Homily – Fifth Sunday of the Year - Catholic Action For Faith and Family

Homily – Fifth Sunday of the Year

February 6, 2011 :: Cardinal Raymond Burke Leave a Comment

Fifth Sunday of the Year Church of Saint Susanna, Rome February 6, 2011


Praised be Jesus Christ! I am deeply grateful to Father Gregory Apparcel for the invitation to offer the Holy Mass, this morning. As a recently created Cardinal from the United States of America, it pleases me to be able to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice in this beautiful Church of Santa Susanna, which has been the spiritual home for Americans and other English-speaking Catholics in Rome, since 1922. I am happy to recall the initiative of Father Thomas Burke, Superior General of the Paulist Fathers at the time, — who, I am sorry to say, does seem to be a relative – to establish an American parish in Rome, and the fatherly response of Pope Benedict XV who gave approval for the use of Santa Susanna as a church for Americans in Rome but died just shortly before the Paulist Fathers were able to celebrate the first public Mass.[1] Celebrating the Holy Mass, this morning, I express a particular word of gratitude to the Paulist Fathers for their service of the faithful of Santa Susanna Parish, since 1922. I also ask your prayers for me as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, as a “Roman Priest,” that I may always fulfill, with complete fidelity and generosity, the office of assisting the Holy Father in his pastoral charity toward the universal Church, in the City and in the World. Please pray that my love for Christ and for the Church may be further purified and strengthened, so that I may be, in accord with the words which the Vicar of Christ spoke to me at the imposition of the cardinalitial biretta, “ready to conduct myself with strength, even to the outpouring of my blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and the harmony of the people of God, and for the freedom and the spread of the Holy Roman Church.”[2] Our Lord teaches us today that we are, by virtue of our life in Him, “the salt of the earth,” and “the light of the world.”[3] His teaching, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount, comes immediately after the proclamation of the Beatitudes and is followed by the exhortation to obey the divine law which Our Lord has come into the world to bring to fulfillment by His Passion, Death and Resurrection. The teaching is, at once, a declaration of the great dignity which is ours in Christ but also a most daunting challenge to live in a manner coherent with our dignity. What greater dignity could we have than to serve Christ in His saving mission? At the same time, conscious of our many weaknesses, we rightly fear that we may fail in serving Christ, in bringing salt to the earth and light to the world. Saint Agatha, a third-century virgin and martyr from Catania in Sicily, whose memory we celebrated yesterday, when she was called before the Roman tribunal in an effort to force her to deny her Catholic faith by apostasy, was accused of conducting herself in the manner of a slave, even though she was of a noble family. She responded: “I am a servant of Christ and, therefore, of a servile condition…. The highest nobility consists in being slaves of Christ.”[4] The judge then condemned her, subjecting her to the cruelest tortures, including the amputation of her breasts. Resisting “to the end”[5] the pressure to abandon the Christian faith, Saint Agatha, after the final torture, thanked our Lord for having saved her body and died in the fame of heroic sanctity. In Christ, she became salt to the earth and light to the world. After her death and until today, the Lord has granted so many favors to His flock through the intercession of Saint Agatha. As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, we too live in the truth that our nobility, our great source of dignity is to serve Him with all our heart, as did Saint Agatha. What does it mean to be salt to the earth and light to the world? The Prophet Isaiah, whose instruction finds it fulfillment in the Redemptive Incarnation of Christ, God the Son made man, answers our question:

Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn our back on your own.”[6]

In Christ, we see the deepest meaning of the practice of the virtues, which he proposes to us as salt for the earth and light for the world. The practice of the virtues, both at home and in the wider community, is not a kind of social work of our own invention and choice. It is rather the expression of who we are in our deepest reality. It is the expression of the charity of God Himself, poured into our hearts from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, most especially through the Eucharistic Sacrifice we are now offering. In Christ, God Himself took our human nature, in order to love us “to the end,”[7] to save us from sin and its effects, the sufferings of this life and finally death, so that we may share in His life, already now on this earth, and fully one day in His heavenly Kingdom. In Christ, giving bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, clothing the naked, and loving loyally our own are not just good deeds but rather expressions of God’s own faithful and enduring love of us. Practicing these virtues, having the habit of acting in a loving way toward our brothers and sisters who are in most need, is the result of giving our hearts to Christ, placing our hearts ever more completely into the Heart of Jesus Who alone teaches us pure and selfless love. It is in the Heart of Jesus that our hearts are constantly purified and strengthened to love as God loves us, purely and selflessly, unceasingly and unstintingly. When we, as Christians, give bread to the hungry, they receive not only essential physical nourishment but the even greater gift of the lasting spiritual nourishment of divine love, the love which we bring to them from the Heart of Jesus. Yes, they receive what they need for life here and now, but, what is more, they receive what they need for the life which is to come, eternal life with God in His heavenly Kingdom. To give them only bread would fail to give them what they most need, that is, the unconditional love of God, pure and selfless, without cease and without limit. Pope Benedict XVI has helped us very much to reflect upon the truth about our love of neighbor. In his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, “On Christian Love,” Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that, since “Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations,” we must carry out charitable works with “professional competence.” But he went on to remind us that, while a humanly adequate response to the needs of our brothers and sisters is fundamental, it is in no way sufficient. He wrote:

Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church’s charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others.[8]

Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that, before the many challenges of today’s world, which are all, in the end, challenges to safeguard and promote human life, it is the love of Christ alone which enables us to go forward and to respond in a manner which addresses the deepest needs of our brothers and sisters. Our Holy Father teaches us that it is our faith in Christ which inspires true love of our neighbor. He reminds us, with these words, that only in Christ do we find the inspiration and strength to continue to love, “to the end”[9]:

Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keeping living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.[10]

With our instantaneous knowledge of the many and seemingly intractable forms of suffering in our world, we can easily be tempted to discouragement or to a hopeless withdrawal before the needs of so many brothers and sisters. In his Encyclical LetterCaritas in Veritate, “On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth,” Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the particular challenges to charity in our age marked by globalization. He reminded us that globalization makes us all neighbors, but it does not make us all brothers. Only Christ makes us brothers. Let us listen to the words of our Holy Father:

Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is. Paul VI, presenting the various levels in the process of human development, placed at the summit, after mentioning faith, “unity in the charity of Christ who calls us all to share as sons in the life of the living God, the Father of all.”[11]

In a special way, today, let us pray for an ever greater union of our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the source of the faithful and enduring love of our brothers. Let us pray for the grace to bring to our suffering brothers and sisters in need not only an answer to their immediate needs but a response to their deepest hunger and thirst, the desire to know and love God. May our participation in the Holy Mass unite our hearts more perfectly to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, always open to receive us, especially in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Lifting up our hearts, together with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, our hearts will be purified and strengthened to love God and our neighbor with pure and selfless love. In the Heart of Jesus we all will find the grace, which is immeasurable and unceasing, to live in Christ, giving our hearts to Him for the sake of our brothers and sisters who are in most need. Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us. Saint Susanna, pray for us. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

[1] Cf. https://www.santasusanna.org/ourUniqueHistory/parishHistory.html.

[2] “Usque ad effusionem sanguinis pro incremento christianae fidei, pace et quiete populi Dei, libertate et diffusione Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae [vos ipsos] intrepidos [exhibere debere]”. “Imposizione della berretta”, Concistoro per la creazione di nuovi Cardinali, 20 Novembre 2010, Città del Vaticano: Ufficio delle Celebrazioni Liturgiche del Sommo Pontefice, p. 23.

[3] Mt 13-14.

[4] Bibliotheca Sanctorum, I, Roma: Istituto Giovanni XXIII nella Pontificia Università Lateranense, 1961, p. 323.

[5] Jn 13:1.

[6] Is 58:7.

[7] Cf. footnote no. 5.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, “On Christian Charity,” 25 December 2005, no. 31.

[9] Cf. footnote no. 5.

[10] Deus Caritas Est, no. 39.

[11] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, “On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth,” 29 June 2009, no. 19. Cf. Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, no. 20.


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