May 8, 2009

175th Anniversary Mass

Homily of Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein

Archbishop Buechlein praying at the MassSisters and brothers, for 175 years in our part of the world, the message of Christ, the Good Shepherd, has been a message of hope.

Our ancestors were courageous pioneers who left behind families and often possessions to cross the Appalachians or to ride the river boats down the Ohio to come west.

Like the Good Shepherd, our first bishop, a missionary bishop true, Bishop Simon Bruté laid down his life, even borrowing money to come to the Indiana territory to eastern Illinois, and your Eminence, [Cardinal Francis E. George], Chicago.

This afternoon, as we thank God for many blessings, we also honor the memory of generation after generation of faithful Catholic laity, faithful priests, consecrated religious and holy people like St. Theodora Guérin and Bishop Bruté.

In imitation of the Good Shepherd, now it is our turn to be pioneers in the spiritual growth and hope and compassion our Church promises to all peoples of central and southern Indiana.

Dear candidates for confirmation, you are a witness and a pledge of the hope that Christ offers.

You golden jubilarians of marriage bear witness to our youth and young adults that we can hand on the faith, the gift of faith that is ours.

You valiant consecrated religious women and men who are jubilarians image for us the Gospel hope that is ours in the Kingdom of Heaven where every tear shall be wiped away.

Dear first Communicants, you remind us of the special love Jesus has for you and for all our children. Jesus points to you as examples of how all of us are invited to love him.

I have a threefold simple message for you confirmation candidates—and for all of us really. We share a fundamental vocation to love God and our neighbor. Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us in his first encyclical that we cannot neglect the service of charity any more than we can neglect the sacraments and the Word of God.

So my first point: Love of God and family and neighbor often means sacrifice. Sacrifice and love go together.

At one of the rites of election of our catechumens and candidates to be received into the Church, I was touched by a family whom I greeted after the ceremony.

As they approached, the family reminded me that we had exchanged messages a year ago while I was undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Well, I remembered immediately: The Dad I was meeting also had Hodgkin’s, and was undergoing therapy at the same time, but there was a difference.

Because he had to provide for his family, he had to keep on working even while undergoing chemo and radiation.

His wife and family of five beautiful children were with him at the rite of election. I suggest that family exemplifies for our generation the sacrifice parents make to live the faith and to take care of family. Love and sacrifice go together. May our families bear witness to sacrifice and love.

My second point: Trust and love go together. A few weeks earlier, we had the annual presentation of religious Scout awards in a packed cathedral.

Afterward, I greeted folks and was photographed with many parish groups and individuals. At the end of the line, a dad asked if I would pose for one more photo.

Before I could answer, a little disabled Cub Scout abandoned his walker on wheels and literally dove at me. He embraced me; he really didn’t want to pose for a photograph. I don’t think the young guy even gave me his name, but he is etched in my memory, that scene, and in my prayer. He and his family with him wanted to celebrate the religious award for which he had worked.

Even at his young age, faith is obviously important to that boy. He is a witness that trust and love go together. And it begins with trust in God. With a handicap, that boy is a witness of hope.

My third point: Love and a pure heart go together. At another rite of election as newly elected folks approached for photos, I saw a young fellow about 9 or 10 years old helping his 4-year-old disabled brother approach.

The boy was struggling to walk. Apparently, he had braces on both legs. The disabled lad fell at my feet. I tried to help him up for the photo, but he really wasn’t really interested in having a picture taken. He just turned himself and looked up at me with the intensity of a radiant and pure look. He didn’t say a word. I suspect that I represented the faith that he wanted to check out.

It also struck me that his family accepts him as if there is no problem. They were there because they have divine faith, and they want to express it and to be part of our community of faith. I was thinking: “And an innocent child shall lead them.”

Sisters and brothers, as I prayed about what to say at this grand celebration, I thought of these pre-Easter anecdotes. They express simple faith in the Good Shepherd, Christ, who is our hope. They inspire the hope and compassion that is the legacy handed on to us by our ancestors. Sacrificial love, trust and a pure heart go together.

The pre-Easter anecdotes tell us what it means to be witnesses of simple faith and, perhaps inadvertently, witnesses of the hope that accompanies no-nonsense faith and charity.

Our world needs the hope that is Jesus Christ, and our Catholic faith and its ritual give life and encouragement to anyone who suffers, whether physically, spiritually, emotionally or morally—that could be any of us or all of us.

Thanks to you who inspire us whether you take us by surprise or do so in ordinary ways. Your crutches and walkers, your illnesses and disabilities, are instruments of Jesus the Good Shepherd, instruments of Gospel love and compassion.

Finally, I can’t let this occasion go by without reminding our youth and our young adults that the priesthood and consecrated religious life provide many opportunities to share the lives of other believers. The Holy Father designated this Sunday as Vocations Sunday. Vocations are the fruit of prayer and love from sacrificing families of faith and hope.

Sisters and brothers, today we pray for the grace to hand on Christ our hope and his compassion to generations to come.

We are a family that believes, a family that prays and a family that acts with hope.

Please God, may it be so. †

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