Collection of Homilies

Homilies collected by Rev. Fr. Jessie G. Somosierra, Jr

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The American Project: To Live Out the Consequences of Humanism

Homily From Red Mass in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here are Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s homily notes for the annual Red Mass held Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in the capital of the United States. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the Mass.

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AMDG
JMJ
Red Mass
September 30, 2007

Readings from Scripture: 
Genesis 1:26-31
1 John 4: 11-16
John 14: 23-29

Summer, 2002, and I have the joy of being with over a million young people from around the globe, and with Pope John Paul II, at World Youth Day in Toronto. 

These World Youth Days are glorious events, filled with prayer, song, religious formation, sharing of faith, the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance, a lot of just plain fun … and, of course, the presence of the Pope.

It’s the last full day, and, as other bishops, I gather at a parish church in suburban Toronto with about four hundred young people from English-speaking countries, to give my teaching. We bishops were encouraged to then “open-the-floor” and allow any of our young people to give public testimony about any graces they may have received during the World Youth Days. After a pause, a young woman from the back-corner approaches the microphone. 

“World Youth Day saved my life,” she begins. She sure has our attention. “I am twenty-four years old, and have been living on the streets since I was fifteen. I’ve become an alcoholic, and a heroin addict” — here she rolls up the sleeves of her blouse to reveal bruises and scabs from the needles — “and a prostitute to support my habit. I’m dying, and I was about ready to end it all.

The kids from my parish youth group, who have always been nice to me, took me in and cleaned me up, and invited me to come to Toronto with them for World Youth Day.

And here I’ve met an old man who has changed my life. This old man told me he loved me. Oh, a lot of old men tell me they love me, for fifteen minutes. This old man meant it. He told me God loved me, and that I’m actually God’s work of art. He told me that the God who made all the stars actually knows my name. He told me God enjoys me so much He wants me to spend eternity with Him, and that He sent His Son, Jesus, to help me get there. This old man told me I actually share God’s own life deep inside of me. This old man makes sense. This old man got through to me. I now want to live.” 

The “old man” of course, was the Venerable Servant of God, John Paul the Great.

Ideas have consequences, don’t they? Convictions have corollaries. And God’s Word today, from Genesis and St. John, enchants us with one of the most profound ideas, one of the most noble convictions, of all: that we are made in God’s image and likeness, that God actually abides in us, and we in Him, that deep in our being is the very breath of the divine. 

I suggest that anyone who thinks this grand idea, this conviction, this doctrine, to be of no consequence might get in touch with that young woman from Toronto. 

This stunning belief — that we actually hold in our heart the spark of the divine — while dramatic in Jewish and Christian revelation, is also part of other great world creeds. 

As a matter of fact, this gripping conviction, while explicit in revealed religion, is really evident in the very nature of man. So we have the towering intellects of civilization, philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Cicero, themselves unaware of the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus, still write convincingly that human beings hold within them the light of eternity, a destiny beyond this life, a supernatural brand-mark, an exalted identity which elevates them qualitatively above the rest of creation. True, they never viewed Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, depicting creation, but they would sure nod in agreement at the inspired words of Genesis in this morning’s first Scripture reading,

“God created man in the image of Himself, in the image of God He created man, male and female He created them … and God saw that this was good.”

And they would beam at the chant of the psalmist, 

“What is man that you should spare even a thought for him, 
the son of Man that you should care for him? 
Yet, you have made him little less than a god, 
You have crowned him with glory and splendor.”

This noble tenet — that human nature reflects God’s own nature, that God looks at us and smiles with delight, that a human being shares in God’s own life and is destined for eternity — this soaring conviction which resonates in the human heart, that was made explicit in God’s Word, which animated the thinking of our most normative philosophers, and is a constant of Judeo-Christian humanism, this grand idea has particularly cogent consequences for the Republic we call home, for the country we love. 

We citizens of the United States of America are so gratefully and humbly aware that our country was founded on this very conviction, that part of our birthright, as Ronald Reagan would often quote John Winthrop, is “to be a city set on a hill,” where respect for the pinnacle of God’s creation, the human being, would be the premier characteristic.

Without arrogance, but with more a sense of challenge, John Adams would write, “I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence,” or, as he penned on the eve of the revolution, “Let us see delineated before us the true map of man. Let us hear the dignity of his nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God.”

Yes, our second president expressed it well: “The true map of man,” a map engraved in human reason and natural law, a map showing the terrain of a person reflecting the divine, hosting the indwelling of God, possessing by his very nature certain rights our Declaration of Independence calls inalienable, a map whose paths can only be walked with a reverence for life, a respect for others, a grasp of virtue, and a responsible civility. It is a cherished part of our American heritage, then, to rejoice in a mutually enriching alliance between religion, morality, and democracy, since, as de Tocqueville observed, “Respect for the laws of God and man is the best way of remaining free, and liberty is the best means of remaining upright and religious.” No wonder the bishops of the Catholic Church of the United States, meeting in council in Baltimore in 1884, could write, “We consider the establishment of our nation, the shaping of its liberties and laws, as a work of special Providence, its framers building better than they knew, the Almighty’s hand guiding them.”

Listen to what Pope John Paul II had to say about this American experiment, establishing a Republic based upon support for the human rights innate in one made in God’s image and likeness: 

The Founding Fathers of the United States asserted their claim to freedom and independence on the basis of certain “self-evident” truths about the human person, truths which could be discerned in human nature built into it by “nature’s God.” Thus they meant to bring into being … a great experiment in what George Washington called “ordered liberty.”

… [T]he continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation … makes it’s own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. 

Yes, “ideas have consequences,” and perhaps a way to view our participation in this annual Red Mass in our nation’s capital is as our humble prayer for the red-hot fire of the Holy Spirit, bringing the jurists, legislators, and executives of our government the wisdom to recognize that we are indeed made in God’s image, that deep in our being is the life of God, and then to give them the courage to judge, legislate, and administer based on the consequences of that conviction: the innate dignity and inviolability of every human life, and the cultivation of a society of virtue to support that belief.

As I say to young people being confirmed, think how differently you would treat yourselves — always with dignity and respect — if you believed you were a vessel of the divine, and think how you would treat others if you held that they were, too.

That’s the grand American project: to live out the consequences of such an exalted Judeo-Christian humanism. As Emerson suggested, “Let not man so much guard his dignity, as let his dignity guide him.”

So this soaring idea has consequences, and has throughout our history: in the quest for independence itself, in the formation of a Republic, in abolition and civil rights, in the waging of war and promotion of peace, in care for the other, in the strengthening of marriage and family, and in the promotion of a culture of life.

Maybe we’re here because we realistically acknowledge that, in a world where we’re tempted to act like animals instead of like God’s icon, in a culture where life itself can be treated as a commodity, seen as a means to an end, or as an inconvenience when tiny or infirm, in a society where rights are reduced to whatever we have the urge to do instead of what we ought to do in a civil society, we need all the wisdom and fortitude God can give us, as civic leaders, magistrates, as ordinary citizens, to achieve, as Cardinal James Gibbons exhorted, “liberty without license, authority without despotism.”

Our prayer this morning is then not all that different from the one John Carroll, our first bishop, wrote for Catholic American’s to pray for their civil leaders: 

We pray Thee, O almighty and eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations … 

We pray Thee, O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through Whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy holy spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of the United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty. 

We pray for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they maybe enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability. 

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world can not give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen



Papal Corpus Christi Homily

“Jesus Comes to Meet Us and Imbues Us With Certainty”

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI’s June 7 homily on the feast of Corpus Christi.

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HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just sung the Sequence: “Dogma datur christianis, / quod in carnem transit panis, / et vinum in sanguinem — this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, to his precious blood the wine”.

Today we reaffirm with great joy our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery that constitutes the heart of the Church. In the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis I recalled that the Eucharistic Mystery “is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman” (n. 1).

Corpus Christi, therefore, is a unique feast and constitutes an important encounter of faith and praise for every Christian community. This feast originated in a specific historical and cultural context: it was born for the very precise purpose of openly reaffirming the faith of the People of God in Jesus Christ, alive and truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a feast that was established in order to publicly adore, praise and thank the Lord, who continues “to love us “to the end’, even to offering us his body and his blood” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 1).

The Eucharistic celebration this evening takes us back to the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Thursday, the day on which in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, Christ instituted the Most Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi is thus a renewal of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as it were, in obedience to Jesus’ invitation to proclaim from “the housetops” what he told us in secret (cf. Mt 10:27). It was the Apostles who received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but it was destined for all, for the whole world. This is why it should be proclaimed and exposed to view: so that each one may encounter “Jesus who passes” as happened on the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea; in order that each one, in receiving it, may be healed and renewed by the power of his love. Dear friends, this is the perpetual and living heritage that Jesus has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. It is an inheritance that demands to be constantly rethought and relived so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, its “inexhaustible effectiveness may be impressed upon all the days of our mortal life” (cf. Insegnamenti, 25 May 1967, p. 779).

Also in the Post-Synodal Exhortation, commenting on the exclamation of the priest after the consecration: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith!”, I observed: with these words he “proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding” (n. 6).

Precisely because this is a mysterious reality that surpasses our understanding, we must not be surprised if today too many find it hard to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It cannot be otherwise. This is how it has been since the day when, in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus openly declared that he had come to give us his flesh and his blood as food (cf. Jn 6:26-58).

This seemed “a hard saying” and many of his disciples withdrew when they heard it. Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a “sign of contradiction” and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis.

However, with humble trust, the Church makes the faith of Peter and the other Apostles her own and proclaims with them, and we proclaim: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). Let us too renew this evening our profession of faith in Christ, alive and present in the Eucharist. Yes, “this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, / to his precious blood the wine”.

At its culminating point, in the Sequence we sing: “Ecce panis angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum: / vere panis filiorum” — “Lo! The angel’s food is given / to the pilgrim who has striven; / see the children’s bread from heaven”. And by God’s grace we are the children.

The Eucharist is the food reserved for those who in Baptism were delivered from slavery and have become sons; it is the food that sustained them on the long journey of the exodus through the desert of human existence.

Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, parched by the ideological and economic systems that do not promote life but rather humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and possessions prevails rather than that of service and love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.

Yet Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: he himself is “the Bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48). He repeated this to us in the words of the Gospel Acclamation: “I am the living bread from Heaven, if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever” (cf. Jn 6:51).

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke, narrating the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish with which Jesus fed the multitude “in a lonely place”, concludes with the words: “And all ate and were satisfied” (cf. Lk 9:11-17).

I would like in the first place to emphasize this “all”. Indeed, the Lord desired every human being to be nourished by the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is for everyone.

If the close relationship between the Last Supper and the mystery of Jesus’ death on the Cross is emphasized on Holy Thursday, today, the Feast of Corpus Christi, with the procession and unanimous adoration of the Eucharist, attention is called to the fact that Christ sacrificed himself for all humanity. His passing among the houses and along the streets of our city will be for those who live there an offering of joy, eternal life, peace and love.

In the Gospel passage, a second element catches one’s eye: the miracle worked by the Lord contains an explicit invitation to each person to make his own contribution. The two fish and five loaves signify our contribution, poor but necessary, which he transforms into a gift of love for all.

“Christ continues today” I wrote in the above-mentioned Post Synodal Exhortation, “to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 88).

Thus, the Eucharist is a call to holiness and to the gift of oneself to one’s brethren: “Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world” (ibid.).

Our Redeemer addressed this invitation in particular to us, dear brothers and sisters of Rome, gathered round the Eucharist in this historical square.

I greet you all with affection. My greeting is addressed first of all to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Auxiliary Bishops, to my other venerable Brother Cardinals and Bishops, as well as to the numerous priests and deacons, men and women religious and the many lay faithful.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration we will join in the procession as if to carry the Lord Jesus in spirit through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse him, so to speak, in the daily routine of our lives, so that he may walk where we walk and live where we live.

Indeed we know, as the Apostle Paul reminded us in his Letter to the Corinthians, that in every Eucharist, also in the Eucharist this evening, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (cf. I Cor 11:26). We travel on the highways of the world knowing that he is beside us, supported by the hope of being able to see him one day face to face, in the definitive encounter.

In the meantime, let us listen to his voice repeat, as we read in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rv 3:20).

The Feast of Corpus Christi wants to make the Lord’s knocking audible, despite the hardness of our interior hearing. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart and asks to enter not only for the space of a day but for ever. Let us welcome him joyfully, raising to him with one voice the invocation of the Liturgy:

“Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, / Jesus, of your love befriend us…. /You who all things can and know, /who on earth such food bestow, / grant us with your saints, though lowest, / where the heav’nly feast you show, / fellow heirs and guests to be”.

Amen!