We welcome Reverend John Bosco as a visiting priest serving at Our Lady of Peace for the month of August. Father Bosco is a member of the Servants of Charity, and he will reside with his community at their residency in Ridley Park. Father Bosco, while here at Our Lady of Peace, will offer Mass on Friday mornings at 8:30 as well as celebrating Mass on Sundays. Blessings for Father Bosco and his priestly ministry at Our Lady of Peace.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Hebrews 12:1
The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews is an exhortation to faithfulness. Hebrews defines faith as “evidence of things not seen” (11:1). Faith requires loyalty, and an endurance that is supported by the camaraderie of its followers united through the virtue of hope. This camaraderie, for Hebrews, commences with the great figures of the Old Testament who continue to trust in God despite their challenges. This camaraderie then finds its high point in the obedience of Jesus – “the refulgence of God’s glory” (1:3).
All this takes us back to the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. It is here that we are assured of the support of these divine witnesses who will intercede for us when our own pilgrimage is excessively challenging, and we are faced with the choice of staying faithful to the path or abandoning it.
We are indeed surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses. The lower portion of our beautiful stained-glass windows at Our Lady of Peace Church feature these witnesses. Four witnesses from the Old Testament are featured on the windows to your left while four witnesses from the early life of the Church are to your right. Let’s start with the Old.
The windows to your left feature the four major Old Testament prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Each of these four faced challenges and they endured these challenges through their trust in God and their encouragement of others to do the same.
Under the Annunciation window we find Isaiah. An early chapter of Isaiah records his affirmative response to God’s invitation – “Here I am! Send me” (6:8). Compare his quick response to the trusting response of Mary when she received, through the Archangel Gabriel, the invitation to be the Mother of God’s Son.
Proceed westward and we find Jeremiah under the Visitation window. The Visitation celebrates the gift of new life – John the Baptist within Elizabeth, and our Savior within the Blessed Mother. Two women of different ages each trusting in the glory of God. Jeremiah, like both women, felt out of place. A young maiden asked to bear God’s Son, an elderly woman asked to bear his forerunner, and a teenager asked to be a prophet to a world on the brink of spiritual collapse. All three, out of love for God, endured.
Under the window of the Nativity of The Lord we find Ezekiel. After Joseph and Mary travelled to the land of his ancestry, Jesus was born in a manger, in poverty. Shortly after his birth the Holy Family relocated to Egypt to keep the child Jesus safe from harm. Similarly, Ezekiel was asked to give up much as an example to the Israelites who were about to be cast into Babylonian exile. The prophecies of Ezekiel helped the people to find life in this new land and to remain faithful to the pathway of salvation rather than abandoning the pathway and abandoning God.
The final window on the left side features the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The prophet Daniel is at the bottom. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of fulfillment. Simeon speaks tenderly about trust when he holds the Child Jesus in his arms. “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your Word, for my eyes have seen your salvation” Luke 2:29-30. Daniel prophesized in a time of turmoil and persecution. Daniel writes of the importance of faith to overcome adversity, to trust that God is in charge, and that the Kingdom of God will ultimately triumph. It was a deliverance that Daniel trusted in, that Simeon held, and that the author of Hebrews reminds us of.
Faith is the “evidence of things not seen.” Faith requires loyalty, and an endurance that is supported by the camaraderie of its followers united through the virtue of hope. We give thanks to God for the camaraderie of these witnesses who are united in hope, and we are thankful for the artist of these windows who brilliantly connected the Old with the New.
This week we acknowledge the witnesses on the left side of the Church. Next week we will look to the right.