I am disappointed with today’s US Supreme Court ruling that requires all states to recognize the union of same sex couples.
Pope Francis recently reminded all people of good will that “every man and woman is created out of love and created in God’s image and likeness.” (cf. Genesis 1:26) (Laudato Si, # 65) This fundamental understanding of the human person and their inherent dignity is intimately linked to our Creator. Certainly, we as members of the Catholic Church will continue to promote and defend the dignity and respect of every person.
The same Creator has also inscribed the truth of marriage in the very body of the human person. This truth of marriage as a union between a man and a woman has been received from the Creator and lived by men and women since the foundation of the world. Such truth never changes. Only human philosophies change over time. Sadly, today’s ruling by the US Supreme Court is one more shift in human thought that will not stand the test of time.
The Catholic Church will continue to preach the dignity of every human person, and invites a respect for all people, despite their own beliefs and practices. At the same time, the Catholic Church will continue to teach the dignity and sanctity of marriage as the loving and fruitful union of one man and one woman.
It is our deepest hope that today’s ruling will in no way allow the government to eventually restrict religious institutions and people of faith from teaching what we believe, and will respect our religious freedom to practice what we teach.
HOMILY: 12th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
In our first reading today from the Book of Job, God asks Job: “Who created the sea, setting its limits, clothing it with clouds and darkness?” It is a facetious question, as God is clearly Creator and Lord of all things. God questions Job because Job has been questioning God with regards to all the misery and suffering he has endured. Have any one of us not done the same at some point in life?
Further strengthening the truth of God as Creator of all things, in today’s Gospel, we see Jesus rebuking the wind and calming the sea, so that people ask: “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:35-41)
In our second reading today, (2 Corinthians 5:14-17) St. Paul teaches us that since Jesus died for all, those of us who live must live no longer for ourselves, but for him who for our sake died and was raised. Whoever lives in Christ is a new creation.
Not only has God created all things, but in Christ God renews all things. St. Paul says also in the letter to the Colossians that “For in him [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20).
God is the Creator of all things. In Christ, God has redeemed and renewed all of creation. These fundamental truths are at the heart of a significant teaching document released by our Holy Father, Pope Francis on Thursday of this week. The encyclical is entitled: Laudato Si, which is the Italian title of Saint Francis’ Canticle of creation, and means “Praised be.” Praised be the Lord of all creation! I wish to encourage all of us to read this document, because it is a prophetic call to usher in new era. It is a challenging and bold teaching, which calls every person living on this planet to recognize that the One who created all things is also the One Father of every member of the one human family.
The appeal of our Holy Father is stated simply: “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development,” (13)
This common home is a generous gift of God, given to all humanity to till and to cultivate. Thus, there is an inherent harmony that exists between the human person and creation. Such harmony entails a certain freedom on the part of every person to receive creation and every creature as a gift from God. By God’s generosity we take from the earth what is properly given for our nourishment. With this comes a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth, so that it can continue to provide for future generations. Because we acknowledge God as Lord of all creation, we are not to dominate the earth as a limitless resource for our consumption.
Many pundits prior to the release of this document thought that it was simply an encyclical on the environment or on global warming. Clearly, it speaks of these things, but it touches upon things far more profound, and is far reaching in its consequences if taken seriously.
Fundamentally, our Holy Father is teaching us to live in a proper relationship with God, with one another, and with nature. He wisely diagnoses one underlying symptom of our societal ills today is that we have taken the place of God. “A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot.” (75)
Pope Francis in calling for greater respect for nature is at the same time calling for a greater recognition of the dignity of every human person. “Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”. (5) This inner connectedness of all things is further reflected when Pope Francis says: “It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.” (91) Yet again he says: “We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”. (92)
Another diagnosis has to do with a world economy that has the single pursuit of profit and a technological model with its ultimate pursuit of power. Our Holy Father is calling for a world economy that serves the human person, not the financial markets, and a technology that serves the common good while improving the overall quality of life for all peoples. He challenges us to redefine the term progress. When he says: “A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” (194)
A basic teaching of Laudato Si is this: “Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” (53) This basic plan of God is frustrated by a throwaway culture that over-consumes the earth’s resources, overlooks the poor, and undervalues the elderly and the young. He states: “When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.” (204)
The new encyclical of Pope Francis contains many more points worth our attention, but there is not sufficient time within one homily to speak of them. So, I’ll bring these reflections to a close.
Pope Francis is ultimately calling all of us to a serious conversion, individually, globally, economically, and technologically, to usher in a new era of human flourishing. Laudato Si offers us challenge and hope, as well as the moral and ethical road map we need to find our way. It requires our humility and willingness to embrace a simpler and more sober way of life. (224) This will require dialogue between people of all walks of life and of varying expertise. We are called to receive this new teaching with open hearts, open minds, and an open will to embrace the will of the Creator, who has written a law of harmony, justice and peace into the fabric of all creation, and the hearts of every human being.
Our readings today remind us that life has its occasional storms. But Christ is always with us. We are called to put our ultimate hope and trust in him. We are called to humbly live our faith in a manner that promotes harmony with God, with God’s people, and with God’s creation. In the words of Pope Francis:
“The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things.” (83)
Yesterday evening I was aware of restlessness within me. I was anxious about many things. (Luke 10:41) This last three months has been without a doubt a very full stretch, and the demands of today and tomorrow are not diminished. As is typical with the spiritual life, when we grow weary, even from doing God’s work, perhaps especially from doing God’s work, our defenses are down and we can become vulnerable to the whiles of the demon.
As I was walking, trying to sort out all of these interior movements and external responsibilities, I quickly recognized the need to allow the Lord to truly be my anchor. St. Paul had instructed in the first reading of the day that we should boast only in our weakness. (2 Cor. 11: 33) He, too, experienced many pressures and “anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11: 28)
While coming to deeper understanding of my experience, I was also very mindful of the encyclical on the environment of Pope Francis which had been released just this Thursday. Once again, I was aware of how much comfort I have found over the years by being outdoors. The sights and sounds of all of God’s creatures always bring me an interior peace.
On this walk, I took time to watch and listen to a red-winged black bird. The simple melody of this creature was telling me that all of us have a voice, and it is meant for praising God. Who doesn’t enjoy the early morning chorus of birds as they welcome and greet each new day with a song of praise to God?
Aware of my worries, I also quickly thought of the passage from the Gospel where Jesus tells us not too worry, using the example of the birds of the sky:
“Look at the birds of the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?” (Matthew 6: 26)
Despite all of these insights, I still had a restless night. Then, at the beginning of this day, I went to prayer, and guess what today’s Gospel is?
Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6: 24-34)
The last line of the Gospel brings us back to the ways the demon can torment us. If the demon can keep us distracted about the things of tomorrow, which we have very little control over, then he is also keeping us from doing God’s work today!
Be at peace, my friends. Let us put our life in God’s hands. Let us trust in God’s providence, mercy and love! Let us be about the work and will of God today.
Papal Encyclical Affirms “Vocational” Approach to Agriculture, Says Director of Catholic Rural Life
WASHINGTON (June 18, 2015) – Pope Francis’ widely-anticipated teaching document on environmental concerns, Laudato Si’, was published today, with big implications for farming and food production.
“This encyclical underscores how farming isn’t solely an economic endeavor,” said Jim Ennis, the executive director of Catholic Rural Life, a 92-year old non-profit dedicated to applying Catholic social teaching to agriculture and other rural issues. “Rather, it needs to be thought of in a much broader framework, with ethical, social, environmental, and even cultural dimensions in mind.”
Pope Francis illustrated this in Laudato Si’ by making connections between agricultural practices and ecological crises, such as water contamination and deforestation, but also unjust structures in the food system, which can be unfairly stacked against the interests of rural communities and the common good. In each instance, farming was examined through a moral lens, with the well-being of the human person as the focal point.
In the 178 page document, the pope used farm-related terminology over 30 times.
Ennis said the pope’s broad, holistic portrayal of agriculture “reminds farmers that they are called to a vocation, a way of life, and not just a way to make a living.”
“Human and natural ecology forms an intricate and delicate web, and farming is uniquely situated in the center of this web,” he said. ” How we farm has a considerable impact on everything around us, from human nutrition and opportunities for fulfilling work, to the well-being of our waters and forests and ecosystems. This vocational approach to agriculture carries with it a certain responsibility and gravity, but it’s also incredibly life-giving and fulfilling.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson welcomed the attention to agriculture and climate brought on by the encyclical. “Family farmers and ranchers are on the front line in climate change and their stewardship of the land and management of our scarce resources is critical to the health of our planet,” he said.
Pope Francis’ encyclical and its implications for agriculture resonate with St. Pope John Paul the Great’s comments to American farmers during his visit to Des Moines, Iowa in 1979, when he said that farmers are called by God to be thankful, generous and good stewards of His creation.
CRL is dedicated to advancing this vocational vision of agriculture, and is in the midst of its Faith, Food & the Environment project, which aims to equip farmers and food leaders with practical ways of incorporating their faith into their work. The organization is hosting an international symposium next week in Milan, in which top Vatican official Cardinal Peter Turkson will help unpack Laudato Si’ and its implications for farming.
Today our Holy Father released a long-anticipated encyclical on the environment, which he has entitled Laudato Si, (Praised be). An encyclical is a teaching document, which literally means a ‘circular letter’ to be distributed and read among all people. I strongly encourage everyone to do just that; read this document. View Document here.
Pope Francis states clearly this letter is intended for “every person living on this planet.” (#3) He wishes “to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” (#3) It is important to understand that Pope Francis is speaking not as a scientist nor as a politician, but as a Pastor. More than anything, this document is a moral analysis of the challenges facing the world community today, and a road map calling for conversion, dialogue, and hope.
A frequently used phrase from the document could well be a lens with which to understand this far-reaching instruction: “everything is connected.” (#91) Laudato Si is a call to everyone to recognize the Creator who brings everything into being. Humanity shares a common Father, who makes us one family sharing a common home. One foundational premise of this document is that “human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (#66)
At the heart of the document is a call to acknowledge that our common home, planet earth is not healthy:
A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes. (# 23)
Pope Francis gives a wise assessment of the sociological as well as the technological practices that are at the heart of the ecological challenge before us. At the same time, he wishes to “encourage an honest and open debate, so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.” (#188)
For those of us living in ‘energy states,’ such as Wyoming, the document clearly challenges the use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas. (# 165) Before we get overly alarmed with this challenge, it is important to point out that the poor, care for the environment, and economic growth are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They go together. The Holy Father is simply interested in bringing people to the table for dialogue. Along with a call for reduction in fossil fuels is the invitation to come up with new innovations.
In the end, Pope Francis is calling all people to read this document with open minds and hearts. He is inviting us to live more simply; with greater gratitude for all that God has given us in creation. He is calling us to live a more humble and sober life. (# 193) The family is once again given a strong focus, as it is at the heart of all life. (# 213) Greater appreciation for beauty is also needed: “If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple.” (# 215)
In short, what is needed is a new way of thinking “about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature.” (# 215)
He wisely challenges that the world economy should put the human person at the center, rather than profit, and that every human person reject a self-centered approach to life. He is inviting a redefinition of the notion of progress, instructing that technological and economic development have the common good as their goal, longing to create a better world and a higher quality of life for all people. (# 196)
This teaching will take some time to digest, and a greater amount of time to change the hearts and minds of people in order to bring about a healthier culture and climate, which is our common home.
Do yourself a favor, read the encyclical!
Every Sunday, in fact, every celebration of the Eucharist is a ‘Little Easter.’ During the Easter Season, the Church not only recalls the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but is actually renewed in the life of the Risen Christ, through the life of the Holy Spirit. This life of the Risen Christ is the life of the Church. The Church is the body of believers, the Body of Christ, that is, you and me. No wonder the true believer is a joyful person!
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days. He wanted them to have no doubts that he is truly Risen. Death has no more power over him. Just before his Ascension, Jesus makes very clear the mission of the Church:
All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18 – 20)
This commission of Jesus is the work of every member of the Church. God has created each of us for some purpose, given us His Son as our Redeemer, and bestowed upon us the gifts of His Holy Spirit ‘for some benefit.’ (1 Corinthians 12: 7) Jesus established the Church as a means of keeping his promise to remain with us always. Through the Church, Jesus gives us the Sacraments. The whole purpose of all of these great gifts of God is to share his Divine Life with each of us. What a noble dignity and destiny we share!
In this most recent Easter Season, we have celebrated Baptisms, Confirmations, Holy Communions, Ordinations and Weddings. Every vocation in life has been represented at the altar of the Lord, and now we need every member to actively strive to grow in holiness and work to advance the Kingdom of God.
The first step of discipleship is to have a strong, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is our center, our origin, our final goal. He truly is the way, the truth, and the life. And he tells us no one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) Every one of us is called to have a relationship with the Father (through Jesus), and with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit. As we cultivate these relationships, we grow in holiness, and the awareness of God’s will for our lives.
In our efforts to grow in holiness, how willing are we to change? How willing are we to live joyfully according to the teachings of Christ and the Commandments of God? Jesus is not only the Truth, but promised to give us the Spirit of Truth. Notice, the word Truth is single, not plural. There is such a thing as absolute truth. There cannot be more than one truth. Here is one of the greatest challenges of our day; relativism. People today seem quite comfortable with allowing others to live according to what they believe is true, without anyone telling them any different. How can there be more than one truth? No wonder there is so much chaos, division and violence in the world today.
Often today, people are swept up in this current of relativism which has become in recent years a tidal wave of influence. Are we content to simply go along with the latest popular trends of society and not make any waves? If so, the result will be the values of the world invading the Church and changing the values of disciples. Remember the commission of Jesus, the witness of believers is supposed to change the world!
Be joyful witnesses to Christ. Live your faith with humility, respect, courage, and conviction. This is our mission, and particularly the work of evangelization entrusted to the laity.
It is the proper duty of the lay faithful to proclaim the Gospel with an exemplary witness of life rooted in Christ and lived in temporal realities: family; professional commitment in the world of work, culture, science and research; the exercise of social, economic and political responsibilities. All secular human realities – both personal and social, including various environments and historical situations as well as structures and institutions – are the context in which the lay Christian lives and works. (Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church, #543)
When the Risen Christ is fully alive within us; when we are fully cooperating with the Holy Spirit, God’s Kingdom is advanced, and we find all the important things we search for in life. St. Paul teaches that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are these: love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22 – 23)
Let us not be like the foolish person sung about in the country song, who is looking for love in all the wrong places. Let us look for fulfillment only in Christ. Then, our only purpose in life is to lead others to the Treasure we have discovered!
With Evening Prayer today, the Easter Candle will be lit for the last time, except for the celebrations of the Mass of Resurrection (funerals). This Easter season has perhaps been one of the most grace-filled Easters of my life, and I believe the reason is that God has kept me very busy with his work, and less and less focused on my own interests. The interpretation of that statement is found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; Now the works of the flesh are obvious; immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5: 16, 19 – 20, 22)
One does not need to be a Scripture scholar to connect a few dots here. First of all, it seems rather obvious that the world is experiencing a great deal of fury, selfishness, dissension, immorality and other forms of impurity. No one wants to live in such a world. But, we do have an option, and it is the option of believers to live in the Spirit.
A world closed to God and to Jesus Christ and his gift of the Holy Spirit will experience divisions, chaos and violence; it is the only outcome. We do not need to condemn the world, for Jesus did not come to condemn, but rather to save. (see John 3:17) The believer simply needs to beg God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We need a greater ability to discern what spirits are at work in our life and world, and as St. Ignatius said; where the counter spirit is at work, reject it. Where the Holy Spirit is at work, embrace it.
I have prayed often over the years for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and never really felt like I had experienced it. Partially, this was because I was a novice about the ways of the Spirit. But perhaps more importantly, I was still living a life too focused on self – a life of the ‘flesh’ if you will. In the same Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul says that those who live according to the flesh will not enter into the kingdom of God. (see 5:21)
We are very good at identifying the various appetites of the body, and also very good at satisfying those appetites. But, we need to be even wiser about the desires of the soul, and how to satisfy the longings of the Holy Spirit who abides within us. If we are serious about wanting to enter the fullness of God’s Kingdom, and I do not know anyone who does not desire heaven, then we must be adept at feeding the soul, and advancing God’s Kingdom here on earth. That is the work of the Holy Spirit! That is the work of the church. That is the work of believers.
St. Paul lists many fruits of the Spirit, but perhaps the most important one for novices is that of self-control. If we learn to properly discipline our bodies – with all due respect for the goodness of the body – then we will be well on our way to learning how to feed the soul, and be even more docile and obedient to the inspirations and promptings of the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean that we will all be speaking in tongues, but it does mean that we will be better able to live out the gifts God has given us for building up the Body of Christ, the Church. It does mean that we will be advancing God’s Kingdom and bringing more love, joy and peace into the lives of others. If we are persecuted for this, so what? If we are martyred for this, so what? We will enter into the fullness of God’s Kingdom, which is our deepest desire and our ultimate goal in this life.
Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; (Matthew 5:11-12)
Fr John Wright-
John Anthony Wright was born in Corpus Christi Texas on November 25, 1931, the adoptive son of Fred and Pauline Gilmore. When he was 10 years old he began spending weekends and summers at a large family Ranch owned by the Gallagher’s. This family became his 2nd family. His time spent with the Gallagher’s on their ranch convinced him that rural life was what he wanted and needed. It was this attraction to rural life that eventually brought him to Wyoming.
In 1951 he entered the Benedictine Monastery of Subiaco Abbey in Subiaco Arkansas and was ordained a priest on May 26, 1956. He then went to St Louis University and received his degrees in Mathematics and Secondary School Administration.
On December 17, 1960, he was appointed principal of Corpus Christi Academy, the very school he attended as a child. He was a math and physics teacher, as well as a bus driver at the Academy. In 1968, he left the Benedictines and became a diocesan priest for the Diocese of Cheyenne. He was stationed at the Cathedral in Cheyenne and St Laurence O’Toole in Laramie. He was the pastor of St Anthony’s, Upton; Our Lady of Peace in Pinedale; Our Lady of the Mountains in Jackson; St Joseph’s in Cheyenne and St Barbara’s in Powell. After a stroke in 1998, he retired from active ministry and resided in Powell Wyoming.
He was an active outdoors man, a pilot, a cowboy who loved hunting, fishing, team roping, tennis, golf, rowing a single skull, and working with horses. He was a musician, who loved to play the fiddle, the violin and the guitar. He belonged to a group that would sing for the Heartland residents, where he resided in retirement.
Fr. Wright found in these last years the ability to offer his life as a priest by praying continually for others. Secondly, the last Mass he celebrated as a priest was this past Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension. On Monday morning around 1 am, he went to the hospital and died early this Saturday morning, May 23, 2015. I had a most memorable visit with Fr. Wright just this Fall. He was full of stories!
May he rest in Peace! And, may his intercession be a source of more young men entering the seminary for the Diocese of Cheyenne!
There will be a prayer service at 7:00pm Tuesday evening and a Mass of the Resurrection Wednesday, 10:30am at St. Barbara in Powell.
The hits just keep on coming this weekend. Today I had the distinct pleasure of presiding at the wedding ceremony of a beautiful young couple, who tonight are now Mr. & Mrs. Tyler Ward. Maria is the daughter of a permanent deacon who is the Director of Pastoral Ministries for the Diocese of Cheyenne. Tyler’s parents are active in the Cheyenne. Tyler and Maria are both Catholic, and the faith-filled nature of their ceremony today gives me great hope.
Congratulations to Maria and Tyler Ward! Below is the homily for the occasion.
Maria and Tyler, the readings you have selected for today’s Mass are unique, in that they are not the usual choices. I’m sure this uniqueness of the readings reflects your own uniqueness among young adults today. Clearly, God has blessed you both with families of faith, friends of faith, and a deep faith of your own. I hope you never take such gifts for granted, and that you not only give thanks to God, but nourish the gift of faith that is yours.
Besides these gifts, the gift most in view for all to see today, the gift which brings us together for this celebration, is God’s giving each of you to one another, in love. If you can begin and end each day from this day forward by looking at each other, recognizing each is God’s gift to the other, you will weather every storm that life will send your way, and grow deeper in love each step of the journey. As God has given each of you as gift to the other, so now you must live your life as a gift. This is the heart of every Christian vocation, to give one’s self fully, freely, and completely to another. This is what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel today, to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (Matthew 5: 13, 14)
The second reading today speaks of how we live our life as a gift. St. Paul instructs us that we are to live as Christ, which is “to live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) Your love as husband and wife is a reflection of the highest dignity of humanity, in that it is a true reflection of the image and likeness of God.
The first reading today from the book of Tobit recalls the teaching of the book of Genesis which says: “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Being created in the image and likeness of God has little to do with our physical makeup. Bearing the likeness of God means we are created for love, we are created for communion; we are created for giving and receiving love in a harmonious and fruitful fashion. Being created in God’s image and likeness means we participate in the Divine love and truth.
The Divine relationship of Love is at the core of our being, longing to be expressed in authentic human love. This authentic human love as lived and expressed by a husband and wife shines a light of life and hope into the world. This spousal love is salt to the human family because it is the shelter from the storms of life, healing for the wounds of life, and the font of new life itself.
Daily fidelity to authentic love is challenging. That is why there are so many marriages that fail and why there are so many broken homes today. Somehow our society has bought into a notion of fairytale love; a love that is only and always bliss. However, there is nothing in the history of salvation that gives such a notion of love. Christian marriage must always be rooted in God, rooted in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, sustained by the inspiration and fidelity of the Holy Spirit.
Because we live in a fallen world, there will always be a certain amount of imperfection to our love, a certain part of the human heart that will only be reached by the perfect love of God. But we have the courage to enter into a promise of life-long love because we know we need the mercy and love of God in our life. A short reading of the Psalms or even of the reading today from Tobit, tells us that life has its ups and downs, but God is with us in every moment. Just because there are trials, even occasional failures in love, is no reason to call it ‘quits.’ Rather, these are precisely the moments to realize that we cannot make it on our own steam, and we need to turn to God to provide what is lacking.
This is precisely how Tobiah and Sarah begin their married life, by turning to God in prayer, asking God to keep them safe from the forces of evil. They ask for God’s mercy and blessing. They acknowledge God as Creator of all, and ask that he bring forth children from their love. (Tobit 8:4-8) Clearly, the forces of evil facing Tobiah and Sarah were great, because while they slept through their wedding night, Sarah’s father was digging a grave for Tobiah, fully expecting he would not live to see the light of a new day! (Tobit 8:9) Perhaps if we were as realistic about the forces of evil facing us today, we would turn to God more regularly than we do.
Finally, Maria and Tyler, as your bishop, I thank you for your faith and for choosing to seal your love in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The Church needs you today. We need your willingness to live in love and truth in the midst of our society, as well as in our Church. Your love and faith lived in truth for all to see is indeed keeping Christ’s instruction to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
With every vocation comes a commission which shares in the great mission of the Church, to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost, this work of yours will take place within your home, and please God will involve raising children in the faith. However, a very big part of the work of new evangelization today belongs precisely to young people such as your selves living as a leaven in the world. By your faith and love, you will attract others to yourself. Some may already know Christ, but declare themselves to be among those who need no organized religion. Others may not yet know Christ, but will be drawn to him through you. Both groups, you are to lead by the light of truth and love into the heart of Christ, which is the Church.
No matter where God’s will leads you, no matter the difficulties, know that God is always with you, and very pleased with you and your love. May your love always be a beacon of Christ’s love for the Church, and may that love always be willing to embrace others in his holy name. God bless and keep you in love all the days of your life!
Yesterday, this local Church had a truly joyful celebration in bestowing the grace of Holy Orders upon two new priests; Rev. Augustine Carrillo and Rev. Hiep Nguyen. These ordination ceremonies are powerful, not only for the families and friends of those being ordained, but for the People of God whom they will serve, and especially for the priests of the local presbyterate of whom they become the newest members.
There was a great turnout of family, friends, classmates, parishioners, and of course, brother priests.
There is such a strong fraternity that exists among priests. It surely mirrors the bonds of friendship which Jesus himself forged with that first group of apostles. Priests are such a gift from God. It reminds me of the words of Jesus himself when he said about his apostles: “Father, they are your gift to me.” (John 17: 24) The same can be said by every bishop of everyone of his priests: “Father, they are your gift to me.” And surely, the People of God feel the very same, and such gratitude was on full display in the Cathedral at yesterday’s ordination Mass!
It seems providential that this year’s ordinations were practically on the Vigil of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is alive in the Church, and as in every age, still giving the gifts necessary to meet the challenges and needs of the Church and society today. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to all, not just the clergy. And all hands are needed on deck to cooperate fully with the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the Church. These newly ordained were given strong instruction in yesterday’s Gospel to continue to call forth the gifts of all of God’s people for ministry and service for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Church.
It is with a grateful heart that I continue to pray our vocations prayer today, for every member of the Church:
Lord Jesus, as you gave us your life you said: “Do this in memory of me.” May all your disciples fulfill your command of love. Raise up in our diocese humble men to the priesthood, faithful people to the consecrated life, and holy men and women to married life. May all your disciples hear your call to holiness and have the courage to respond with generous hearts. Amen!
Congratulations, Rev. Augustine Carrillo and Rev. Hiep Nguyen! May God bless your, your ministry, and all those whom you will serve in the years ahead!