This homily was preached at a recent anniversary Mass for Fr. Joseph Daly, C.M. — a Vincentian priest beloved of many, especially those to whom he ministered at St. John’s University in New York.
There are phrases which conjure up a whole world. Their feel is expansive, both in what they refer to and in the warmth they draw out from the hearers. “Big Hearted” is one of these. It gives off notes of generosity, compassion, sympathetic understanding, humor, follow-through on promises, loving presence.
Today, the phrase also carries some of the wealth of meaning in these Scripture readings. And so, that large-hearted person the prophet Micah praises who comes before the Lord filled with love and goodness, genuineness and fairness especially to the weak. The book of Revelation commending full hearted good works, generous actions that make a difference for the well-being of others. And then finally (and especially) Jesus in Luke’s gospel, as he praises the person who receives the seed, steadily waters and fertilizes it, and lets it blossom out into the abundant harvest. This is the person who spills over in generosity and good-heartedness – or as we might say, in Big-heartedness…
What an apt phrase to bring up at a memorial celebration for Fr. Joseph Daly — though if he were standing here, he would throw up many disclaimers. I doubt there’s anyone at this Eucharist today who would argue the association between Joe Daly and a Big Heart.
For just for a minute I ask you to think back to some interaction you had with him, something memorable and overflowing — and then notice those feelings of warmth and acceptance which color and fill out that memory. Even in the suffering days of his last years, his core (his heart) came through in that welcoming, inviting presence that so marked his person.
We call this a memorial (memory) Mass, which brings to mind two meanings of memory.
One, those recollections each of us has of him, those stories we can tell that would endear him to anyone who was listening. These are recountings of past things, what he did and said while with us — and who he was in Vincent’s Family. But there’s also another level to memory, the kind that comes alive in the present when we do something to reenact it. So for instance, our living out some of his bigheartedness – doing something generous for somebody else, showing warm personal concern for someone who’s hurting, stepping in to give not only a word of encouragement but a deed of encouragement. In other words, all of us acting in ways that take the memory of Joe Daly’s big heart and give it the Vincentian flesh of the here and now.
The other memory is the one that will soon be happening as all of us join around this Eucharistic table – the memory of Our Lord’s (self-sacrificing) life, death and Resurrection. It occured over 2000 years ago. But it is happening now once again, here at this Eucharist as together we “do this in memory of him.” Standing close against this act of pure selflessness, it comes to us anew – the Lord giving Himself for love of us.
We’ve all seen pictures and statues of the Sacred Heart, Jesus standing there, hands on His heart, that heart wide open and loving each of us. I couldn’t think of too many more fitting images for the person whose life we remember and celebrate here – Fr. Joe Daly, a man whose “Big Heart” so touched and poured its love on all of us. Let us also “do this in memory of him.”
But more profoundly, let us do it inside this ever-fresh Eucharistic memory,
– the memory, come alive again,
– the life-giving memory of Him who led Joe Daly through all his days and nights,
– and who now welcomes him, so bigheartedly, into life eternal in the Kingdom of his dear Father.