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Monday, May 6, 2013

Address of Archbishop Emeritus Vlazny to Knights of Columbus

The following is Archbishop Emeritus Vlazny's homily from the Opening Mass of the 2013 Convention of the Oregon State Knights of Columbus. His office was kind enough to send me a copy. The only difference I can see from the homily I heard is that Bishop Liam Cary actually did make the opening Mass.
Annual Assembly of the Oregon Knights of Columbus Pendleton, Oregon May 3, 2013 In the preface of today’s Mass we pray about today’s apostle saints in these words: “You, Eternal Shepherd, do not desert your flock, but through the blessed apostles watch over and protect it always, so that it may be governed by those you have appointed shepherds to lead it in the name of your son.” This feast of Saints Philip and James comes quickly after our great Easter feast. Your bishops, Archbishop Sample and Bishop Cary, and I have been called upon in God’s providence, to serve as successors to the apostles, to share in the work of the Eternal Shepherd and to guide his flock. You, my brothers and sisters, are among our most treasured collaborators and friends. I am delighted to be with you here in Pendleton as we begin this annual assembly of our Oregon Knights of Columbus. On behalf of Archbishop Sample and Bishop Cary, neither of whom was able to be with us for this gathering, I thank you most sincerely for all you do to support us in our apostolic tasks.

It would seem that there was no need for a committee meeting to choose the readings for today’s feast. The rationale seems simple. James is mentioned in the first reading – Philip in the second. Fortunately we can count on a good and gracious God bringing all things together for our good. I find God’s message today both timely and helpful.

The words of St. Paul written so long ago to the Corinthians are particularly timely for us as we continue our great Easter feast. We continue to celebrate the paschal mystery of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. We also remember how important it was for those first disciples, bruised and disheartened as they were, to meet the risen Jesus. You Knights have assumed some formidable tasks in support of our church’s evangelizing mission. In order to be enthusiastic, committed and effective in your service, you too must meet the risen Lord, in His word, in this sacrament of the Eucharist, and in the gift of His church. In your sometimes tedious tasks, it is good to reflect upon the fact that others will hopefully be meeting the risen Lord through you. Your patience, attention to detail and fidelity to church teaching and practice are the tools whereby the risen Savior makes himself present in our churches and families, especially now during this Year of Faith. We pray that the Lord’s Easter gift of the Holy Spirit will continue to guide you and enlighten you in your important service.

In today’s gospel St. Philip reflects some of our own impatience and dullness. Jesus has just told Thomas, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Then Philip quickly says, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Was he really listening? Would he ever get it?

Yes, Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. Because our encounter with him is so critical for our salvation, and because most of us keep looking for help, albeit in keeping with our own whims and fancies, we need some guidance along the way. Church law, which you understand so well and interpret with such care, is set forth so that we might truly come to know God’s way, God’s truth, and God’s life. But it is not always our way, our truth or our life.

When Catholics profess their belief each Sunday in the one God, they are not making a mathematical statement. This is a moral statement. When we acknowledge that there is indeed only one God, we necessarily limit our discussions about right and wrong. With God in the picture, some things are absolutely forbidden and other things are absolutely required.

When we affirm our belief in one God we acknowledge that there is built into the universe a series of positions about right and wrong as firm as the law of gravity. They are not subject to popular vote. We don’t vote about whether it’s all right to steal from neighbors or to kill babies. We don’t vote about the laws of adultery any more than we vote that rainfall should be light in Oregon or that pizza should be more nourishing than fresh vegetables. There are some things which are simply right and/or true.

We live in a world where too many people believe that right is anything we feel good about and wrong is about anything we feel guilty about. If morality is relative, why was Hitler wrong?

As you gather this year for this assembly, there is much newness in our church. A new bishop was ordained for Baker back on May 18th of last year, Most Rev. Liam Cary. A new archbishop was installed for the Catholics of western Oregon back on April 2nd at the Chiles Center in the University of Portland. During Lent, at the conclave in Rome the cardinals elected our new Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis. The Pope has been a very effective evangelizer during these early weeks of his pontificate. He is a clever speaker and he uses some rather vivid images in his remarks and addresses. In addressing the need for a new evangelization in our church, mindful of the fact that so many of our fellow Catholics have truly marginalized the practice of their faith, Pope Francis made this observation. He said that today’s situation is the mirror opposite of the biblical parable of the shepherd who leads his 99 sheep to find the one that is lost. The Pope said, “Today we have one in the pen and 99 we need to go looking for!”

Yes, our challenge is formidable and you are wonderful partners in our church’s evangelizing mission. And yes, our good and gracious God does show us the way. He holds us accountable for our behavior and clearly signals what is right and wrong. Yours is a ministry in the service of God’s goodness and God’s truth. Our sacrifices in the name of the things we believe and hold dear will not be wasted. No good deed ever goes unnoticed. God is attentive to us and will provide our eternal reward. That apostolic ministry that we celebrate today in the persons of Philip and James is now in our hands. In order to be effective we too must meet the Lord regularly, as did James after the resurrection. That’s why Sunday Eucharist and frequent confession are so important for us. We too, like Philip, must acknowledge that the only life worth living is found in Jesus Christ, our way, our truth and our life.

Sometimes with all our activities and services as Knights of Columbus we can start feeling like we are in management, so many details to organize and coordinate. But, in truth, we are in sales. God manages and manages quite well. Jesus sends us forth as His sales force: to proclaim the good news, to share the faith, to serve the needy, to show others the way to the Father. God bless you and may this convention be a time of grace and blessing for all of you.

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