Founder’s Day Marked in New Haven

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3/29/2009

Homily of His Exellency Bishop William Lori
Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Founder’s Day Mass - St. Mary’s Church
New Haven, March 29, 2009

You may find this hard to believe, but sometimes people say to Msgr. Dariusz, “Father, we’d like to see Bishop Lori.” Every day people contact my office for appointments and I am sure that Archbishop Mansell receives many more requests than I do.

Like all the bishops I know, I try my best to respond to those requests.

Seldom, however, does anyone come out of sheer curiosity. Yet once in a while, during an appointment, a caller can be inquisitive and will take the conversation in a direction meant to satisfy personal curiosity. For example, a visitor might be curious about my political views or want to know my personal views about Church leaders and the like. A very few may want to know what I like to read or what hobbies I pursue. … All of us are asked questions like that from time to time. After all, curiosity is part of life and most often we know how to handle questions, those that are in bounds and those that are out of bounds.

“Sir, We Want To See Jesus”

In today’s Gospel, we meet some folks who were curious about Jesus. They were Greek Jews who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They had heard about Jesus of Nazareth, especially his preaching and miracles, and now they want to find out for themselves; they are curious.

So they did what people today often do when they want an appointment: they tried to arrange it with someone close to Jesus – in this case the Apostle Philip. So the Greeks came to Philip and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus!” Philip passed the appointment request along and recruited Andrew to help him.

However, Jesus did not answer the request directly. The “hour” of his suffering and death was upon him. He did not have time for idle curiosity; he had to be about the work given him by his heavenly Father. The Greek delegation wanted to have “face time” with Jesus. Christ wanted them and us truly to see him, to know and to love him. In answer to the request, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus!” the Lord told them and us what seeing him really requires of us. What does it mean to “see” Jesus? And how do we “see” Him?

The Grain of Wheat

We can see Jesus only if we enter His sacrifice of love. There really is no other way to know him. If we approach Jesus merely as a religious philosopher or teacher of moral truth or as someone whose popular image and select sayings bring us comfort – we will miss the essential Jesus – the unique Jesus who glorified the Father in saving us through his death and resurrection. We must lay aside our self-made image of Jesus and instead truly seek the face of Jesus.

To see Jesus is to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is to see the One who “…offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” and then was raised by the glory of the Father – for us & for the sake of our salvation. It is to see the grain of wheat that died and was buried and then brought forth newness of life in the power of the Holy Spirit: Jesus, who “…suffered, died, and was buried, and rose again on the third day.”

Seeing Jesus, however, does not consist in viewing him from afar, like the bystanders who witnessed his suffering and crucifixion. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am there also my servant will be.” This is what Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel. To see Jesus we must follow him to the foot of the Cross and there allow the Blood and Water from his side to cleanse us of our sins through Baptism and Penance and infuse us with new life of grace through the Eucharist. To see Jesus we must die to ourselves and to our sins, permitting him to write his law of love upon our hearts. When we contemplate the face of Christ with the eyes of our soul, then we can have hope that the Father will see and love in us what he sees and loves in Christ. The less the Father can see our sinfulness,  the more capable we become of seeing Christ.

The Legacy of Father McGivney

Daily we pray for the beatification of the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus. His cause for canonization has been advanced because we are convinced he deeply contemplated the face of Christ and truly knew the Lord by entering into his sacrifice of love. In imitation of the Lord who came ‘not to be served but to serve,’ Father McGivney poured out his life, “in service to one, in service to all.” He was that priestly grain of wheat, which, like the Lord died and was buried, and then in the power of the Holy Spirit produced abundant fruit.

By being with his people in their need – the people  of this very parish – Father McGivney followed Christ; where Christ was, there was Father McGivney.

Our founder saw Christ in the multitudes that packed this Church each Sunday, and especially in the hardworking men whose faith he strove to bolster. He found Christ in families bereft by the death of husbands and fathers and indeed in a man condemned to die.

He sought the Lord in the lay leadership he raised up in the basement of this Church, men to whom he entrusted his fledgling organization conceived in the genius of holiness. In the power of the Holy Spirit, Father McGivney sought to write the law of love on the hearts of those first Knights of Columbus by creating an Order whose first and more enduring principle was charity. His love for Christ, and for his Church, and for the beloved Knights of Columbus did not diminish when be moved to Thomaston to serve as a pastor. He was merely 38 years of age when he died having poured out his life in acts of love for his people that replicated the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love that he celebrated each day in the Mass.

The Year of St. Paul and the Year of the Priest

We celebrate this Founder’s Day of the Knights of Columbus as the Year of St. Paul begins to give way to the Year of the Priest, both precious gifts to the Church Universal from Pope Benedict XVI. In his lively preaching and relentless pastoral activity, FatherMcGivney imitated St. Paul whose preached Christ in season and out of season, Christ, the power and the wisdom of God! FatherMcGivney also imitated St. Paul in moving about the parish– not waiting for visitors but going out to see his people – and in traveling from place to place to establish and spread the Knights of Columbus.

His missionary journeys did not take him as far afield as St. Paul but they were undertaken with same earnestness of purpose. There is yet another parallel between FatherMcGivney and St. Paul, namely, his outreach to the wider community in New Haven and beyond. Just as Paul brought the message of Christ to the Gentiles, so too FatherMcGivney brought his Catholic faith into the public square. Today we must continue doing just that with renewed vigor and courage!

About to dawn upon us is the Year of the Priest and how we should rejoice in the priestly ministry of our great Founder. By every measure he was an exemplary priest, a devoted shepherd of souls, who reproduced Jesus’ sacrificial love by Word, Sacrament, and personal witness.

He championed the people he served and was far ahead of his time in stressing the calling to holiness that addressed to every member of the Church and in raising up lay leadership within the Catholic Church. The legacy of FatherMcGivney shines on in the devoted service of our K of C chaplains in the solidarity of the Knights of Columbus with priests, and in the prayer and work of the Knights and their families for priestly vocations. What a grace it would be if FatherMcGivney were to be beatified soon, a parish priest from the State of Connecticut! What encouragement to us all!

Conclusion

By living faithfully the principles of the Order, may the Knights of Columbus and their families help us all to meet Christ, to gaze upon his face in love and to find in him the source of salvation and joy. May this 128th year of the Knights be a time rich in many graces!

May God bless us and keep us in his love.