Sunday, January 6, 2013

" They wanted to know how we succeed in being human."

Discussions of the music at today's sublime Epiphany Mass and Episcopal Ordination at St. Peter's will certainly go on in superlative terms for days here, but in the meantime I would like to give a quick shout-out for the incredible teaching in the Holy Father's homily. Possibly, in annals lost to history, there MAY have been examples of bishop-to-bishop exhortations in the historical space between 2 Timothy and today that approach today's homily in both eloquence and demand. But I would imagine that these would be rare.

Like all first-rate public speaking, this homily was both perennial and up to the moment. The spirit of our age was summed up in this way:
Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs.
Yes, this is exactly the case. And what is a bishop to do in this situation? The answer is simple: He must be a Christian. He must be a man of faith, first and foremost. This is the perennial, Scriptural demand that the bishop be a "man of God."
And yet, in light of the Feast of the Magi and in our current situation, this simple answer is enormously complex. It is process-oriented. The man of God does not have all the answers at once. He is decidedly not a man at ease. He is restless for God, for the truth, and for the good of everyone.
Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. "Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain", the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else the Bishop must be a man of faith.
Hearing the Dies Irae in a homily points to the seriousness of the matter, and here the seriousness is doubled and tripled. There are deaths to be considered: first of all, the death of Christ, which the bishop must take care was not endured in vain. The deaths of the faithful entrusted to the bishop's care can be the gate to eternal life. The bishop himself is once again taking a further step, making further promises, usque ad mortem. And there will be a judgment for him, too.
There is much more that could be said about this homily, and hopefully will be, better than this small appreciation. It is certainly worth reading the entire homily.

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