Mother Cabrini and the Sun

We say that the sun rises in the east, travels through the sky westward until it sets beyond the occidental horizon. Although not necessarily accurate from an astronomy point of view, this image paints a picture of the sun bathing each and every part of the earth with its light and warmth as it rises and sets.

From east to west, the sun touches our lives. It travels, and has a lasting effect.

In our Gospel today, we see the Lord traveling. He travels across the land, the whole while leaving his lasting effect. Jesus journeyed toward Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. And as we go on reading we discover one of many stories of Jesus transforming the lives of those he encounters. Jesus comes, lepers encounter Jesus, they are healed. Encounters with Jesus are transforming.

Today, Jesus continues to transform and to heal those He encounters. One of the ways He continues these transforming encounters, is by using people like you and I. With our cooperation He uses us to bring Him to the ends of the earth, from the east to the west, from where the sun rises, to where the sun sets. We bring the warmth and the light of Christ to others. Where the Kings in our first reading had no clue about the expanse of the world, we, the Body of Christ, the Church, are not so ignorant. No, we reach out to bring Christ to our very own parts of the world. Right... from the east to Oroville... from the rising of the sun to the other side of highway 70. We have been given a mission to bring Christ to others, whether by helping here at Church, or sharing him with others in our families or communities, or bringing his healing to other places like hospitals, missions, schools. We are Christian, that's what we are called to do.

Now, the saint we celebrate today had this very vision of bringing Christ to the ends of the earth. When St. Frances Xavier Cabrini began her ministry, she had her heart set on bringing the light of Christ to the people of China. Curious though, when she brought this up to the Pope of the time, he told her “Not to the East, but to the West.” In God's beautiful plan, He sent this saint to the west, where she was able to assist in the transformation of so many lives here in America.

Now the beauty of all this, is that although Christ gives us a challenging mission, he also gives us the strength and sustenance to carry out these missions. How? Through the sacraments, most especially through the Blessed Sacrament. This was the source of Mother Cabrini's strength. Her sisters have described her as being in a fiery trance when adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. In her own words she says “"In the shadow of Your tabernacle, Lord. I can enjoy that intimate union with You which is paradise on earth." Her connection with the Lord in the Eucharist is what set her so much on fire that she was able to found so many institutions that helped and served others – schools, hospitals, orphanages – 67 in total.

Her experience of Christ in the mass transformed her, and thus assisted her in bringing the transforming power of Christ to others.

This is why I find one of our recent changes to the translation of the mass so beautiful. When the priest prays the 3rd Eucharistic prayer, he now prays “You never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.” This translation, alluding directly to Psalm 113, reminds us that our encounter with Christ isn't one of just location - “East to West” - but one of effect - a rising and setting sun effects the world. It poetically expresses the ideas of warmth, light, life – things our dark, cold, deathly world needs. The Eucharist is what can transform this world, and this image of the sun in the words of the liturgy remind us that the elements of bread and wine that we will soon bring to the altar exist purely from the benefits of the sun: light enables the growth of the wheat and the grapes, and these sun-kissed products are used to make the bread and wine used in our Eucharistic feast. They are transformed by the power of the sun, just as we are called to be transformed by the power of Christ.

It's not simply about location, it's about encounter. And so we, when we come to Christ in the Eucharist - whether we come to daily mass, or Sunday mass, or we just come to sit before the tabernacle - we, in a real way, are affected by Him. It's not just that we're here, it's not just that we came to church, it's that we are encountering the Son... and that encounter should move us like it did St. Frances, and it should move us like it did the grateful leper, that as God transformed us, we have only one choice. “Stand up, and go!”

Intercessory Prayer - St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Almighty and eternal Father, Giver of all Gifts, show us Thy mercy, and grant, we beseech Thee, through the merits of Thy faithful servant, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, that all who invoke her intercession may obtain what they desire according to the good pleasure of Thy Holy Will. (mention your request).
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, beloved spouse of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, intercede for us that the favor we now ask may be granted. Amen.