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Homily From Red Mass in Washington

"The American Project: To Live Out the Consequences of Humanism"

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 4, 2007 (Zenit) - Here are Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan's homily notes for the annual Red Mass held Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in the capital of the United States. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices attended the Mass.

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Red Mass
September 30, 2007

Readings from Scripture:
Genesis 1:26-31
1 John 4: 11-16
John 14: 23-29

Summer, 2002, and I have the joy of being with over a million young people from around the globe, and with Pope John Paul II, at World Youth Day in Toronto.

These World Youth Days are glorious events, filled with prayer, song, religious formation, sharing of faith, the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance, a lot of just plain fun ... and, of course, the presence of the Pope.

It's the last full day, and, as other bishops, I gather at a parish church in suburban Toronto with about four hundred young people from English-speaking countries, to give my teaching. We bishops were encouraged to then "open-the-floor" and allow any of our young people to give public testimony about any graces they may have received during the World Youth Days. After a pause, a young woman from the back-corner approaches the microphone.

"World Youth Day saved my life," she begins. She sure has our attention. "I am twenty-four years old, and have been living on the streets since I was fifteen. I've become an alcoholic, and a heroin addict" -- here she rolls up the sleeves of her blouse to reveal bruises and scabs from the needles -- "and a prostitute to support my habit. I'm dying, and I was about ready to end it all.

The kids from my parish youth group, who have always been nice to me, took me in and cleaned me up, and invited me to come to Toronto with them for World Youth Day.

And here I've met an old man who has changed my life. This old man told me he loved me. Oh, a lot of old men tell me they love me, for fifteen minutes. This old man meant it. He told me God loved me, and that I'm actually God's work of art. He told me that the God who made all the stars actually knows my name. He told me God enjoys me so much He wants me to spend eternity with Him, and that He sent His Son, Jesus, to help me get there. This old man told me I actually share God's own life deep inside of me. This old man makes sense. This old man got through to me. I now want to live."

The "old man" of course, was the Venerable Servant of God, John Paul the Great.

Ideas have consequences, don't they? Convictions have corollaries. And God's Word today, from Genesis and St. John, enchants us with one of the most profound ideas, one of the most noble convictions, of all: that we are made in God's image and likeness, that God actually abides in us, and we in Him, that deep in our being is the very breath of the divine.

I suggest that anyone who thinks this grand idea, this conviction, this doctrine, to be of no consequence might get in touch with that young woman from Toronto.

This stunning belief -- that we actually hold in our heart the spark of the divine -- while dramatic in Jewish and Christian revelation, is also part of other great world creeds.

As a matter of fact, this gripping conviction, while explicit in revealed religion, is really evident in the very nature of man. So we have the towering intellects of civilization, philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and Cicero, themselves unaware of the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus, still write convincingly that human beings hold within them the light of eternity, a destiny beyond this life, a supernatural brand-mark, an exalted identity which elevates them qualitatively above the rest of creation. True, they never viewed Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling, depicting creation, but they would sure nod in agreement at the inspired words of Genesis in this morning's first Scripture reading,

"God created man in the image of Himself, in the image of God He created man, male and female He created them ... and God saw that this was good."

And they would beam at the chant of the psalmist,

"What is man that you should spare even a thought for him,
the son of Man that you should care for him?
Yet, you have made him little less than a god,
You have crowned him with glory and splendor."

This noble tenet -- that human nature reflects God's own nature, that God looks at us and smiles with delight, that a human being shares in God's own life and is destined for eternity -- this soaring conviction which resonates in the human heart, that was made explicit in God's Word, which animated the thinking of our most normative philosophers, and is a constant of Judeo-Christian humanism, this grand idea has ...

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