The Church of Cheyenne gathered again today in Casper for the second Mass to begin our Year of Faith. Below is today’s homily. Pictures and story will follow.
As we gather today, we celebrate the beginning of the Year of Faith, which our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated on Thursday this week. This Year of Faith is a year to both give thanks for and to reflect upon the fruits of the Second Vatican Council as well as the publishing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For us here in Wyoming, it marks the conclusion of our 125 year as a Diocese.
In the Gospel today, we are presented with a man who has much of what this world has to offer, yet something is missing. Despite having lived a good life, and we know this because he has kept many of the commandments, he still has concerns about his worthiness or ability to enter into eternal life, in short, he is concerned for his own salvation.
Here is a marvelous human quandary for our times. Here is a great Gospel to teach us as we enter into the Year of Faith. This man in the Gospel today is the quintessential human being. How many people go through life quite competent in many ways, blessed with many of the world’s comforts and yet still long for more, who still feel incomplete? Standing before Jesus, indeed, being in conversation with Jesus, this man is so close to discovering the ‘key’ to unlock this mystery, and yet, he lacks faith. He lacks the willingness to cooperate with the plan of God, with Jesus Christ, and thus he goes away sad.
This sadness at first glance appears to be as the Gospel tells us, that the man has many possessions. But at a deeper level, this sadness is what the Year of Faith calls us to recognize and address, namely, that our greatest joy rests in the person of Jesus. Our ‘completeness’ is only found in relationship with Christ. Listen to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council:
“In reality it is only the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord, Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.” (GS #22)
The man in our Gospel today obviously sees something unique in Jesus, or he would not have come to consult him as a ‘Good Teacher.’ In many ways, this Gospel account points to a troubling practice of our day. There is a great need for a consistent practice of faith in every aspect of our lives. Our own well-being and the good of society require that there be no separation of faith from our daily activity. Again, a teaching from the Council:
One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives. … Let there, then, be no such pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and religious life on the other. The Christian who shirks his temporal duties shirks his duties towards his neighbor, neglects God himself, and endangers his eternal salvation. (GS #43)
The document goes on to say:
The laity are called to participate actively in the whole life of the Church; not only are they to animate the world with the spirit of Christianity, but they are to be witnesses to Christ in all circumstances and at the very heart of the community of mankind. (GS #43)
But Jesus, who knows the secrets of every human heart, looks at this man with love, and tells him what he needs to hear. As always, Jesus offers him, as He does every person, Life in God and the fullest possible experience of his or her own human existence.
What the man in the Gospel seeks is the wisdom described in our first reading today. : “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her, nor did I liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.” (Wisdom 10: 17ff.) Jesus is this Wisdom Incarnate, and His Holy Spirit is the presence of Wisdom in our lives.
The Year of Faith invites us to recognize that Christ through His Church provides such wisdom. Listen to what the document on The Church in the Modern World states:
“The Church is entrusted with the task of opening up to man the mystery of God, who is the last end of man; in doing so it opens up to him the meaning of his own existence, the innermost truth about himself.” (GS #41)
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI invites us in this Year of Faith to open the door of faith to Christ. Allow me to use this image of the ‘door’ for just a moment.
Thursday night, young adults gathered at my residence for adoration and fellowship. As some of them have small children, a few volunteers provided babysitting in the basement. To make this an appropriate space for small children, some of the doors were closed. Wouldn’t you know it, one of them locked? Thank goodness, no one was inside the room, but there were things in there that I need for this Mass today…my crozier being one of them! Being a house of 70 plus years, I had no hope of finding a key.
So, a locksmith came first thing Friday morning and worked on the lock for 30 minutes to no avail. Before tearing the door down, I decided to call the house keeper with the outside chance she might know where some old keys may be. Sure enough, there was such a box of about 50 old keys, and one of them fit.
I would submit that we are like my house was for that one night. Everything was working and open except that one room. For all intents and purposes, all appeared very normal. But, something critical was not available; a room, and a key to unlock the door to gain access.
My dear friends, Jesus Christ is that ‘key’ to unlock the door to the richness of our own mystery, and the gift of faith. God has endowed every human person with a soul, and a conscience, that sacrosanct chamber of human dignity, sanctity, and freedom. Here again is another quote from the document from Vatican II on The Church in the Modern World:
“For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged. His conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary.” (GS #16)
If Christ does not reign within us, if we do not follow and serve Him in all things, something absolutely critical is missing. Everything else in life, no matter how normal and sound it may appear to the human eye, will always be a little off the mark. This Year of Faith challenges us to answer Jesus’ call to follow Him. This Year of Faith challenges us to put our whole life at the service of the Gospel. “Whoever follows Christ becomes more fully the person God has created him or her to be.” (cf. GS#41)
The man in the Gospel today lacked the willingness to tap this innermost mystery of his being. God does not force us to respond to His invitation. But, the Year of Faith calls us to a full and free cooperation with Christ and His Church. Another quote from Vatican II:
“Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward towards his goal by freely choosing what is good, (GS #17)
We are to cooperate with the divine plan of God. To do this we must always desire and seek the will of God and daily strive to conform our will to God’s design and purpose. Imagine the harmony and peace that will follow when the whole of humanity is tuned to and in a single orchestra with the one will of God. Surely this is the path to building the Kingdom of God. Surely this is the goal of this Year of Faith.
Today, I invite the people of the Diocese of Cheyenne to renew their practice of the faith. Return to Christ through regular celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. Return to Christ through regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Return to Christ in the sacramental love of Holy Matrimony. Return to Christ in Eucharistic Adoration. Return to Christ through devotion to His Blessed Mother and praying the rosary. Return to Christ by living an uncompromising and consistent faith in the public square. Return to Christ by loving God and loving your neighbor.
In short, this Year of Faith is a call to renew one of the great themes of the Second Vatican Council, namely, all of us are called to holiness. All of us are called to be saints. Let this be our goal. Holiness is nothing short of being united to Christ. United to Christ, He will renew His Church. United to Christ, He will renew the society of our age; He will renew the face of the earth.
Please God, may it be so!0