Homily – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

So the number seven.

How many of you came up with a few things that involve the number seven? Very good. Some of you did. Who came up with seven days of creation – good. How many of you came up with seven days of the week? Pretty obvious. How many of you came up with the seven deadly sins? How many of you came up with the seven virtues that go along with the deadly sins?

So nobody thought of the virtues – here you have it. How many of you came up with my favorite? The seven little men who lived with no whites. Seven, A very important number. And this past Sunday in a very small town in Poland. we were given a whole new meaning to the number seven. The name of the town is Markowa, a very tiny town.

The reason that we came up with seven because seven little children were beatified along with their parents, Joseph and Victoria, the Ulma family, found all nine of them beatified last week. Why were the seven little children beatified? Because, along with their parents, they harbored members of the Jewish community during the Nazi occupation of Poland. And when they were discovered, they were taken outside and they were shot.

Joseph and Vittoria, along with their children, Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria -how many it was that six. But I said there were seven and there were just as she was shot, Maria gave birth to her seventh child, who was immediately killed by the Nazis. Seven children give us a whole new meaning to the number seven.

What we have here in that seventh baby born and never name is a new Holy innocent, a new living witness to mercy and love and forgiveness. Because as has been said, without ever uttering a word, this blessed little baby cries out to us, to the modern world, to welcome, to love, to protect and to forgive. Because if I asked those seven defenseless children if they forgave those who martyred them along with their mother and father, the answer would be yes.

And that’s why they’re blessed, because they are the living embodiment of today’s readings, of the first reading that calls us to put aside anger to the second reading that calls us to live mercy and forgiveness and the gospel. That reminds us that sometimes there are going to be those who are unforgiving, that there are going to be those who want to persecute us.

And our response is in the image of Jesus Christ, who opened wise his arms on the cross to save the world. Consider this mercy. Forgiveness is the way we get to heaven. It is the road that leads us to eternity. And you know what? It’s absolutely free. It costs nothing. There is no toll on this road. Only forgiveness.

77 times seven. And we’re back to the number seven seven children, two parents in a little town in Poland who show us that forgiveness is a great thing. It’s a gift that keeps on giving when we forgive people generously with open hearts intentionally. That’s what we are baptized to do. It is that abundant pardon that we pray at every liturgy when we say forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespass against us.

And the more we travel down this road, the more we are a pilgrim, church of mercy and forgiveness, then more and more, the martyrdom of seven children made sense to a world in which it makes no sense. Because we practice forgiveness, we benefit. In a minute, we’re going to go outside to celebrate a picnic. And my guess is, because we’re all great Catholics, we’re going to be all over that food.

After all, if you feed them, they will come. And that’s how extravagant, how hungry our mercy and forgiveness should be. And today, we celebrate catechetical Sunday when we gather little disciples as big disciples to witness to them to the love and mercy of our God. And today we, present four little disciples and big disciples, the living witness of mercy and forgiveness of seven children, little disciples, and two big disciples who were martyred for love or kindness, or for doing to the marginalized and the unwanted.

What Jesus said to do welcome them. And we call them blessed. So it’s not a matter of just playing nice in the sandbox, although little disciples always play nice in the sandbox. It’s a matter of giving over our lives to mercy, to healing, to reconciliation, to creating on Earth a special brand of heaven, a heaven that welcomes everyone with the expression We know exactly what we’re doing because Jesus Christ did it first.

So the number seven, seven days of the week, seven days of creation, seven deadly Sins, seven Heavenly Virtues, seven Children. Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, Antoni, Mari and the Holy Innocent, along with their parents, Joseph and Victoria, the Ulma family who live for us. The meaning of our readings this day, the meaning of generosity and love, forgiveness and mercy.

Why? Because they did what Christ Jesus did. Christ Jesus. The same yesterday, today, and forever.