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‘Make God present in this world’

April 5, 2023

Editor’s note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily from the Chrism Mass, celebrated March 30 in St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“Let the splendor of holiness shine on the world...” With these words from the Prayer of Consecration, I will soon entreat our Heavenly Father to shower the gifts of His Spirit upon those who will be anointed with the Sacred Chrism.

In the Book of Leviticus, the Lord told Moses: “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (19:1) Our annual celebration of this Chrism Mass is a fitting occasion for each of the baptized – married or single, cleric, consecrated religious and student to reflect on Vatican II’s universal call to holiness. In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Bishops teach that “…all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’” (1 Thess. 4:3; Eph. 1:4). (LG39).

By virtue of our baptism, each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of our ability, to be disciples in mission. In our walks on this earth, we must accompany and aid one another to greater holiness of life, so that the world may be filled with the spirit of Christ and reach our eternal destiny.

As those words of the consecratory prayer imply, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to inspire the very core of our being to love God with all our heart, with our whole soul, with our whole understanding, and with our whole strength (Mk. 12:30), and to love one another as Christ loves us (Jn. 13:34; 15:12).

For that to happen, each of us must spend time with the Word of God and carry out His will in tangible ways, with the help of His grace and those gifts of God’s Holy Spirit. We must frequently celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; we must constantly apply ourselves to prayer, self-denial, acts of charity and the practice of all virtues. All of us must be prepared to courageously confess Christ before others and follow Him along the way of the cross amidst the persecutions which the Church never seems to lack. Through it all, the faithful are invited, no, are obliged to a life of holiness – not a showy display of piety, but a life saturated with love of God and neighbor, that is, live as saints in the making.

We must always work to make progress in holiness; to stay content in our relationship with Jesus, no matter our age, is to stifle growth in the Christian life. The fire of God’s love needs to be nourished with Holy Scripture. If we don’t feed the fire, if we do not help its spread, it will die out.

St. Augustine warned us: “If you say, ‘That is enough,’ you are lost. Always aspire to more, never stop walking, keep making progress. Do not remain in the same place, do not move backward, do not go astray.” The victory won for us by Jesus’ Resurrection is not an invitation to rest in self-satisfaction. Faith always grows through daily prayer and in those daily challenges that might cause us to suffer and to die with Jesus.

Cardinal Sarah reminds us that prayer possesses such great power because it is not an activity of a man or woman, but prayer is an activity of God in the believer. When I pray, I join the all-powerful divine activity within me. As St. Paul wrote the Galatians: “Christ lives in me.” (2:19) When I pray, I allow God to have His way within me, enabling me to join in the Trinitarian family of love.

In the midst of today’s extraordinary challenges, we must stay alert to what Pope Francis called the tiredness of hope, that inner bitterness, even dryness of heart that can surface. A certain listlessness in prayer and resignation can settle in on any of us as we reflect on the troubles that we encounter today. Too often we, including your bishop, do not reflect the splendor of holiness of the anointed that this prayer of consecration invites.

In our days, in vast areas of the world, including right here in our North Country, the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel. Our overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Fueled by the discipline of daily prayer, our students can be a beacon of hope for classmates, parents, faculty and staff.

Fourteen years ago, Pope Benedict wrote that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects. My sisters and brothers, you know the fallout. I needn’t list the casualties for you. Too many have forgotten these words:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Our priests and bishops, indeed all the faithful of the Church must witness to the infinite love and mercy of God in today’s world. On this occasion in which we recommit ourselves to our priestly promises, I want to thank you, my brother priests, for making God front and center in our parish communities. In a world that has lost its bearings, you continue to embrace, indeed proclaim, that Christ is the beginning and the end of your priestly ministry. I am so grateful for each and every one of you, my brother priests. Sometimes when we reflect on the distance between our personal expectations and the visible fruits of the labors of our apostolate, our pastoral zeal might be threatened, and we can lose heart.

Let us reclaim our baptismal charge and priestly mission. May each of us shine with the splendor of holiness. Lukewarmness can sap our steadfastness, all our energy and enthusiasm. Contentment with the status quo prevents us from continuing our journey toward the heights where God awaits us. Our daily routine can settle us into mediocrity and the resultant spiritual carelessness, and indifference toward God.

With Cardinal Newman, I pray:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance wherever I go.
Flood my soul with your Spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly, that my entire life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.
Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, shine so as to be a light to others.
The light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine.
It will be you shining on others through me.
May the splendor of holiness shine in our world, beginning with me.
May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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