Sunday, September 15, 2013

Opening Mass for the Theological Institute

XXVI Sunday on Ordinary Time

A sheep, a coin and a son.  All lost!

The shepherd loses one of his sheep (how careless of him!) and he abandons the ninety nine to search for the lost one.   Now Jesus, rather facetiously asks, Who would not do that?  Well, Lord, the answer is a shepherd who valued his job would not do that.  Why would you ever abandon the ninety nine in search of one stray?!  It makes no sense.

Unless your love for that sheep is so compelling that you can’t help yourself!

Or the woman with ten coins, and she loses one (how careless of her!).   And what does she do?  She turns on all the lights and spends the whole night looking for the penny she lost.  Now I’ve lost a lot of pennies...probably roughly equivalent to the number of socks which have been eaten by the dryer.  But when I lose a coin (especially if I have 9 more) do I spend all night looking for it?

Not unless I am so desperately obsessed with the recovery of every coin or sock I have ever lost!

Then there’s the prodigal son.  He asked the Father for the cut he could expect when the Father finally dies.  Come on dad, get out the will and write a check now!  So the Father gives him the cold hard cash and he runs away and spends it all.  And what does the Father do, he stands in the door waiting for him to return, watching day and night (how else would he have seen him ‘a long way off’) so that he can run out and forgive him.  And what kind of father would have done that?

The kind who loves his son more than anyone could ever imagine...who gives him everything and forgives him even when he throws it away.

We are the lost sheep.  We are the lost coin.  We are the prodigal.

God is the one who desperately seeking us, desires only to die for us, only to teach us to love, only that we repent and live.

That is why the Theological Institute is such a wonderful place, devoted to forming people in the image of a Lord who so loves his brothers and sisters that he opens his arms on the cross in the perfect and redemptive sacrifice.

I welcome you, directors, faculty, administration and students of the Theological Institute to another year of seeking to become like Christ the Good Shepherd, an enterprise we seek to fulfill by clinging to the truth with authenticity and love.

Founded on Truth
For this Institute is dedicated to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  As I recently suggested to the Faculty of the Seminary division, neither the speculation of my favorite author nor my latest brilliant insight can hold a candle to the “religious submission of will and intellect” to the Magisterium, which each one of our Faculty have promised to uphold and pass on by the oath of fidelity before God and his Holy Church which they took just a year ago.  

Our most important work here is to pass on the pass on the truth which is at the heart of the Faith we have received.  For, as our Holy Father Francis has just recently reminded us faith without truth is "nothing more than a fairy story, an illusion of happiness, unable to sustain us when the going gets tough."

Founded on Truth and Authenticity
This Institute is dedicated to an authenticity which puts to shames the narcissistic cynicism, the smirking smarminess and anger which so pervades our modern society. 

In an age so pervaded by angry people hiding behind masks, just simply being yourself shocks and engages the world like nothing else.  Perhaps that is what has so engaged the world about "Papa Bergolio," who is nothing if not himself.  He is simply a man in love with Jesus and his Church and those whom Jesus called us to love.  To preach real love for the poor and to find joy in loving them, to preach chastity and to find joy in chaste loving....this is the kind of authentic faith that transforms a postmodern world.  What you see is what you get.

Founded on Truth, Authenticity, and Love
And finally, this Institute is dedicated to love, the love without which I am nothing.  For, Saint Paul tells us, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in him and God abides in him.”

I never learned anything worthwhile from a teacher who did not love me.  And as a teacher of the Faith, as a formators of lay ecclesial ministers,  this Institute must teach them by the way we love.  That, after all, is how the Gospel is preached and how we are conformed to Christ. In all our brokenness, our narcissism and our insecure arrogance, we must seek the love of Christ first of all.

For faith without love, Holy Father Francis reminds us, is "cold, impersonal, oppressive, unable to transform the lives of others."  But faith preached with love saves lives and conforms men to the image and likeness of Christ upon the Cross!

Truth, authenticity and love.  

That is what drives the sheepless shepherd, the coinless woman and the sonless Father.  And it is what compels us to study the faith and to seek to be conformed into the image of Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God.

Monsignor James P. Moroney