For the first time that I can remember, after a whole night’s drive with barely any sleep, as if by some divine miracle fueled by my desire to catch this experience on film, I actually stayed awake during the Homily! You laugh, but it’s true! Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities was the Principal Celebrant and Homilist.
His words were beautiful and clear. The Mass was heavenly and strong. I felt caught up in the Communion of Saints as I read through my personal life creed before and after receiving the Holy Eucharist. The depth of articulation that the Archbishop displayed quelled the fears of distrust and betrayal that we’ve rightfully felt from the national presbyterate. A boiling rage I think has been unleashed on the universal Church, consuming even the perceived reputation of our Holy Father Pope Francis! Many people have turned against the reality of the Holy Spirit’s sovereignty over human suffering, decrying resignation and vengeance, rejection and violence on the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, instead of a humble submission to the authority of Divine Providence and the sacredness of redemptive suffering—all without justifying or enabling those who perpetrated the crimes for which they’ve been accused and convicted over the decades.
This is essential, for it is these very sins which have perpetuated the anti-Fiat’s darkness. St. Paul VI, as he published his encyclical on Humanae Vitae in 1968 knew this inevitability. I believe he sensed the darkness that had been unleashed on the world and which had even begun festering within the Church, and I believe he knew it would be a great many years before the world would or could fully embrace God’s Plan for human sexuality. St. John Paul the Great sensed this too as he tirelessly proclaimed his mission in those Wednesday audiences for the first five years of his pontificate (Theology of the Body).
The spectrum of identity has been fragmented in a prism of colors that all still has its source in the one light of the Beatific Vision, Unconditional Love Himself. Yet, as I witnessed these young people take in the beauty of this timeless Liturgy with the universal Church, as I sat in awe as hundreds of bishops, priests, and seminarians (including Michael Schultz and Cole McDowell!) flooded the sanctuary with the Crucifix held high in a Victory March, I realized just who the Blessed Mother had allowed herself to become. I realized who all those beautiful habited religious sisters were emulating in their vocational life as they too listened to the Word of God that night. I realized who every woman is reflecting in the depths of her longing for affection, attention, and approval from every man.
As I watched the Universal Church embrace the Cross of Conversion that night, I saw the Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception begin to make sense. Her ability to give her courageous YES to the Will of God was not coincidence or enacted solely from her own power. Her freedom in this decision came from the grace of her Son’s redemptive act on Calvary which could only result from a cosmic convergence of past and future, contained within the tension of the present moment.
ALL of us have that tension within us. Every young person sitting next to me in that Basilica has sinned and made mistakes which will haunt them and twist their desires for many years to come, for Satan’s stronghold in this world can feel impossible to break off. Yet, instead of seeing it as two hulahoops pulling us in opposite directions, paralyzing us to the point of annihilation in the fires of Mount DOOM—see this journey as a powerful and breath-taking mountaintop, where we can see where we’ve come from, but then all the more gaze into the future with hope and determination for the journey ahead—inspiring us to enter the open-ended threshold of erotic desire in the fires of Divine LOVE.
This is the reality of St. John Paul the Great and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, the reality of entering “Into the Deep”, while simultaneously ascending “To the highest heights”, without falling asleep during the Homily (the breaking open of the Word Made Flesh!).
No, we can no longer lull ourselves into a quiet passivity that leaves everything to chance and nothing to trust, but rather, we must embrace an active receptivity to the Divine Lord’s promptings, just as Mother Mary did in her Fiat, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” Her understanding of her role in Salvation History was first one of relationship with God the Father, as his humble servant, and only then could she embrace the action of the Holy Spirit within her womb, so that the Greatest Mission of All, the logic of all reason and understanding could actually take on flesh and dwell among us.
It made sense then that we would boisterously sing all SEVEN verses of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” at the commissioning of the Universal Church at the end of Mass, for we knew our prayers were being answered more profoundly this year than perhaps ever before. All we had to do was say Yes, and let ourselves utilize the grace and time that He’s given us to see this piece of salvation become history. I believe it was this powerful prayer they included at the end of our Petitions that night that began that most humble of Yes’s in what perhaps has been our Church’s most humiliating year since the Reformation.
“God of endless love, ever caring, ever strong, always present, always just: You gave your only Son to save us by the blood of his cross. Gentle Jesus, shepherd of peace, join to our own suffering the pain of all who have been hurt in body, mind, and spirit by those who betrayed the trust placed in them. Hear our cries as we agonize over the harm done to our brothers and sisters. Breathe wisdom into our prayers, soothe restless hearts with hope, steady shaken spirits with faith: Show us the way to justice and wholeness, enlightened by truth and enfolded in your mercy. Holy Spirit, comforter of hearts, heal your people’s wounds and transform our brokenness. Grant us courage and wisdom, humility and grace, so that we may act with justice and find peace in you. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”