EDIT: The text is now on the Diocese of Tulsa website. There is a comment box there. Consider telling Bishop Slattery how his homily moved you, and while you are there think about leaving a spiritual bouquet of Mass and prayer intentions. Go read: Bishop Slattery's Homily at Solemn High Mass at National Shrine. You can catch audio if you prefer at the blog of Fr. Z, but please leave your comments at the diocesan post.
Thanks to Msgr. Patrick Brankin, Secretary to His Excellency, Bishop Edward J. Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I am very grateful to be able to bring to you the full text of the sermon given on April 24, 2010 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The Mass was a Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The Mass was in the planning for three years to honor Pope Benedict XVI on the fifth anniversary of his pontificate.
Bishop Slattery filled the vacancy just a matter of days before the event when Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos backed out. This, on top of being stranded in Rome because of the volcanic ash in the air and grounding of airlines.
He communicates some hard truths about following Christ fully, and he does so in a way that is fatherly. It is not condescending or alarming, but warm and inviting to reflection. I found myself strengthened and hope-filled. Please avoid the temptation of thinking that the bishop was targeting his sermon at any particular group of people, lest you miss the opportunity to learn what God is communicating to you through these words. There is something here for everybody, whether you are are victim of clerical abuse, or find yourself in a kind of despair over these things; for those who suffer from a debilitating disease, and those who are weary. For all of us, a lesson in what it means to suffer in Christ, and to imitate His obedience.
Pray for our bishops and priests, that they continue to teach us these things.
Below is the full text of Bishop Slattery's moving homily, with some additional background at the bottom of this post. Bloggers, news orgs - lets get this out there. If you want to send the bishop your thoughts, or a Mass card, here is contact info.
EDIT @4:10: Fr. Z has audio of the sermon
EDIT @6:57 Pics can be found at A Priest Life blog
EDIT @ 5:30: Last two paragraphs swapped out text provided for transcript of audio.
Msgr. Charles Pope of Washington DC explains: Why celebrate Mass in Latin?
I've also added in some interesting comments found elsewhere, about the homily (see bottom).
Gospel reading was Mt 16:13-19
Solemn Pontifical Mass
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Celebrating the fifth anniversary
of the ascension of Benedict XVI to the throne of Peter
- ad multos annos! -
We have much to discuss - you and I …
… much to speak of on this glorious occasion when we gather together in the glare of the world’s scrutiny to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Joseph Ratzinger to the throne of Peter.
We must come to understand how it is that suffering can reveal the mercy of God and make manifest among us the consoling presence of Jesus Christ, crucified and now risen from the dead.
We must speak of this mystery today, first of all because it is one of the great mysteries of revelation, spoken of in the New Testament and attested to by every saint in the Church’s long history, by the martyrs with their blood, by the confessors with their constancy, by the virgins with their purity and by the lay faithful of Christ’s body by their resolute courage under fire.
This enormous suffering which can take on so many varied physical, mental, and emotional forms will reduce us to fear and trembling - if we do not remember that Christ - our Pasch - has been raised from the dead. Our pain and anguish could dehumanize us, for it has the power to close us in upon ourselves such that we would live always in chaos and confusion - if we do not remember that Christ - our hope - has been raised for our sakes. Jesus is our Pasch, our hope and our light.
He makes himself most present in the suffering of his people and this is the mystery of which we must speak today, for when we speak of His saving presence and proclaim His infinite love in the midst of our suffering, when we seek His light and refuse to surrender to the darkness, we receive that light which is the life of men; that light which, as Saint John reminds us in the prologue to his Gospel, can never be overcome by the darkness, no matter how thick, no matter how choking.
Our suffering is thus transformed by His presence. It no longer has the power to alienate or isolate us. Neither can it dehumanize us nor destroy us. Suffering, however long and terrible it may be, has only the power to reveal Christ among us, and He is the mercy and the forgiveness of God.
The mystery then, of which we speak, is the light that shines in the darkness, Christ Our Lord, Who reveals Himself most wondrously to those who suffer so that suffering and death can do nothing more than bring us to the mercy of the Father.
But the point which we must clarify is that Christ reveals Himself to those who suffer in Christ, to those who humbly accept their pain as a personal sharing in His Passion and who are thus obedient to Christ’s command that we take up our cross and follow Him. Suffering by itself is simply the promise that death will claim these mortal bodies of ours, but suffering in Christ is the promise that we will be raised with Christ, when our mortality will be remade in his immortality and all that in our lives which is broken because it is perishable and finite will be made imperishable and incorrupt.
This is the meaning of Peter’s claim that he is a witness to the sufferings of Christ and thus one who has a share in the glory yet to be revealed. Once Peter grasped the overwhelming truth of this mystery, his life was changed. The world held nothing for Peter. For him, there was only Christ.
This is, as you know, quite a dramatic shift for the man who three times denied Our Lord, the man to whom Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Christ’s declaration to Peter that he would be the rock, the impregnable foundation, the mountain of Zion upon which the new Jerusalem would be constructed, follows in Matthew’s Gospel Saint Peter’s dramatic profession of faith, when the Lord asks the Twelve, “Who do people say that I am?” and Peter, impulsive as always, responds “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Peter had no idea that eventually he would find himself fully accepting this obedience, joyfully accepting his share in the Passion and Death of Christ. But Peter loved Our Lord and love was the way by which Peter learned how to obey. “Lord, you know that I love thee,” Peter affirms three times with tears; and three times Christ commands him to tend to the flock that gathers at the foot of Calvary - and that is where we are now.
Peter knew that Jesus was the true Shepherd, the one Master and the only teacher; the rest of us are learners and the lesson we must learn is obedience, obedience unto death. Nothing less than this, for only when we are willing to be obedient with the very obedience of Christ will we come to recognize Christ’s presence among us.
Obedience is thus the heart of the life of the disciple and the key to suffering in Christ and with Christ. This obedience, is must be said, is quite different from obedience the way it is spoken of and dismissed in the world.
For those in the world, obedience is a burden and an imposition. It is the way by which the powerful force the powerless to do obeisance. Simply juridical and always external, obedience is the bending that breaks, but a breaking which is still less painful than the punishment meted out for disobedience. Thus for those in the world obedience is a punishment which must be avoided; but for Christians, obedience is always personal, because it is centered on Christ. It is a surrender to Jesus Whom we love.
For those whose lives are centered in Christ, obedience is that movement which the heart makes when it leaps in joy having once discovered the truth.
Let us consider, then, that Christ has given us both the image of his obedience and the action by which we are made obedient.
The image of Christ’s obedience is His Sacred Heart. That Heart, exposed and wounded must give us pause, for man’s heart it generally hidden and secret. In the silence of his own heart, each of us discovers the truth of who we are, the truth of why we are silent when we should speak, or bothersome and quarrelsome when we should be silent. In our hidden recesses of the heart, we come to know the impulses behind our deeds and the reasons why we act so often as cowards and fools.
But while man’s heart is generally silent and secret, the Heart of the God-Man is fully visible and accessible. It too reveals the motives behind our Lord’s self-surrender. It was obedience to the Father’s will that mankind be reconciled and our many sins forgiven us. “Son though he was,” the Apostle reminds us, “Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered.” Obedient unto death, death on a cross, Jesus asks his Father to forgive us that God might reveal the full depth of his mercy and love. “Father, forgive them,” he prayed, “for they know not what they do.”
Christ’s Sacred Heart is the image of the obedience which Christ showed by his sacrificial love on Calvary. The Sacrifice of Calvary is also for us the means by which we are made obedient and this is a point which you must never forget: at Mass, we offer ourselves to the Father in union with Christ, who offers Himself in perfect obedience to the Father. We make this offering in obedience to Christ who commanded us to “Do this in memory of me” and our obediential offering is perfected in the love with which the Father receives the gift of His Son.
Do not be surprised then that here at Mass, our bloodless offering of the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is a triple act of obedience. First, Christ is obedient to the Father, and offers Himself as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Secondly, we are obedient to Christ and offer ourselves to the Father with Jesus the Son; and thirdly, in sharing Christ’s obedience to the Father, we are made obedient to a new order of reality, in which love is supreme and life reigns eternal, in which suffering and death have been defeated by becoming for us the means by which Christ’s final victory, his future coming, is made manifest and real today.
Suffering then, yours, mine, the Pontiffs, is at the heart of personal holiness, because it is our sharing in the obedience of Jesus which reveals his glory. It is the means by which we are made witnesses of his suffering and sharers in the glory to come.
Do not be dismayed that there are many in the Church who have not yet grasped this point, and fewer yet still in the world will even dare to consider it. But you - you know this to be true - and it is enough. For ten men who whisper the truth speak louder than a hundred million who lie.
If, then, someone asks of what we spoke today, tell them we spoke only of the truth. If someone asks why it is you came here to Mass, say that it was so that you could be obedient with Christ. If someone asks about the homily, tell them it was about a mystery. And if someone asks what I said to the present situation, tell them only that we must - all of us - become saints through what we suffer.
Noteworthy Background on Bishop Slattery
You may be interested in some background on His Excellency. I am told that his first response to the sex-abuse scandal was to order a Holy Hour of Reparation in front of the Blessed Sacrament, at the same time in all parishes and Catholic institutions within the diocese. The people of Tulsa, led by their bishop, went to their knees together. One might ask, why should those who have not abused children do time on their knees for those who did? The answer is simple: Imitation of Christ who suffered immensely not for sins He committed, but for our sins. Further, we bear some responsibility if we have not prayed for our priests and bishops. Many Catholics today are unfamiliar with the term reparation, but it is beginning to get taught at various levels.
I am also told that Bishop Slattery also created a confraternity for those who suffer in various ways, from cancer and diabetes, and other long-term illnesses that directs their suffering for the purpose of healing in those who have been abused by the Church's sacred ministers. This is a form of redemptive suffering (col. 1:24).
These things were initiated some eight years ago, and continue today.
Here are a few comments I picked up from the blog of Father Z, who always has a good many comments to read through:
Could even one of those attending yesterday have entered the Basilica Shrine expecting that he or she would be witness to something even rarer than a XXIst Century Pontifical Solemn High Mass, namely a sermon so profound and Spirit-filled that, published, it will claim a rank among the finest ever delivered by a North American churchman?
I was there yesterday, and when Bishop Slattery finished his sermon I was blown away…amazing. Honestly, I had been a bit upset by all the allegations of abuse/cover up in the news recently…Bishop Slattery’s sermon made me proud to be Catholic and to follow our Holy Father and unite our sufferings to his so that we can one day be saints- through what we suffer.
Probably the best sermon I have ever heard. It was so appropiate to follow it with the Credo…I sang it with such confidence in my faith after hearing what His Excellency had to say.
That’s probably the best homily I’ve ever seen/heard. Just beautiful.
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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!