Thanks to the reader who sent this copy to me. I wanted to post it since I heard it. It contains some of the same themes as his column in my last post, with an emphasis on the congruence of worship and faith, and the mission of the Oratory.
Homily of Bishop Robert Hermann
Archdiocese of St. Louis
St. Francis De Sales
100th Anniversary of Dedication of Church
November 23, 2008
It is truly an honor and a joy to be here today with Father Wiener and other members of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, and members of this Oratory, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of this beautiful gothic Church. This is a celebration of new hope for this historic church, for this neighborhood, and for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Here Catholic liturgy takes on a beauty that is ever ancient and ever new. It is the beauty of the Gregorian Chant that has been deepened by centuries of contemplation. It is the beauty of the Mass that has pointed us in the direction of other worldly mystery. It the beauty of the restoration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, with long lines at the confessional each week, receiving the gift of mercy that Zacchaeus received in today’s Gospel.
This church building over the past 100 years has witnessed the most violent century of Christianity with its two world wars, the spread of atheistic communism and Nazism and now secularism and the culture of death.
And yet it is within these walls that a new hope is rising. The verticality of its architecture matches the verticality of its worship. Both point to the beyond for help in rescuing us from a godless culture of death and destruction.
I am most grateful to Archbishop Burke, who welcomed Father Lenhardt and the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest to this very special place. I am most grateful to Father Lenhardt who worked so hard to establish the spirituality that flows from the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I am most grateful to Father Wiener who is building upon the work of Father Lenhardt. I am most grateful to all the members of this congregation who have discovered this oasis of Sacramental worship.
In today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation we are told:
“I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
What is our worship, if it is not an entering into the heavenly worship that is taking place night and day? When with deep faith and reverence we enter into this worship, the heavenly liturgy becomes present to all who enter into it. It speaks to the deepest hungers and thirsts of our spirit. It speaks to the longing for infinite beauty and truth found in each one of us. It gives us rest from “the world that is too much with us.” It inspires us with love, hope and confidence. It removes human limitations and enables us to aspire to greater holiness.
As the Book of Revelation continues, it states: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said “Behold, I make all things new.”
Yes, this is God’s dwelling place and we are his people and he will always be our God because it is he who says: “Behold, I make all things new.”
In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates how we are made new. Zacchaeus was a Jewish tax collector, and tax collectors were notorious for extorting huge sums of money from their fellow countrymen.
Apparently this did not leave Zaccheaus as a happy man. He probably felt the scorn of his countrymen, as well as self hatred for taking what was not his to start with, but did not know how to get out of the trap he was in.
He probably had heard of the wonderful things Jesus had been doing and saying. He probably had a longing for the peace that others experienced when they came into contact with this man who was giving so many people new hope and showing them a deeper meaning for their lives. It was with the hope of just getting a glimpse of the face of the man who had so many beautiful thoughts and yet placed such challenging demands in the hearts of his listeners.
What shocked Zacchaeus was the personal invitation he received from the Master. He was flattered that the Master would want to come to his house for fellowship and for a meal. In the presence of this holiness, love and acceptance, Zacchaeus gives half of his possessions to the poor and promises to restore fourfold anything he has extorted from others. Jesus’ response was simple. “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
The same Jesus that walked beneath the Sycamore tree and looked up is the same Jesus that enters the confessional every time a penitent comes to receive the Lord’s mercy and reconciliation. Only Jesus can forgive sins and he uses the body of the consecrated priest to extend that mercy, but it is Jesus that is forgiving, it is Jesus that is restoring the sinner to health.
One of the most precious gifts the Church has is the gift of mercy which comes to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. One of the greatest needs in the Catholic Church today is the gift of repentance. This gift is given by the Lord when the truth is preached from the pulpit in an uncompromising fashion. What we Catholics need today more than anything else is to be awakened by the searing truths of the Catholic faith, especially in the areas surrounding conception and birth.
We need to make it very clear that artificial contraception is a serious sin that needs to be brought to the confessional. We need to make it very clear that human sexuality is a very sacred gift given to us and it must be understood, reverenced and treasured, but not used as a vehicle for lustful pleasures. We need to make it very clear that pornography is not only degrading but also death-dealing. We cannot engage is viewing pornography and then receiving the Holy Eucharist without first receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
When we do this it leads very rapidly to the death of our spirituality. We may go through the motions of attending Mass, but we are sleep-walking.
We cannot get out of this trap without help from above. We need to pray for the gift of repentance. We need to study the truths of human sexuality as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We need to fast and pray for the gift of seeing what Zacchaeus saw – a life going down the wrong path and closing in on him. We need to pray for the grace of making a good confession and getting a new start. It won’t be easy but it is so freeing and so energizing. It is so uplifting and when we make a good confession and tell it like it is, we will experience what Zacchaeus felt – a profound sense of joy and peace, and hope for a new lease on life.
Do not be afraid of going to Confession, even if it has been thirty or forty years ago. Do not be afraid of the Jesus that Zacchaeus met. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not let human fear keep you from the peace that our Lord and Savior died to give you. We celebrate bravery in war. We are at war with the enemy, who is Satan who is trying to discourage us and cause us to fear. Do not be afraid of coming back to confession and then going often because you will find it so life-giving and so hope-inducing.
Finally, when you give yourself over to worship, spirit, soul and body, they you also experience God’s mercy and love. The Eucharist is a love feast because Christ shed his blood for our salvation. “Take and drink all of you. This is the cup of my blood which is being shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.”
The Eucharist takes away venial sin. The Eucharist is so much greater than our collective sinfulness. The Eucharist is overwhelmingly powerful and plentiful. We can never exhaust its love. Our hungry hearts yearn and long for this love that is unconditional and unearned. Our hearts yearn for this infinite love.
When you come to the Eucharist, come with hungry hearts, come with open hearts, come with deep searching hearts, come with profound yearnings for the infinite. God is glorified when we come seeking his holiness. The more we are aware of our sinfulness, the more God is glorified by sharing with us his mercy. “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” “I came to save sinners.”
It is my prayer that as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dedication of this beautiful church, that again and again we will hear our Lord saying to us in this sacred space: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” It is my hope that we will hear again and again our Lord speaking to the depth of our hearts saying: “Behold, I make all things new.”
May the verticality of this Church’s architecture and the verticality of this worship here be complemented by the openness of our hearts to receive from above the gifts that help us to realize the new Jerusalem in our families and in our individual lives. We are not only celebrating the dedication of this church, but we are celebrating the rededication of our own hearts to him who alone can make them new.
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