Nov 15, 2007

1st homily ever given - Rome October 6, 2007 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

On October 6, 2007, I preached for the very first time at the Closing Mass for the Celebrations surrounding the 2007 Pontifical Noth American College Diaconate Ordination. On October 4, 2007, 21 men from Australia and the United States were ordained as deacons by now Cardinal John Foley in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City State. The Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, and Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore was among the 40 or so concelebrants.

The Mass on October 6 was a Vigil Mass for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
Readings: Hab. 1:2-2; 2:2-4; Ps. 95; 2 Tim. 1:6-8; 13-14; Lk. 17:5-10
View the readings:


“Lord, increase our faith.”

My dear friends, this last week has been a truly graced week for us all. Not only for those of us who were ordained on Thursday, but this last week has been a period of Grace for the whole Church.

Last Sunday many of us started our week in Rome in this very chapel. We heard the story from Luke’s Gospel about the unrighteous man who requested Abraham to send a messenger to warn his family about the reality of God and eternal life. Luke tells us that “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” In today’s first reading from the Prophet Habbakuk we heard that “The just man, because of his faith, shall live.”

These words from Luke and then from Habbakuk remind us of the importance of faith and the reality of eternal life. God has created us for Heaven, and it is only when we are seeking communion with God, when we are walking by faith and not by sight, that we will find happiness, peace, our true purpose in life, and ultimately we will find ourselves truly in Christ.

But what does it mean to be a person of ‘Faith.’

I have been in seminary for almost 7 years now, and over the years, I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me that they wished they had faith as strong as mine. At first I thought people were complementing me, or maybe even encouraging me. However, over time my response has changed. Today, if someone tells me that they wish they could have faith as strong as mine, then I tell them that they can have faith stronger than mine if they truly want it.

Faith is a gift from God, which if you ask for it, God will give it to you. Many people question why God does not respond to our prayers when we ask God to let us win the lottery, or to let us have success, prestige, fame or popularity. But God answers us when our prayers are connected with our true purpose in life – Do we truly want to become closer to God or are our prayers self-seeking and self-serving. Faith always brings us closer to God and God will always answer a prayer to increase our faith.

The prayer of the Apostles in the today’s Gospel should be our prayer every day: “Lord, increase our faith.” “Lord, increase our faith.”

Today’s Gospel from Luke describes the power of faith. Christ says that “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to (this) mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.” As you may know, a mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds, so even someone with a small amount of faith can cooperate with God to bring about a great change to the world.

Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that someone we knew, perhaps our son, our brother, our friend would have been ordained in St Peter’s Basilica last Thursday?

My friends, the faith of each and every one of you has helped in the vocations of all the 21 men ordained on Thursday. Your faith, your trust in God and your example has helped to make a major change in our world. I am not saying that all of you are saints, in fact, I’m not saying that any of you are necessarily saints already. You don’t have to be perfect to have faith, and you don’t have to be perfect to have a positive effect in our world. All you need is a desire to be perfect.

As of Thursday, the world will never be the same again. Our world has 21 new deacons. If faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry tree, then how much greater can 21 new deacons effect and change our world, especially when we are supported by the faith of over a billion Catholics, and most especially when we are supported by the faith of the 1000s people who joined with us on Thursday, and the faith of all our families, friends and parishioners who were unable to attend, and the faith of the people of each of our dioceses. My friends, the ordination on Thursday changed the 21 men who were ordained, it changed you, and it has changed the Church and will change the world.

When we pray: “Lord, increase our faith,” we are not only praying for ourselves individually, but we are praying with and for the Church, and ultimately for the world. True prayer is never selfish or self-centred. Christ didn’t teach us to pray: the My Father or the My Jesus. He said pray: The “Our Father.” This is because faith is not an individual possession. Faith always directs the individual to communal and ecclesial expressions of that faith. When faith is individual and isolated, then faith easily becomes separated from the mission of Christ to bring as many people with us to Heaven as possible.

St Paul warns Timothy, and us also in today’s 2nd reading, that we should not be ashamed to bear witness and to give testimony to the Lord, demonstrating that faith is not something that is a personal private possession. All of us need to share the moments when we witness and encounter the power of Christ in our lives. My friends, what has occurred here in Rome over the last few days is not a private moment in our lives which we share only with our closest friends. The Ordination on Thursday was for the whole Church and ultimately, it was for the whole world.

Thursday October 4th, 2007 was an incredible moment of hope. Time and time again people say that young men are not offering their lives to God anymore and that the Church needs to abandon celibacy, the priesthood, and so on. My friends, 21 young men lay down on the floor of St Peter’s Basilica, only yards from where St Peter is buried, and we publicly committed ourselves to the promises of prayer, celibacy and obedience. We committed ourselves, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the support of the Church, with the support of each of you, to serve the Lord and his people for the rest of our lives.

The power that faith is having in the world needs be shared to the ends of the world, and this cannot be only done by the ordained. Spreading the message of Christ in faith, hope and love is a responsibility that is given to every Christian. Take up this mission.

My dear friends, tomorrow and the next few days, most of us will return home to the situations of our families, our friends, our jobs, and our communities. Don’t allow this week to be solely a memorable vacation, or an historic occasion in the life of one of your friends or members of your family. Rather, allow yourself to be changed by Christ and make a decision to change your life.

This week the Lord has been pouring out his Spirit upon all of us. Allow these graces we have received this week to continue to inspire each one of us as we return home. Allow these graces we have received to help us to inspire others about what has occurred during these days. At first some people may rebuke us and criticise us for attending an ordination in Rome. But as St Paul said to Timothy: God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

During this last week, many of us have visited and prayed in Assisi. St Francis received the power, love and self-control of God and heard the words of the Apostles: “Increase our faith.” Pope Benedict in his recent book: Jesus of Nazareth explains that “the saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out.” For St Francis, his faith lead him to humility, and Pope Benedict says that “this extreme humility was above all freedom for service, freedom for mission, and ultimately trust in God.”[1]

St Francis’s faith lead him to hear the words of Christ: “Rebuild my Church!” These words are extended to all of us. No longer can we sit back and see the Church continue to suffer ridicule, humiliation and false accusations by those who seek to destroy faith and belief in God.

Pope Paul VI in 1972 recognised that many in the world no longer see the importance of belonging to a Church and that many believe that they can make their own decisions about faith, even if this is contrary to almost 2000 years of Christian belief. He said People no longer trust the Church; they trust the secular profane prophet that speaks to us from some newspaper or from some social movement.”

My friends, we all need to speak with clarity, with conviction and we need to live our lives as examples of our faith. For years to come the Feast of St Francis of Assisi will be permanently etched in our minds as the day when our relative or friend was ordained a deacon in St Peter’s Basilica.

My friends, Christ tells us “To whom much is given, much is expected.” We have all received a great deal this week. Now each and every one of us is given the mission to spread the message of hope and joy about what we have received and experienced. The best way for us to be prepared for this mission is to enter fully into the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, which will be made present for us on this altar. As the Eucharistic prayer is prayed, and then as you come forward to receive Christ: pray the words: “Lord increase our faith.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg 78.

No comments: