Bishop Mark O’Connell joined us for the Rite of Installation of Lectors this morning. It was great to welcome him home to Saint John's. At the Mass he preached this homily. More pictures from the morning appear at the end of this posting.
Dear sons in Christ:
"Through his Son, who became man for us, God the Father has revealed the mystery of salvation and brought it to fulfillment. Jesus Christ made all things known to us and then entrusted his Church with the mission of preaching the Gospel to the whole world.
"As readers and bearers of God's word, you will assist in this mission, and so take on a special office within the Christian community; you will be given a responsibility in the service of the faith, which is rooted in the word of God. You will proclaim that word in the liturgical assembly, instruct children and adults in the faith and prepare them to receive the sacraments worthily. You will bring the message of salvation to those who have not yet received it. Thus, with your help men and women will come to know God our Father and his Son Jesus Christ, whom he sent, and so be able to reach eternal life.
"In proclaiming God's word to others, accept it yourselves in obedience to the Holy Spirit. Meditate on it constantly, so that each day you will have a deeper love of the Scriptures, and in all you say and do show forth to the world our Savior, Jesus Christ."
I am honored to be back at Saint John Seminary as a bishop and thankful to Msgr. Maroney for giving me this opportunity. I am very hopeful here looking at you that God is beginning great things today. May your reading and sharing of the scripture carry God’s Word to the hearts of all who hear you and may it plant seeds of faith wherever they land.
Today we have the extraordinarily rich Gospel of the raising of Lazarus to reflect upon. It is a Gospel that will give insights for you to preach on for the rest of your lives. I thought that this morning I would hold up just three things from it for all of us to ponder as you are installed as Lectors. None of these lines are the main ones of the story, but each line of God’s Word is equally precious and each carries a special message for you this day.
The first comes from Thomas who boldly says, “Let us also go to die with him.” The disciples are afraid for Jesus. Bethany is just outside of Jerusalem and the disciples warn him that if he goes he could be stoned, but it is Thomas (yes the same Thomas who we know doubted the Risen Christ) who bravely leads the apostles to follow the Lord. First, what a crazy thought that they could be afraid for Jesus. Could you and I ever be afraid for Jesus? The answer is if we are we are fools. Could we ever be shy to proclaim the Bible, to read the scripture, to stand up and proclaim our faith? The power of God’s Word overcomes any fear. Never hide its glory by poorly proclaiming it. Pronounce God’s Word clearly and distinctly so that all can hear and understand what you are saying and never ever just read it – proclaim it and let the world hear. Second, be ready to follow Christ even unto death. I remember once Cardinal Seán asked me to celebrate a Mass at a Church that was due to be closed. I had handled the canonical part and dealt with the disappointment and anger of the people. The Gospel that day was the one where the woman begs our Lord for a favor and he compares her to a dog seeking the scraps off of the table and in the end, he gives her what she wants. I cannot imagine a worse Gospel to choose but with confidence and trust in God, I went in and read it loud and clear and I preached on it. It went fine for it was God’s Word and I will follow that Word even if stones could be thrown for we are offered Thomas, called Didymus as our twin.
The second passage for your reflection on this important day, can you answer the question Our Lord asks Martha? Amid her pain he challenges her faith and asks, “Do you believe this?”
Well, my friends, do you believe this? You cannot proclaim God’s Word properly unless you believe in God and in His Son Jesus unless you love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind and all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Carefully practice your readings and pray over them and challenge your own belief before you dare to stand up here or anywhere and proclaim them. There is no need for any kind of false liturgical voice, just speak them from your prayer and your heart. Speak the Word with faith and let God do the rest. You should, as lectors and someday as priests, be able to proclaim the Word of God even when your heart is troubled; even when your own brother or your own dear friend has died. Let the people hear your voice and understand your own trust in God’s Holy Word, let them see your faith, see that despite your human pain – you believe what you read.
The third is Jesus’ prayer to His Father as he weeps and groans, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.”
Do you see what you are about today; what the Church asks of you? You are becoming God’s voice. As Aaron spoke for Moses you bring God’s Word to the People of God so that they can hear. Think of those you will aid God Himself in touching: the woman in the crying room comforting three children there because she loves God and longs to hear His voice; the man in the fifteenth row whose wife just died tragically and came to Church to pray and cry; the young man who God is calling to be a priest who hasn't yet discovered that; the old woman who like Anna in the Temple comes to the Church every day to hear the Word anew; the couple who had a fight that morning and need to find peace; and you. You should listen with all your heart to the Word within you as you, yes you, God uses as His mighty and powerful voice.