Homily for May 31, 2020
The Lion’s Roar
Medieval biologists believed that lion cubs were born dead, but that they were awakened by the roar of the father-lion. In the same way, the Church was born “dead”, as it were. Jesus had ascended into Heaven, but there was no life in the Church until the Spirit roared into it, bringing it to life.
The Church roared to life that Pentecost, beginning with such fervor that three thousand people were baptized on the spot. And now, more than ever, we desperately need that dynamic fervor of the Church to save a world falling into ruins.
My friends, the world itself is dying. This past week, we saw race riots in Minneapolis and across the nation. A federal suicide hotline reported a 1,000 percent increase in calls this April, due to coronavirus. This past week, the UN Secretary General declared that because of coronavirus, we were facing starvation of “historic proportions” as sixty million people are pushed into extreme poverty. Because of coronavirus, there has been an 18% increase in porn usage. Our world is dying – spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially.
I am willing to make the claim that the only thing that can save us from utter destruction as a society, as a nation, and as individuals is the exact same message that Peter proclaimed from the balcony on Pentecost morning: “Jesus Christ is alive!” Our world today is now reaping the bitter fruit of our sins, but we know One Who has conquered our sins on the Cross. He alone can heal us, if we turn to Him; He alone can forgive us, if we repent.
And the Church must come alive to this good news! To a world that is dying, the Church must roar her undying message – Jesus Christ! He alone is our hope! Our hope is not in science, as good as that is; it is not in politics, which promises much but delivers little; it is not in our own self-help efforts where we seek our own salvation. No, these are empty and offer no salvation – so the Church must proclaim in every age that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, and it is only through repentance from our sins and faith in Him that we find salvation.
The Vietnamese martyr, St. Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, who was captured and killed for his faith, wrote this letter from prison: “The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But God has made these torments sweet, for his mercy is forever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me.” His hope was in nothing else but in the message Peter preached – Jesus! A message that the world desperately needs today.
And this has been the Church’s mission down throughout the ages – to proclaim that Jesus is our only hope. But the Church’s roar has grown quiet lately, as we hear competing voices telling us to put our hope in this world alone. The Church must rise up once again and roar throughout the world, bringing a dying world back to life!
But the Church is not just priests and bishops – the Church is you, the faithful! You have an indispensable role to play – you have a “mission field”! That mission is the evangelization and sanctification of your sphere of influence: your spouse, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers. This is where God has called you to evangelize. How do we do it? Live your life for Christ, for eternity. Be open to life in your marriage, and raise your children in the Catholic faith. Invite your neighbors to church, share with them how Christ has changed your life. Pray for the conversion of sinners and all those estranged from the Church. Give out good Catholic literature and pamphlets.
In a particular way, I want to encourage the young people listening this morning to consider whether God is calling them to be a missionary. There is a world in need of the saving message of Jesus – are you the one to bring it to the Amazon, to Africa, to China, to New York City? St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary who baptized tens of thousands during his missions to India and Japan, wrote back to his friends in Paris, “Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!” So, my young parishioners, consider – is God calling you to become a missionary to the far corners of the globe?
Regardless of whether our mission field is our neighborhood in Stamford or some far-flung land, now more than ever, the world has a desperate need of a Savior. The Church was established to bring Jesus to a dying world. If the Church has seemingly lost its dynamic power, we must ask for a new “roar” of the Holy Spirit to fill it – beginning with you and I, who have our own mission to bring Christ into the spiritually dying world around us.
I conclude with this thought from Pope John Paul II’s personal spiritual director, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa: “Writing to a cardinal of her day, Saint Catherine of Siena said that such a “bellow,” that is to say, so loud a roar, should be uttered over the body of Holy Church as would awaken the sons lying dead within her. I do not know what the word was that Saint Catherine in her day thought ought to be shouted over the body of Holy Church. But I do know the word that ought to be shouted today to wake up those of her children who have fallen asleep. The word is “Eternity!” This is the shout of Christian awakening; the word that, like the ploughshare, can open the furrow for a new sowing of the Word….”
Jesus Christ is the Savior both in time and in eternity. The Church exists to bring Jesus to a dying world. You and I, as part of the Church, have our own “mission field”. Let the Spirit roar in your soul, and fulfill your duty as a member of the Church for the salvation of the world.