Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
The text of Archbishop Collins' Sept. 13 homily
Following is an edited version of Archbishop Thomas Collins' homily at the Sept. 13 Mass of Installation:
Whenever we take an airplane flight, we often wonder who is the most important person on board. I suppose it's the pilot; we want the pilot in the cockpit to be well-trained.
But particularly we want the person who is navigating the plane to know where the airport is. That is the sole purpose of the trip. And so it is in the journey of life. We need to know where the airport is.
The crew of the plane have to know what is outside the window, they have to know if turbulence is a problem and that it usually happens just after the coffee has been served.
But they must know the obvious - they need to know the airport that they cannot see, that lies there in the distance, and how to get there.
And so it is with the journey of life. We are to navigate in a light which can be very often filled with turbulence, both individually in our lives and in the society in which we live. We deal with reality; we cannot live in illusion. For there is no future in that.
But there is another reality, a deeper reality which gives meaning and direction and purpose, that shows us how to get to the airport and not simply know what is the cloud that is at this moment outside the window.
That is not simply observed reality but revealed reality. It is the revelation of the plan of God, the promise of God. That which is revealed shows us why, why are we here.
What is the purpose of life? How can we become instruments of transformation so that this world which we observe outside the window, our present experience, does not simply dominate our lives. But we are called as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
So the first disciples were sent out into the world. Looking outside the window, there was not much to see with slavery and injustice and all kinds of things.
And yet what guided those early Christians was the revealed reality shown to them by the Lord, the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem, the message of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is the word of God, who speaks to us in our hearts and in our heads and leads us to serve with our hands.
We must be duly attentive to observe the world in which we live. But we are not here to simply exist in that world but to transform it.
Therefore we must look to the Gospel, to the life of Christ to find that revealed reality. And then that aspect leads us to the questions that are often so painful. We look around this world of which we speak, we look at what should be, what the Lord calls us to, and we ask Why? Why is it this way? Why is it in a society so rich, so prosperous, that we have temporary food banks that have been here for 20 years?
In the holy Gospels it is revealed reality that guides us and leads us to be instruments of his grace and transformation, so that the light of Christ may spread where there is darkness.
And we look to the readings today, how in the days of the prophet Ezekiel, the people were scattered, discouraged, facing problems of enormous difficulties, far greater than any we are ever to face.
The word of God came to the prophet Ezekiel and revealed to the people the deeper reality that the Lord God is their shepherd, who will guide and sustain them and protect them and feed and nourish them and heal those who are in need.
They were called to be worthy of him, to be shepherds in his image. So they were able to move beyond the reality they saw around them, outside the window, to the deeper reality of transforming power.
We look to the second reading today from the Book of Revelation, the very last section of the Book of Revelation. Many years ago I spent two years studying that second reading. I always was slow getting through that book. Two years.
I went to the priest who was my director over in Rome and I thought I would do a thing on the moral theology of the Apocalypse and he said "No, no. Too big, too big. No, no, try the moral theology of the last 16 verses." And that was more than enough.
But these passages, these words of St. John, they speak to us of those early Christians. The world outside their window was not very good indeed. They were surrounded, harassed, they were persecuted and, within the community, there were divisions of all kinds. Sound familiar?
That's the Church, so frail. And yet into that observed reality, which would discourage anybody, came the light of Christ. In the words of St. John, he said "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." He said I am coming soon. For some of those people it was tomorrow afternoon in the amphitheatre. He was coming soon.
And he comes soon to all in the Holy Eucharist, for this is what that book also speaks of, the coming of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It's the only coming of the Lord which we can generally predict.
They were so filled with fear and here came the message of hope because St. John showed them that deeper reality, that revealed reality. It was not simply a speculation about when the Lord will come, what will be the day or the hour, because we know we do not know that.
But we see the deeper, the truer, the fuller reality revealed by the Lord. We know how to act now. So St. John, he was so dazzled by the vision he started worshipping the angel and the angel said words that guided him and all the other Christians, "Worship God, worship God, worship God." That's the priority - worship God.
That is the goal, the star we steer from. And then we will know how to deal with the observable reality around us and we will be filled with hope.
The Lord was there with them in the midst of their suffering and he lifted them up and brought them to him.
Those Christians because they worshipped God, they had a right priority that goes beyond the world around them - the light of Christ that shines throughout that whole empire. It's the same spirit we see in St. Thomas More whose last words "I die the king's good servant, but God's first."
In the observable world, he was a successful loyal politician, did many different things. He did his job well. He knew his facts, he became a good servant, but God's first. You can see the way he came to support transformation.
And we look at the Gospel today: He is the vine, we are the branches. Without him we would be a dry brittle branch to be thrown away to the birds.
He is the vine, we are the branches - that is the revealed reality which gives life to us in our mission as Christians.
The storms that we face are stronger than the hurricanes that approach the American coast. But we face those things and we do so with confidence and with hope, not based on any superficial optimism, but on the facts, the reality of the promise of God.
It calls us to go beyond ourselves to be instruments of his grace and transform this world. And so as we look into our own lives in which we lead, our friends, our world, as we look to the Church in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, we must deal dutifully, appropriately, constantly with the things we see outside the window. We would be foolish to ignore it.
But we are guided, as instruments of God's grace, in transforming that reality by the revealed reality which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, that is what gives us life, direction, purpose.
He is the vine, we are branches. Worship God. We do that and his grace moves through us, it is the light that shines out in this world, so we can be servants, faithful to the end.
As we do that in our archdiocese, in our own personal lives we approach this year of jubilee, it is good to reflect upon the importance of celebration, the celebration which we are having now. The joyful way in which we come before the Lord, because out there we have our problems. They are waiting for us in about half an hour, maybe more. They won't go away. Don't worry, they'll be out there.
But to put them into perspective, to see the grace of God which allows us to know how to approach them and how, by God's grace, to overcome them, we celebrate jubilee, the 2,000th anniversary of the coming of the Lord. Each week we celebrate the jubilee of Sabbath and we stop and pray and reflect and see what truly is the purpose of our life - what is the deeper, the revealed reality.
As we meditate on the words in Sacred Scripture, as we spend time in prayer, that is our jubilee. It gives us perspective to our lives and allows us not to have a phony and superficial conscience, that is perhaps not very well adjusted, but to have a deep, joyful faith so we can be freed up like those early Christians to be instruments of transformation.
So the busier we are, the more we need jubilee and Sabbath. The faster the wheel is spinning, the more the hub must be secure.
So in the archdiocese we celebrate jubilee this coming year, every week, every day. We do so in our times of prayer, most fully we do so in the celebration in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for here we have our Lord himself transform the bread and wine.
And we are brought to the sacrifice on Calvary and we are brought to the head of the heavenly banquet which is at the end of time.
That's why the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is essential every Sunday for everyone in this archdiocese. It takes us beyond ourselves. It is an act of God. It is a deep journey which gives meaning to our lives and gives strength and hope.
It is a wild and wonderful, a tremendous experience, to spend time in our hearts in prayer and adoration and to continue with contemplating the presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, to spend time in adoration before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. For there too is jubilee. It gives direction for our lives.
If our observed reality is to be transformed by revealed reality, we must not only celebrate jubilee, but we need to live quietly, faithfully, devotedly the sacred vocation to which the Lord calls us.
Three hundred thousand Catholics in this archdiocese, baptized, confirmed, sent out each one with a mission, made instruments of God's grace to transform this reality we see outside the window. This is our mission, this is the mission lay people of our Church live in so many different ways through personal example, through prayer, through a life of holiness, through the sacrament of marriage - mother, father, husband, wife, brother, sister, parent, child. Here is the sacred vocation. Let the light of Christ shine.
We also need a couple hundred more priests and sisters. Not 300,000. Three hundred will do for starters. And that is part of our mission too. All of us together to call forth from within the Church those who are called to serve a religious life, to serve all of us in our community, priests and sisters.
They don't come from the bishop. They come from us all, and we must pray for them. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send labourers into his harvest for the service of us all.
But the good Lord did not only spend his nights in prayer, as he did indeed before he called the apostles. But then he went out. He didn't just sit in Capernaum waiting for someone to come. He knew who he wanted and he invited them.
So I invite all the members of this archdiocese to search and invite those the Lord is calling to serve all of us as priests and in religious life. 469-1010. I look forward to hearing from you.
I am simply, clearly, coolly working on the assumption that in the years that lie ahead those 300 priests, 300 sisters, will be here for our service.
And we need each one of us to go be disciples of our Lord Jesus, to be leaves for the branches, fruit of the vine. For our Lord says that the branches must bear fruit. To misquote the angel, as the Lord rose up into the heavens: "Don't just stand there, do something."
We're called to bear fruit in this world and our lives to be lived in so many ways. Catholic Action: See, judge and act. See what's there, judge it by the Gospel and then in some particular, practical way each day act as the light of Christ may shine upon you.
This is our mission, our hope and our joy and spirit, spirit like that of the apostles, as we enter into this next millennium eager to serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to see what is outside the window and know how to deal with it. To fail to do so would be unwise.
But we cannot simply look for what is outside the window; we are to transform it. He is the vine, we are the branches. We must be deeply filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, devoted disciples of the Lord, instruments of his grace, filled with the life of Christ, passing it on to those around us. For that is the light that grows brighter when we give it away just as love grows stronger when we give it away. That's our mission as disciples of our Lord Jesus.
I'd like to end with a little prayer that expresses the profound union with Christ, which the Lord speaks about in today's Gospel, which I think provides a guide for each of us since we are instruments of his grace for this great jubilee that lies ahead.
Here is the prayer of St. Patrick which can guide us in the spirit of the Gospel:
Christ, as a shield, overshadow and cover me,
Christ be over me, Christ be under me,
Christ be beside me, on left hand and right,
Christ be before me, behind me, about me,
Christ this day be within and without me,
Christ, the lowly and meek,
Christ, the all powerful,
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak,
In the mouth of each who speaks to me,
In all who draw near to me, or see me, or hear me.
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