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Spotlight Report

TEXT

Bishop Lennon's homily

12/16/2002

Here is a transcript of the homily delivered yesterday by Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the new apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston, as recorded by The Boston Globe:

The events of the past 11 months, and especially of the past several days, have been momentous and unique in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston.

These events have evoked many different responses, many times individuals having a combination of responses, such as dismay and disappointment, frustration and anger. For some, a loss of trust in the hierarchy, and a profound sense of sadness.

We have all witnessed the events, as they have recorded that which has happened years ago, and that which has happened within this timespan. And over those past 11 months, we have heard many people and many groups come forward with ideas for how to go forward in addressing the issues.

We need to hear what is being said by those who love the Church. But even more importantly, we need to hear the word of God. For on the one hand, we, as believers, very much live in the world and we experience the fullness of all of the joys and the sadnesses, the difficulties and the accomplishments. But we also share in the life of God himself. We share in that life, we share in God's grace and God's presence.

And so today, as we gather together at the cathedral to celebrate this third Sunday of Advent, we listen to the word of God so that we may hear what is being proposed, which, God willing, may be the very foundation of our personal lives and the life of the Church as we move forward.

In Advent, the figure of John the Baptist is very prominent. And today's gospel gives us a picture, a picture of John's mission which was to point people to the Lord. He did not focus on himself, as easy as that would have been, for crowds were coming to single him out and to make him very special. But no. He knew there was something, there was someone, more important, and that it was that someone who could truly bring the salvation that all so earnestly desired.

And so John points to the Lord and then says to those who hear him, ''Make straight the way of the Lord.'' Make straight the way of the Lord deep in our hearts, is what John is saying. For he says ''reform your lives so that we may receive the one who has been sent.'' Yes, John's message is as valid and as crucial today, maybe even more so, for us to embrace, as he points to the one who has light and life and truth.

But did he not say, ''I am the way, and the truth, and the life?'' John tells us this because we are to be challenged in the authenticity and the integrity of our faith life. ...

How is that done? What characterizes that? What is to be its hallmark? And I would dare say as we look at our first reading today, the reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we are invited to reflect again on these words, ''The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor with the Lord.''

The crisis, that we have been living through now, certainly is reflected in that reading. For how many are broken hearted? How many are captives of the crimes and the sins of sexual abuse against minors? How many have had their freedom curtailed because of injustices? Indeed all of the words of Isaiah are applicable in our present moment. And yet those words, those words are an invitation to each one of us who have been anointed with the Spirit. They are an invitation to each one of us, as we are rooted in our relationship with the Lord to step forward and to become instruments of God's peace, of God's healing, of God's reconciliation and forgiveness. Each one of us is to be that presence of God [in] the world, for we have been made in that image, and so have been redeemed.

My dear friends, that sounds like a daunting task, but I am reminded of a phrase that I learned long ago, a phrase that says, ''Whether called upon or not called upon, God will always be present. With God, all things are possible.'' As we address the present moment and as we go forward, we, as the people of God, need to be rooted firmly in our relationship with the God - father, son, and Holy Sprit - and that relationship needs to be a relationship of holiness.

As John Paul II has invited us to the call to holiness [and] faithfulness to what the gospel proclaims: You are to be holy, as your Heavenly Father is holy. As we are holy, there is an integrity to our lives which not only will root out those things that are evil in our lives and in the lives of the wider community, those things which are in the past and, God willing, never again to be repeated. But they will be replaced with something more vibrant, and life-giving, and respectful of all people, of all times, of everywhere.

Today, as we celebrate this liturgy, the Church called this ''Rejoice Sunday.'' I am sure that for many of us, rejoicing is very hard, and yet when we live the mystery of the faith, we realize that the rejoicing is not in ourselves, the rejoicing is that there is a God who loves us, a God who cares for us, a God who wants the community of mankind to be all He has intended it to be. Yes, we rejoice in the Lord, and with that rejoice, that awareness, God willing, not only can things change, but things can improve.

Since the day I was ordained a bishop, a little over a year ago, every day I have prayed to the words of St. Augustine, and never have they been as powerful as the last few days: ''What I am for you terrifies me. What I am with you consoles me.'' For you, I am a bishop, but with you, I am a Christian. The former is a title of duty, but the latter is a state of grace.

I pledge to do all that I can to be a shepherd for this great archdiocese, relying on the prayers, the support, the assistance of all of God's people. For the household of faith is only as strong as when all of us are united in that faith.

This morning, I wish to conclude these few remarks by reiterating the prayer of St. Paul to the Thessalonians that we heard, a prayer which roots us in the primacy of God and His ability to bring about the Good Work: ''May the God of Peace make you perfectly holy, and may you entirely, spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless for coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the one who calls you is faithful, and He will also accomplish it.''

May God love each and all of you.

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 12/16/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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