Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

July 25, 2021
St. Benedict Parish
Fort Worth, Texas

1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Luke 19:41-47

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. The account of the weeping over Jerusalem is unique to the Gospel of Luke. Luke utilizes it to lead into the account of the cleansing of the temple by Jesus. It also occurs after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. So, we read that Jesus experiences several very different emotions in rapid succession: from joy, praise and celebration (19:37-40) to weeping and sadness over what awaits the City and her people (19:41-44), to righteous anger in the cleansing of the Temple (19:45-46).

In many ways the fact that this Gospel reading is what today’s Liturgy offers us for meditation is great evidence of the sovereignty of God’s Providence, because in recent times we have experienced a vast array of emotions over God’s fidelity and love amidst purification and cleansing of the Church. In the Gospel for today, Jesus is lamenting the fact that the city and its people have at their disposal all that is needed to recognize Jesus as the Christ and as God’s own Son, but they refuse to do so. Like the prophets of old, who spoke on behalf of God, Jesus proclaims in word, deed, and His being that God is with His people, but they have refused to acknowledge it. Jesus cites the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah: “My house shall be a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7),” and “you have made it a den of thieves (Jeremiah 7:11)” as He casts out the corrupt who are financially profiting in the Lord’s House where He desires to be worshipped in justice and in truth. These words and actions on the part of Jesus bring the ire and scorn of the corrupt among the political and religious leadership of Jerusalem in his day.

The recent motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, regarding new norms of governance of the celebration of the Mass in the Usus Antiquior, has prompted fears and distractions among many of the members of the Church that we can run the risk of succumbing to the temptation not to recognize gratefully what God has given us in His Son and His Son’s presence in the celebration of the Mass both in the Usus Antiquior and in the Ordinary Form of the Rite. We might also neglect what the Mass — in ordinary and extraordinary form — demands of us. As Romano Guardini wrote in 1939 in his book entitled Meditations Before Mass: “how must we cooperate in the celebration of the Mass so that it really becomes what it is essentially — a holy, liturgical act.”

Towards that end, I have come here today to your parish as your bishop, who very much loves you and cares for you as a very important and essential part of the local church, the Diocese of Fort Worth. I have known many of you personally for over thirty years, some of you from my own assistance as a seminarian at the Extraordinary Form Mass celebrated in the chapel at St. Francis Village when Bishop Delaney instituted it after the promulgation of Ecclesia Dei by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1988.

It is difficult for me to believe that six years have passed since I established this parish under the patronage of St. Benedict, the regnal name of Pope Benedict XVI, for your pastoral care and spiritual guidance. In that time, I have visited several times your parish not as an observer but as your bishop. In keeping with the norms of Summorum Pontificum I have “for the good of souls” celebrated in the extraordinary form the sacrament of Confirmation for your children. The pastoral leadership and service of Father Pikus and the assistance of Father Byrne as members of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter have protected you from the wolves of dissidence and chaos as these good priests have helped you to grow as a parish through the preaching of the authentic Gospel and the celebration of the Mass and each of the sacraments with reverence and true piety and love. I am very grateful for their ministry and particularly for Father Pikus’ membership on my Diocesan Presbyteral Council and among my College of Consultors. You have grown from 35 registered families at your founding to over 140 registered families currently — each and all with residences in the geographical territory of the Diocese of Fort Worth as expected by Canon Law. When I arrived as bishop in 2014, you might recall that there was much rancor and confusion among the Latin Mass community with permissions for the Mass being abused by not a few, the creeping in of hirelings preying upon the faithful with an agenda of sede vacantism and the mistreatment of the Mass as a type of talisman for sale and not in accord with its true dignity as the unbloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ freely offered for our salvation. My pastoral zeal for souls prompted me to address this situation immediately and to turn to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter for competent and well-formed assistance in the establishment of a parish regularizing your place in the life of the true Church for the salvation of your souls.

I ask you during these challenging times to find recourse in prayer and not in social media. As human beings we are not that different from the people of Jesus’ time who neglected and refused to accept His presence because they had become preoccupied with the financial business and political intrigue of religion instead of worshipping God as He desires to be worshipped. Ask God to deliver us from the “consumerist mentality” that subjects the Mass — in particular the Extraordinary Form of the Mass — as a commodity of choice and preference with priests and bishops too frequently relegated to the user-friendly roles of clerks and branch officers. Only God can save us, and He has sent His Son who is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass as offered by His priests, if we are only willing to be recollected and attentive.

In keeping with the Motu Proprio of Pope Francis, Traditionis Custodis, I have the following observations to offer you as your bishop. We in the Diocese of Fort Worth are already in conformity with much of this letter, especially at Saint Benedict Parish. First, pertaining to Saint Benedict Parish, I continue to authorize the celebration of the Mass in accord with the 1962 Missal of Pope Saint John XXIII at Saint Benedict Parish. Secondly, I have the assurance of your pastor and from my own judgment as ascertained through my pastoral visits that Saint Benedict Parish “does not exclude the validity and legitimacy of the liturgical reform, of the dictates of the Second Vatican Council and of the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiffs.” Thirdly, Father Pikus, as the pastor of Saint Benedict Parish, will continue to serve as my delegate, in charge of the celebrations and pastoral care of this parish and for other Catholics seeking the celebration of the sacraments in the extraordinary form provided they have a letter of permission from their pastor, and they reside (are domiciled) within the geographic territory of the Diocese of Fort Worth. I judge him to be “suitable for this office, is competent in order to use the Missale Romanum prior to the 1970 reform, has a knowledge of the Latin language that allows him to fully understand the rubrics and liturgical texts, is animated by a lively pastoral charity, and a sense of ecclesial communion.” Finally, as Saint Benedict is canonically erected for the benefit of these faithful, I have carried out during these past years an appropriate assessment of its actual usefulness for spiritual growth, and judge that it should be maintained, and it should flourish.”

In conclusion, I make my own the words of the Apostle, Saint Paul, addressed in the Epistle of today to the Church at Corinth, and I speak them to you, “He that thinks himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall. Let no temptation take hold on you, but such is human, and God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted beyond that which you are able; but will also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.” Christ is summoning each and all of us to trust Him — not simply as individuals but as members of His Mystical Body, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. To trust Him we must first learn to be still and to listen for Him in the silence. As Guardini writes, “If someone were to ask me what the liturgical life begins with, I should answer: with learning stillness. Without it, everything remains superficial, vain. Our understanding of stillness is nothing strange or aesthetic. Were we to approach stillness on the level of aesthetic — of mere withdrawal into the ego — we should spoil everything. What we are striving for is something very grave, very important, and unfortunately sorely neglected: the prerequisite of the liturgical holy act.”

May Christ send His Spirit upon us to keep us still that we might recognize Him and love Him as we are sent into the world in peace to proclaim His true Gospel and glorify Him by our lives. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

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