return to the LORD, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence. Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.”  Hosea 6:1-3

”But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:13-14

All the reflections of Christ in our lives are the piety of who we are in Christ. All the ways we are lifted up with Christ bring us his salvation and make us his representatives in life. God so loved the world that he sent his own Son to be our salvation. How we join ourselves to Christ in his dying brings us to share his mission from the Father. We become God’s so great love for us in how we carry our crosses of life in the name of Christ. There is no bypass of the cross if we are to share the work of Christ. We too need to be lifted up.[i]

Let us strive to know the Lord.  Through Cursillo weekends, group reunion and life, maybe we do start to take on the mantle of the tax collector if we actually listen, hear and put into action the Word.  However, we do not get to that attitude on our own without great teachers and preachers.  Jesus sent one of his angels to be among us in the person of his servant Joseph McCloskey.  This week, nearly a year after his stroke and 83 years after he came into this world, St. Fr. Joe, our humble smiling teacher and companion on this journey returned to the Lord.  Since his stroke nearly a year ago, I bet the Father was looking down the road just waiting to great his son as he walked down the road to his eternal home.  

The earthly job of our good and faithful servant finally complete, he returns to his Prodigal home.  St. Fr. Joe now takes up his heavenly task with the choirs of angels to drill the hole to pull us through when our day will come.
St. Fr. Joe helped us in our piety.  He helped us in our study.  He helped us in our action.  Pull out your notebooks.  The words are all there.  Probably none more profound than his mantra that echoes through weekends when he was not on the team but was quoted by others who had gotten spiritual direction from him. “Am I willing to be who Christ would have been if he had been lucky enough to be me?”

God, rich in mercy has given us his Son to be our redemption. How we look at the Christ on the Cross opens our heart to the mercy and the love of God. In the Old Testament, the people looked at the serpent that Moses showed them and they were healed. We look at Christ on the Cross and call him to save us.[ii]

Our world is saved through the dying of Christ. He is the love of the Father by his obedience to the Father. Our acceptance of his being the Father’s love for our world allows us to be the same. How we offer ourselves in the name of Christ allows us to be partakers of the sharing of the Father’s love for our world. The sacrifices of Lent we offer for each other are the way the love of God reaches the world through us. We take up our crosses in his name and find the joy in fulfilling what is wanting to the sufferings of Christ in our day and age by carry our crosses in his name. No sacrifice is too great or too little to fulfill what the Father is asking of us to do in the name of his Son. We become the love of the Father by offering ourselves in the name of Christ.[iii] 

Fr. Joe’s words echoed the Gospel.  He reflected Christ and the poetry of St. John as well as the spirit and grandeur of Gerard Manly Hopkins, and other member of the Society of Jesus. 

St. Fr. Joe accepted the love of the Father 53 years ago when he was ordained.  He offered himself, Christ-like to his family, to us in Cursillo, to the Gonzaga community, to the Woodstock community, to his spiritual direction students in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, to the poor served by the McKenna Center, and many others.  St. Fr. Joe was the handiwork of the Lord to whom he now returns. 

Relatives and friends may call at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church, 900 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC on Sunday, March 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. and again on Monday, March 7 beginning at 11 a.m., where Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated 12 noon. (PLEASE NOTE: There is free parking in the Gonzaga underground parking garage for late Sunday afternoon and evening ONLY. You enter it from 1st Street NW on "I" Street, through the traffic circle and down the ramp on the right.)

Following the Sunday wake, there will be a gathering for shared remembrances in the Upper Commons of Gonzaga.  The family would love to hear some of your favorite memories of Fr. Joe and perhaps a few Joe-isms.

The Mass of the Resurrection will be at Noon, Monday March 7.  All priests in attendance are invited to concelebrate. Before the Mass there will be a viewing in the Church for the Gonzaga community. On Tuesday, the burial will take place at noon at Woodstock, Maryland where he was ordained nearly 53 years ago.  

Fr. Joe's favorite charity was the McKenna Center for those inclined to give a gift in his honor. The Father McKenna Center is a nonprofit social service agency in the Jesuit tradition serving the poor and homeless of Washington, DC.   Located in the basement of the former St. Aloysius Church (and currently on the campus of Gonzaga College High School), the Center operates four principal programs: 

  • A Day Drop-In Shelter for homeless men
  • A Hypothermia Program for homeless men (from November 1 – March 31)
  • Food Pantry, providing supplemental groceries for approximately 200 families per month
  • An Immersion Service Learning Program for college and secondary students that exposes those young women and men to the issues of homelessness and poverty, in an effort to change minds and hearts about the people who are poor and homeless.

The Father McKenna Center was established as a ministry of St. Aloysius Parish in 1983 to carry on the legacy of Fr. Horace B. McKenna, SJ, considered by many people as Washington’s “priest to the poor.”

In 2012, the Archdiocese of Washington announced the closing of St. Aloysius Parish. Gonzaga College High School affirmed that the Center was a vital part of life in the community, and wanted the Center to continue to operate at Gonzaga. The Center sought and was granted independent tax-exempt status.

Click on the Donate button at the top of the to make a tribute gift in honor of St. Fr. Joe.

Eternal rest grant unto him.  May perpetual light shine upon him and may the soul of St. Fr. Joe, and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of Christ, rest in peace.
Rev. Joseph M. McCloskey, SJ

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)

[i] (St. Fr. Joe McCloskey, SJ from his final reflection in Your Daily Tripod, March 14, 2015 – The Fourth Sunday of Lent)

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