Homilies

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Knights of Columbus
136th Supreme Convention
Opening Mass Homily of Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore & Supreme Chaplain

I. Introduction: A Word of Thanks and a Request

Allow me to preface these reflections with a word of thanks and with a request.
I take this occasion to thank you, my brother Knights, your wives, and your families, for all the ways you encourage, support, sustain me
and my brother bishops and priests in their ministries,
even when the news is not so good, as is the case in these days and in days to come.
As Chaplain, I have been strengthened by your faith and your love for the Church
and as faithful lay Catholics you have helped me and so many bishops and priests
in striving to live our vocations with integrity and love.
In the difficult and challenging days that are before us,
may I urge you to continue working to build up and strengthen the Church,
especially by putting into practice the principles of charity, unity, and fraternity.
I humbly ask your continued prayers for me, for all the Church’s shepherds.
Please pray that we will find the path to repentance, healing, and restored trust
even as we all place our trust in the pure and boundless love of Jesus, Our Savior.

II. The Hovering Spirit

A. This morning, our place of worship is adorned with a graceful image of the Holy Spirit

found within the oculus of the great dome of America’s First Cathedral,
Baltimore’s National Shrine of the Basilica of the Assumption.
This image has hovered over all those who, for more than two-hundred years,
have worshipped the living God within the Basilica’s hallowed walls.
In this Votive Mass, the Spirit also overshadows us as we begin our Convention.
For, just as the Holy Spirit guided those who went before us in faith,
so now the same Spirit of truth and love accompanies us
who seek to follow Christ as members of an Order that is built on charity.

Those Who Went Before Us in Faith

III. How, then, did the Holy Spirit accompany those who went before us in faith?

Surely the hand of the Lord was with those Catholic and Protestant pilgrims
who journeyed in 1634from England to the shores of Southern Maryland.
They journeyed aboard ships named the Ark and the Dove – names that suggest
Mary’s maternal love as the Ark of the Covenant
and the Holy Spirit imaged as a Dove hovering over Christ at his Baptism.
Those settlers came here at the invitation of the Catholic Lord Baltimore
who had received Maryland as a grant from the Protestant King of England, Charles I.
Among other things, Lord Baltimore envisioned Maryland as a place
where Catholics & Protestants could escape Europe’s religious conflict & oppression
and instead live together in freedom and harmony.

B. With the founding of Maryland, the seed of religious liberty was planted in this land;

but it would take endurance, character, and unflinching hope for this seed to mature.
Events both in England and America conspired quickly to end
Lord Baltimore’s experiment in religious toleration and freedom.
Maryland Catholics lost their political rights & their right to practice the Faith openly,
a reminder to us of how fragile our liberties are, both at home and abroad.
Nonetheless, Maryland Catholics continued to profess and practice the Faith
and kept alive the promise of a land where religious liberty would be protected.

C. In today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans,

St. Paul speaks of the hardships he endured as an apostle.
His words also shed light on the afflictions, endurance, proven character,
and, above all, the hope, of Maryland’s first Catholics.
Despite serious flaws and blind spots, they persevered in their faith
and they would contribute greatly to the formation of a Nation
which would strive to bring about “liberty and justice for all”.
Those same Catholics, men and women of rugged faith and enduring hope,
formed the core of this Nation’s first diocese, the Archdiocese of Baltimore,
a fledgling diocese destined to play a crucial role
in the organization and growth of the Catholic Church in these United States.
Indeed, in 1877, as the Church in America was coming of age,
under the gaze of the Holy Spirit in the dome of the Baltimore Cathedral,
Archbishop James Gibbons ordained Fr. Michael J. McGivney to the priesthood.
Only five years later, in 1882, Fr. McGivney would found the Knights of Columbus,
surely also a work of the Holy Spirit that has flourished and spread
to many countries and cultures so happily and robustly represented here this morning.

IV. The Love of God Poured into Our Hearts

A. Dear friends, whenever I celebrate Mass in the Basilica of the Assumption

and gaze upon the image of the Holy Spirit in its dome,
I do indeed think of how the Spirit accompanied those who went before us in faith.
This morning, gazing at the same image,
let us ask the Holy Spirit to accompany us on our journey through life.
Let us ask the Spirit to impart to us steadfast faith, enduring hope & burning charity,
amid the challenges that arise from human weakness & from the world all around us.

B. For it is the Spirit who transforms our hearts by opening them to the Redeemer’s love.

As we have heard, through Ezekiel the prophet,
God promised to send his Spirit to cleanse our hearts from the idolatry of sin
and to replace our stony hearts, so subject to self-deception,
with hearts that are supple, with hearts that are open to the mercy of Christ,
and open to the real needs of people all around us.
Ezekiel’s prophecy comes to pass in the Sacrament of Baptism
as ‘the love of God is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.’
This outpouring encompasses the love which God the Father offers us in his Son Jesus,
as well as the love which we, in turn, are enabled to offer to God and to others.
 

C. At the heart of our Baptism is a vocation to love God and neighbor.

And we are here this morning because we are convinced
that active membership in the Knights of Columbus is
a supremely important way to answer this baptismal calling to love,
to unite in fraternal support in putting into practice the principle of charity.
In serving the vulnerable and the poor, we practice “a charity that evangelizes”,
a charity that, in spite of obstacles, opens minds and hearts to Christ and the Gospel.

V. Putting into Practice the Principle of Charity

A. If, perhaps, the foregoing sounds a bit too abstract,

then let us turn to the Gospel parable about the talents.
There Jesus teaches us how to live the principle of charity in a very practical way.
How should we understand this parable? How does it apply to us? Let me explain!
First, Jesus himself is the man who went away on a journey,
that is to say, who died, rose, and ascended to the Father.
Before ascending, however, the Lord entrusted to his Church, that is, to us,
different gifts and talents . . . natural abilities, material gifts, and spiritual gifts.
All these were given in the measure that God knows is good for each of us.
But the Lord’s expectation is not that we will hoard them or misuse them.
No, the Lord expects us to invest these gifts so as to turn a profit,
and the way we do that is by placing them at the service of others,
especially those who are in great need, be it spiritual or material.
And what is the profit which the Lord is looking for?
Not a return on the dollar but an increase of charity!
This is what the Lord will be looking for . . . an increase of charity . . .
when he returns in glory on the Day of Judgment!

B. This afternoon you will hear in the Supreme Knight’s Report

how, last year, you and your brother Knights,
reached new heights in living the principle of charity.
He will demonstrate how you’ve placed your God-given freedom and gifts
at the service of the Church’s mission of evangelization
and at the service of those who are vulnerable and in distress –
the unborn and their mothers, victims of natural disasters,
the resettlement of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East,
young athletes with special needs, those who lack adequate housing and water,
inner-city kids needing a warm coat – and much, much more.
This afternoon you will also be challenged to live out as never before
the principle of charity as the new fraternal year unfolds,
reaching even greater heights “in service to one and in service to all”.
Indeed, a tremendous challenge will be laid before you.

C. Just now, however, we stand in worship before the Source of all charity,

indeed, the Sacrament of Charity, the Eucharist.
In this Mass the Holy Spirit will descend upon our gifts of bread and wine
&, through the ministry of priests, change them into Christ’s true Body and Blood,
thus linking us to the outpouring of divine love unparalleled in human history,
the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very Source of our charity!
Let us open our hearts to the Spirit who leads us into depths of Christ’s loving heart,
even as we strive to love others as the Lord has first loved us, as together we say:

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love!”
Brothers and sisters: Vivat Jesus!


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Knights of Columbus
136th Supreme Convention
Homily of
His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

My brother knights, dear families and friends:

You do realize that this Mass is an historic occasion to be noted by the entire Church: as celebrant of today’s Eucharist, Cardinal Lacroix, and as preacher, myself, you have before you the two chubbiest men in the college of Cardinals!

We gather for this greatest prayer of all, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, on the feast of St. Dominic.

This towering saint gives us an abundance of attributes to celebrate: his preaching, so renowned that his spiritual sons are called “the order of preachers”; his intellect, the spring that gave us scholarly giants such as St. Albert and St. Thomas Aquinas; his zeal, as St. Dominic was non-stop in his teaching, preaching, travel, and work, all for Jesus and His Church.

Might I dwell rather on what generated the renowned preaching, scholarship, and evangelical energy of St. Dominic, his prayer.

His earliest biographers insisted that St. Dominic’s prayer was patient, persistent, and persevering.

No surprise in that, because that’s precisely how Jesus instructed us to pray: with patience, persistence, and perseverance.

And we’ve got an example of that kind of prayer, supplication which moved our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart, in the Canaanite woman of this morning’s Gospel.

She approaches Jesus with a need - - that’s what prayer is, right? Her daughter was emotionally, mentally tortured, and she prays to Jesus to heal her.

Reply #1 from Jesus: “He did not say a word in answer to her.” Hmm . . . Jesus seems to ignore her prayer.

What does the woman do? Give up? Nope. She persisted so much that His disciples went to Jesus on her behalf.

Reply #2: Too bad, claims Jesus. I can only answer the prayers of the Israelites, and she’s not one.

On my! Two no’s! What does she do then? Give up? Nope!

“Lord, help me!” she perseveres.

Reply #3: from the Lord: No!

That’s three strikes, the way I count it. At Yankee Stadium, you’d go back to the dugout with your head down.

Not this unsinkable patient, persevering, persistent Canaanite woman. Her prayer goes on.

“Please Lord, I’ll be happy with even the scraps!”

Response #4: “Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let your prayer be answered!’ And her daughter was healed.”

This woman’s patient, persistent, persevering prayer was almost pestering! Ever met a woman like that? (What are you looking at your wives for?)

Jesus prefers patient, persistent, persevering, pestering prayer! St. Dominic claims this creates within us a readiness, a space, to receive God’s answer. We would say such constant prayer exercises our “faith muscle,” which tends to get flabby.

St. Dominic wore the rosary, an example of a patient, tolling prayer.

He prayed frequently during the day, especially the psalms.

He lifted his mind and heart to Jesus often each day as he contemplated the Gospels.

The Canaanite woman; St. Dominic . . . you and me: patient, persistent, persevering, pestering prayer.

The first time I thought about coming to this Supreme convention, a baby bishop seventeen years ago, I asked a brother Knight who attended often, “What do you do there?”

“Well,” he answered, “we have a lot of fun; we meet up with old buddies; we have a bunch of meetings; we hear quite a few talks; and we pray a lot.”

Not bad, I thought. I think I’ll go.

Our daily Masses;
Our chapel of Eucharistic adoration;
Our invocations before every event . . .

. . . patient, persistent, persevering prayer.

The Canaanite woman would be happy;
St. Dominic would too, . . .
Most of all, Jesus is.


Thursday, August 9, 2018

Knights of Columbus
136th Supreme Convention
Memorial Mass
Baltimore, Maryland
August 9, 2018

I. Introduction

A. The older I get, I must confess, the more I read obituaries.
For one thing, a lot of people l knew and worked with have gone home to the Lord.
My Breviary, my daily prayer book, for example, is packed with prayer cards
of deceased bishops, priests, and parishioners I’ve known over the years.
In fact, the first thing I usually look at in the morning newspaper is not
the sports section or the editorial page but the obituaries,
and I’m not even Irish!

B. Most obituaries, as you know, provide minimal information about the deceased.
But some highlight a major accomplishment, as for example:
“He invented L.E.D. lighting”; “she won a Pulitzer for reporting on such and such.”
Other obituaries specify the deceased person’s principal failure or weakness.
Still others, however, speak of the difference the deceased person made in this world:
“He was known as an advocate for the disabled.”
“She spent her whole career teaching in inner-city schools.”
“He or she fed homeless people” or “organized a ministry for the imprisoned.”

II. Saintly “Obituaries”

What about the saints whose relics we venerate this morning –
what could be said of their lives? How does their so-called “obituary” read?
St. John Vianney we would say had a priestly heart
and revived a dying parish by the sheer force of his holiness and integrity.
The Mexican Martyrs, priests and members of the Knights of Columbus,
defied anti-clerical laws that forbade their ministry and paid the ultimate price.
St. Edith Stein discovered deeply the truth of Christ, became a Catholic, then a Carmelite Nun,
and finally gave her life for the Truth in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was led to the fullness of faith,
had a passion for educating the young, and founded the Daughters of Charity
in nearby Emmitsburg, Maryland.
St. John Neumann was ordained a bishop at St. Alphonsus in downtown Baltimore,
remaining throughout his life a great Redemptorist missionary
eventually becoming the Bishop of Philadelphia.
Of these holy women and men we can say all these things and so much more.

III. The First Line of Our Obituaries

A. What about us? What would we like to see in the first line of our obituaries?
This is good subject for our meditation and prayer.
I’m not proposing, of course, that we go around imagining
how others ought praise us once we’re gone.
What I’m proposing is a reality check on the overall trajectory of our lives.
When we look back over the years and see how our lives have taken shape,
what are our principal strengths and weaknesses, our true successes and failures?
Is it shaping up to be a life of service to others or are we all wrapped up in ourselves?
When it’s all said and done, what honestly could be said of us?

B. So, what I’m suggesting is a daily spiritual exercise,
a part of our examination of conscience.
For, as the great spiritual masters tell us,
it’s better to track our lives now than to face the judgment of God later,
with a life all that is all but unexamined.
St. Paul says something similar in today’s reading from the Letter to the Romans:
“…each of us,” he says, “shall give an accounting of himself to God.”

IV. God’s Judgment: Merciful and Just

A. Someday we’ll stand before the Lord,
in the particular judgment at the end of our lives
and in the final judgment at the end of time described for us today in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
The judgment of God will be neither cruel nor arbitrary.
It will not be cruel because “the Lord is kind and merciful”.
“Not according to our sins does he deal with us,” the Psalmist says,
“nor does he requite us according to our crimes.”
Rather, “the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” –
on those who hope for his kindness.

B. But neither will the Lord’s judgment be arbitrary.
It won’t participate in our presumption or self-deception.
What the Lord is looking for is that we fear him and hope for his kindness.
We fear the Lord when we value his friendship so much that we fear losing it.
We hope for the Lord’s kindness when we show kindness to others,
in other words, when we generously live the principle of charity,
extending to others the love and mercy we want the Lord to extend to us.
It’s the love and mercy we are to show to those who are hungry, naked, homeless, imprisoned . . . to those who are Jesus in his “distressing disguises”.

C. What rolls off our tongue every time we pray for Fr. McGivney’s canonization?
“Through the example of his life and virtue
may we follow your Son, Jesus Christ more closely,
fulfilling his commandment of charity and building up his Body which is the Church!”
And again,
“Let the inspiration of your servant prompt us to greater confidence in your love
so that we may continue his work of caring for the needy and the outcast.”
As members of the Knights of Columbus,
this is what we should be known for: We should be known as Knights of Charity;
this should be what’s written on our souls when we stand before the merciful Judge!

V. Praying for the Deceased

A. In our reading from the Second Book of Maccabees,
we listened to the time-honored passage that encourages us to pray for the dead.
Judas, the ruler of Israel, praised those who had fallen in battle
and provided an expiatory sacrifice to be offered in their memory.
Our reading tells us that it is “a holy and pious thought” to pray for the dead
and to make atonement on their behalf.
This is precisely what we do in this morning’s Holy Mass: the Mass is the ultimate atoning, expiatory sacrifice, the Sacrifice of the Cross of Jesus,
the one Sacrifice that brings salvation to all the world.
The gift of redemption we receive in the Eucharist is the same gift we offer in charity and love
for our deceased brother Knights, their wives, families, and loved ones.

B. Those whom we remember today were our co-workers in charity.
We joined with them in providing winter coats for inner-city kids,
in helping to rehab houses for the elderly and the poor,
in selling Tootsie Rolls at intersections in support of Special Olympics,
that list is endless, it goes on and on, and what hope that should give us!
For if in this fraternal year we observe a Year of Charity,
how much more do we hope one day to participate in an eternity of charity, the endless glory of God’s love,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the company of our fellow Knights and their families, in the company of the saints – among them,
St. John Vianney, our Mexican Martyrs, St. John Neumann,
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Edith Stein! Vivat Jesus!