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Cardinal Wuerl's Homily at Rite of Reception for the St. Luke Community

By Randy Sly
October 10th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Your faith journey that brings you to the Lord's Table and to the sacrament of confirmation began with baptism. It is for that reason that we began this Mass with the blessing and sprinkling of holy water to remind us of our baptism by which we were incorporated into Christ's death and Resurrection.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - At the Mass for Reception of the former parishioners of St. Luke's Episcopal Church,Cardinal Donald Wuerl shared some personal observations during his homily as well as his prepared text. The following is the prepared text for the homily from the cardinal's office for the Mass.

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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Washington, D.C.

Sunday, October 9, 2011 9:30 a.m.

MASS AND RITE OF RECEPTION INTO FULL COMMUNION SAINT LUKE'S EPISCOPAL

Homily by His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl Archbishop of Washington


It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to this celebration of reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church. In a particular way, I want to welcome Mark Lewis, who for many years cared pastorally for the Saint Luke community that is now the Saint Luke Ordinariate Catholic Community.

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we see painted for us an image of God's holy dwelling. Isaiah speaks of the holy mountain where God's people rejoice in the great banquet and experience the joy that comes from being with God.

In the responsorial Psalm we are reminded that our hope is that we shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of our life. The eternal house is the great heavenly kingdom, but Jesus came among us to tell us that the kingdom is also present here and now. The beginnings of that kingdom are with us now in his Church.

The Church and the kingdom of God are not precisely synonymous. The Church is the realization on earth of God's kingdom, whose final fulfillment is in eternity. The Gospels tell us that Jesus "went around all Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom" (Mt 4:23).

He taught a reality that was a real part of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish people, which centered on the glorious kingdom that the Messiah would establish. Yet when Christ spoke of the kingdom of God, he was careful to free the idea of the "kingdom" from the nationalistic hopes of the people among whom he lived. To accomplish this, he often emphasized the heavenly aspect of the kingdom and its inherent religious character. The kingdom was an image, a prototype of what Jesus would establish as the beginnings of his kingdom. Christ's kingdom is rooted in this world. Christ shows it to us as something visible, a community called together by him, of which he is the Good Shepherd, the true and lasting Head.

The Church instituted by Christ and alive through the power of the Holy Spirit is both visible and spiritual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the Second Vatican Council: "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men" (Lumen Gentium, 8).

The New Testament is replete with many images that help us grasp the profound nature of the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ, the beginning of the kingdom, the family of God, and the way to salvation. Today, as a part of your faith journey, you come to the Church to complete your initiation into the Body of Christ, the beginning of the kingdom, the Church.

The celebration of confirmation is in its own way a continuation of Pentecost. It is a reminder to all of us that the outpouring of the Spirit did not just happen once in the time of the apostles. Somehow we share in the continuing outpouring of the Spirit and we are instilled with the same power that enables us to overcome doubt, timidity and even fear in our efforts to accomplish whatever the Spirit asks of each of us.

We receive the spiritual power to participate in the transformation of this world - or at least our small part of it - into something wonderful. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, spoke of this when he was with us and celebrated Mass. He told us: "In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah.I have come.to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country.[T]he Church was born of the Spirit's gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ."

There is a sense in which the events that occurred on the first Pentecost are renewed, repeated and reflected in each of us. Pentecost continues. There is still an outpouring of the Spirit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are as much ours as they were the prized possessions of the apostles.

Just as the Spirit of God was given to the apostles, so too today does God continue to bless us with gifts that take their origin in God's own Holy Spirit. There is no mystical divide between the apostolic age and our own. Just as God worked through the apostles and touched the lives of all the believers, so too today does God's Spirit continue to work through the bishops and touch the faithful in our age.

This is why the bishop is the ordinary minister of confirmation. At some point in the initiation into full membership of the Church, the bishop is present to symbolize the connectedness with the local Church and through the bishop to the Church Universal.

That pentecostal experience continues in our own day and is renewed in every baptism and confirmation. Every time we gather in prayer, the Spirit is also present. When we come together as God's faithful people to make more visible the works of justice, truth, peace and love, the pentecostal experience is renewed. The gifts of the Spirit continue to be present. What is new is 3 not the outpouring of pentecostal grace but the recognition that this is our moment to respond to the gifts and to carry on the work of manifesting Christ's kingdom.

We do not do this alone. Jesus invites us to walk with him through life not just as individuals who have come to know and love him but as members of his family - his Church. All who are anointed in the gift of the Holy Spirit are invited into God's family - God's new people - his Church. We speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church because it marks the beginning of the ancient Christian community - the formation of what we recognize today as the Catholic Church spread throughout the whole world.

Your faith journey that brings you to the Lord's Table and to the sacrament of confirmation began with baptism. It is for that reason that we began this Mass with the blessing and sprinkling of holy water to remind us of our baptism by which we were incorporated into Christ's death and Resurrection.

Shortly you will be asked to renew your baptismal promises as a sign of your own faith. You will be asked to make a profession of faith and to claim as your own the faith of the Church, the faith that comes to us from the apostles.

When we come together in celebration, we are much more than a people of the Word - we are a people of the sacraments - especially the Eucharist. It is here that we encounter the living Christ. The Church comes to be and we are made one with her in the breaking of the bread - the celebration of the Eucharist. Here we encounter the living Christ, not as a figure of history but truly present.

Our emphasis on the Eucharist - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass - resonates with the most profound and ancient intuition of the Christian faithful. "This is my Body; this is my Body" - "Do this in remembrance of me" - is constitutive of the Church and our communion with Jesus Christ. Nothing brings us into the intimate contact with the Lord Jesus as fully as does the Eucharistic Liturgy which is the source and summit of the Church's experience of Christ.

In the midst of the Eucharistic Liturgy, we share a sign of peace and then at the conclusion of Mass we are dismissed at its end with the words "Go in peace." We are meant to carry forth from the table of the Lord the grace and blessing we find there in a way that builds up the Body of Christ so that it is seen - it is placed on the lamp stand - the city built on the mountaintop.

Our challenge, then, is not only to rejoice in the gift of the Spirit, but do the works of the Spirit that manifest Christ to others in a way that we bring them to Christ.

Our celebration today is a realization that we are God's family, God's people, the beginning of his kingdom, his Church. And we rejoice in the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacraments of initiation. At the same time, we commit ourselves to live out that blessing in the full communion of the Church.

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Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church. 

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