Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

and the 10th Anniversary of Episcopal Ordination

of Archbishop Patrick C. Pinder

 

Readings:

Rev. 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10a

Psalm 45

I Cor. 15:20-27

Luke 1:39-36

 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The year was 1980.  At 7:30 p.m. on the evening of August 15th of that year the faithful gathered at Our Lady’s Church for the celebration of my Ordination to the Priesthood. 

Archbishop Paul Tabet, the Apostolic Nuncio, graced us with his presence.  The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Samuel E. Carter, S.J., of Kingston.   Our Bishop, Paul Leonard Hagarty, O.S.B., was present though ailing and thus unable to preside.  All these men, along with my immediate predecessor, Archbishop Lawrence A. Burke, S.J., have now been gathered unto God.  Still we find ourselves wondering, “Where did the last 33 years go?” 

Ten years ago tonight, the local Catholic Community gathered in worship.  This time it was at Loyola Hall.  The purpose was the Episcopal Ordination of a local priest of this Archdiocese, the first to be raised to the fullness of Holy Orders.  By the grace of Divine Providence that responsibility was placed upon me. 

Episcopal responsibility belongs ultimately to the Bishop.  Ultimately I say, not absolutely.  Indeed that responsibility is shared, to some degree, by all the members of the household of faith.  We are all equally called to holiness. 

“Holiness in the Church is unceasingly manifested, through those fruits of grace that the Spirit produces in the faithful.  It is expressed in multiple ways by those individuals who, in their walk of life, strive for the perfection of Charity and thereby help others to grow.[1]

Still, looking back over the past ten years, again one wonders: “Where did the time go?”  Next year May 4th will mark the 10th anniversary of my installation as Archbishop.  We will have a fitting celebration at that time.

Today’s date is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is one of the great Marian Feasts of our Liturgical Calendar.   Feasts which honor Mary, the Mother of our Lord, reinforce our fundamental belief that God’s fullest presence among us is not as a symbol or an idea or even a word.  Rather it is in the form of the Word Made Flesh.  It is the person we know as Jesus and acknowledge as the Christ.

The Gospel says: “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[2]  So we speak of the Incarnation.  We declare that He was a man like us in all things but sin.  Like each of us, He has a mother.  Each feast honoring His mother reinforces our belief in the Incarnation.  Today’s feast also points to an even more challenging belief of ours, namely that the physical decay of our bodies in death is not the final end for us.   When truth is limited to physical evidence alone, we need to learn and re-learn the grammar of this belief in every age.

The Gospel for today comes from St. Luke and contains the wonderful song of praise sung by Mary when her cousin Elizabeth greeted her as the Mother of the Lord.  We know this song as the Magnificat.[3]  Since the days of St. Benedict, in the sixth century, up to today this song has had its place in the Evening Prayer of the Church.

This song which the Evangelist places on the lips of Mary, speaks of joy and praise.  It speaks of the lowly being singled out for God’s favor.  It speaks of the Lord showing His might by dethroning the mighty and lifting up the lowly.[4]  It is a message of hope.  It tells of a reversal of the usual order of things.  It describes some rare and unusual events.

During this Year of Faith observance, which began last October and continues until the end of this November, something rare and unusual has occurred in our Church.  For the first time in centuries a Pope resigned.  Benedict XVI, a superb teacher and a most serene personality, was followed on the Chair of St. Peter by Pope Francis. 

Pope Francis is the first Pope from the Americas.  He is the first Pope from the southern hemisphere.  He is the first to bear the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi.

Among leaders on the global stage today he stands out as one to whom many look with great interest and great hope.  He has endeared himself to a great many by his simplicity, his outgoing style and his warm and inviting personality.  He has brought his unique ways to the exercise of the Petrine Office in the Church. 

The response to him has been remarkable as seen by the thousands who attend his weekly, general audiences in Rome and the millions who greeted him on his recent visit to Brazil.  We get a good glimpse of his personality from the way he responded to the questions put to him by the media on his journey home from Brazil.

Let us look at a few of these questions and responses.[5]

A journalist named Andrea Tornielli asked this question:

“Holy Father, I want to ask something perhaps a little indiscreet: there was a photograph that went all over the world when we set off, of you climbing the steps of the aeroplane carrying a black brief-case, and there have been articles all over the world commenting on this new departure.  Yes, about the Pope climbing the steps—let’s say it had never happened before that the Pope should climb on board with his own hand-luggage.  So, there have been various suggestions about what the black bag contained.  So my questions are these: firstly, why was it you carrying the black bag and not one of your entourage, and secondly, could you tell us what was in it?  Thank you.”

Pope Francis answered:

“It wasn’t the key for the atom bomb!  Well! I was carrying it because that’s what I’ve always done.  When I travel, I carry it.  And inside, what was there?  There was a razor, a breviary, an appointment book, a book to read, I brought one about Saint Therese, to whom I have a devotion.  I have always taken a bag with me when traveling – it’s normal.  But we must be normal … I don’t know … what you say is a bit strange for me, that the photograph went all over the world.  But we must get used to being normal….”

Another question was asked by a reporter named Aura Miguel.

“Your Holiness, I want to ask why you ask so insistently that people pray for you?  It isn’t normal, we’re not used to hearing a Pope ask so often that people pray for him….”

Pope Francis responded: “I have always asked this.  When I was a priest, I asked less frequently. I began to ask with greater frequency while I was working as a bishop, because I sense that if the Lord does not help in this work of assisting the People of God to go forward, it can’t be done.  I am truly conscious of my many limitations, with so many problems, and I am a sinner –as you know – and I have to ask for this.  But it comes from within!  I ask Our Lady too to pray to the Lord for me.  It is a habit, but a habit that comes from my heart and also a real need in terms of my work.  I feel I have to ask… I don’t know, that’s the way it is….”

You probably have not heard mention of these questions and responses before.  But, no doubt you have heard reference to another question and response from the very same interview.

The question came from a journalist named Ilze Scamparini.  The question dealt with many details.  Important for us was the following: “How does Your Holiness intend to confront the whole question of the gay lobby?”

The key part of the answer given by Pope Francis was this: “So much is written about the gay lobby.  I still haven’t found anyone with an identity card in the Vatican with ‘gay’ on it.  They say there are some there.  I believe that when you are dealing with such a person, you must distinguish between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of someone forming a lobby, because not all lobbies are good.  This one is not good.  If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has goodwill, then who am I to judge him?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it in a beautiful way, saying … ‘no one should marginalize these people for this, they must be integrated into society.’….”

In his answer the Pope makes reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Let me share with you the text to which he refers.  It is sections 2357 and 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It says the following:

2357 “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.  It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.  Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained.  Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,[6] tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’[7]  They are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 “The number of men and woman who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided….”[8]

This is the text to which the Pope’s answer refers.  It is not new.   He introduced no new teaching.  He modified no previous teaching.  All he did was speak the TRUTH in CHARITY.  For that, he has attracted some negative criticism. Jesus too spoke the TRUTH in CHARITY.  He too attracted negative criticism, especially from the religious establishment of his day.  So, when Pope Francis speaks the TRUTH in CHARITY, as he must, he is in excellent company.

In every season we face challenges which test our character, our resolve, our values, perhaps even our way of life.  In this regard crime is clearly an issue of the day for us.  It is indeed a very serious issue in our community today. 

As we seek to face it let us remember that a crime is not an act of nature.  It is an act of a person.  It begins with an intention and ends with what is usually a very deliberate act.  It is an act of a person and too many persons among us are involved in crime.  Not all of us, not most of us but still too many of us are involved in crime.

For the good of our country let us begin by ensuring that we do not involve ourselves in any criminal activity large or small.  So do not run the red light!  Do not run numbers! Do not run drugs!  Do not run guns!  Do not run anything which is counter to the law.  That is a good start.  

If we are aware of any ongoing criminal activity we should report it to the proper authority.

Also, we as a country should not be too proud or too late to seek any expert help we might need, either locally or abroad, in addressing our crime problem.

The referendum on Gambling is now a distant memory.  But, has the illegal gambling activity among us discontinued?  A word of advice to anyone who cares to listen: when it comes to your money, be in the habit of regular saving not regular gambling.  Simply put, “Save don’t Gamble!”  That way you are always a winner.

Stem Cell Research and Therapy is a matter of national conversation at present.  The position of the Catholic Church on this is a matter of public record.  The words of one official church document states the following:

“Stem Cell Research has captured the imagination of many in our society.  Stem cells are relatively unspecialized cells that, when they divide, can replicate themselves and also produce a variety of more specialized cells.  Scientists hope that these biological building blocks can be directed to produce many types of cells to repair the human body, cure disease, and alleviate suffering.  Stem cells from adult tissues, umbilical cord blood, and placenta (often loosely called ‘adult stem cells’) can be obtained without harm to the donor and without any ethical problem, and these have already demonstrated great medical promise.  But some scientists are most intrigued by stem cells obtained by destroying an embryonic human being in the first week or so of development.  Harvesting these ‘embryonic stem cells’ involves the deliberate killing of innocent human beings, a gravely immoral act.

The Catholic Church ‘appreciates and encourages the progress of the biomedical sciences which open up unprecedented therapeutic prospects’ (Pope Benedict XVI, address of January 31, 2008). At the same time, it affirms that true service to humanity begins with respect for each and every human life.”[9]

There is no doubt that we can provide the legal guidelines and professional protocols to respect the Science and to protect the dignity of human life.  However, once we have the appropriate legal structures and safeguards in place we must do more.  We must consistently demonstrate the moral will to follow and to enforce the law.  This is not merely a legal matter or a political one.  This is a challenge for us to rise to the highest level of moral will.  This is a particular challenge to us because far too often we lack the social ambition even to obey the traffic lights.

Ten years seems like a short time, but we have traveled some distance in that time.  The duty of the office of Bishop is described as three-fold in nature: to teach, to rule and to sanctify.  The Bishop is the chief teacher of the faith.  He is the chief administrator of the Church and he holds the fullness of Holy Orders and the custody of the sacramental life of the Church.  That is quite a lot.  Indeed it is too much for this mere mortal before you.

That is why I say that this responsibility is ultimately mine but not absolutely mine.   So I wish to thank all those who have shared this burden with me over these past years.

I thank our priests and deacons.  I thank our religious.  I thank our lay workers.  I thank all the members of our Archdiocesan committees and commissions.  Indeed I thank all the faithful who give the support of the good example of their lives of faith.

I look forward to working with more of you in the years ahead as we continue to be missionary disciples in the footsteps of Christ.

Tonight, I greet especially all those participating in the sessions for catechists.  I will be with you tomorrow morning.

Finally, on this Feast and on this anniversary, I make my own the words of the Magnificat.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

And that is sufficient for me.

 

15 August, 2013

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

Nassau

 



[1] Dogmatic Constitution on the Chiurch #39.

[2] John 1:14

[3] Luke 1:46-55

[4] Luke 1:51-52

[5] The entire text of this interview is available at www.vatican.va as “Apostolic Journey to Rio De Janeiro on the Occasion of the XXVIII World Youth Day.”

[6] Cf. Genesis 19:1-29; Romans 1:24-27; I Corinthians 6:10; I Timothy 1:10.

[7] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Persona Humana, 8.

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357, 2358 also 2359.

[9] “On Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” A statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 2008

 

 

© 2017 Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau, Bahamas. All Rights Reserved.