Homily of Cardinal Justin Rigali
Annual Red Mass for Saint Thomas More Society
Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
October 20, 2008
Distinguished Judges, Lawyers, other Members of the Legal Community,
Public Officials and Legal Educators,
Members of the Saint Thomas More Society,
Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,
I am very pleased to be with you to celebrate the Annual Red Mass, a centuries-old tradition in which we invoke the Holy Spirit to bless and guide the activity of the entire legal community. It is edifying that so many of you who are immersed in the service of order and justice are seeking the guidance, light and direction of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, it is moving and consoling to know that your civil service is enhanced by the practice of your faith and by your openness to reflecting ever more deeply on the law of God written in the human heart and further revealed by Jesus Christ.
I wish to encourage each of you in the efforts you are making to respect and uphold the primacy of God in our society. We all know how difficult it is, at times, to be true to one=s conscience and totally consistent with our Catholic faith. The community of the Church is close to you, dear friends, in your great challenge to help build a culture of life and a civilization of justice, love and peace.
The celebration of this liturgy with all of you calls to mind the important teaching of the Second Vatican Council in itsDecree on the Apostolate of the Laity. Vatican II observed that, AIn the Church there is a diversity of ministry but unity of mission. To the apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing in his name and by his power. But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole People of God. In the concrete, their apostolate is exercisedYwhen they endeavor to have the Gospel spirit permeate and improve the temporal order going about it in a way that bears clear witness to Christ.@ It goes on to say that since the lay state is lived Ain the midst of the world and of secular affairs, lay people are called by God to make of their apostolate, through the vigor of the Christian spirit, a leaven in the world@ (no. 2). Dear friends: each of you is called to embrace that same vigorous Christian spirit! The contribution each of you can make to the world is of enormous importance.
The Liturgy of the Word, taken from the Mass for Pentecost Sunday, offers understanding of the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world. The Apostles of Jesus were gathered in prayer in the Upper Room in Jerusalem when, in the form of wind and flame, the Holy Spirit came upon them with His manifold gifts. Filled with courage and zeal, Peter and the other Apostles began to bear witness to Jesus Christ with eloquence and passion. They preached the need for repentance, the need for Baptism, the need to be immersed in the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We are informed by Saint Luke the Evangelist that three thousand new believers were added to the Church on that day.
Imagine the enormous task that had been entrusted to the Apostles. The Risen Christ had instructed them to Ago and make disciples of all nations@ (Mt 28:19). He also had promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to aid them in their mission: AThe Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name - he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you@ (Jn 14:26). Nonetheless, the Apostles were still human, still hesitant. Initially their hearts had been anxious, their minds confused, their spirits timid. With the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they embarked upon their mission with urgency and with an intensity.
Through the preaching of the Apostles, and the collaboration of so many faithful men and women, the Church grew both in number and in the esteem of many who observed the Apostles. First in Jerusalem, then Samaria and throughout the Roman Empire, people were moved by the words and wondrous deeds of the Apostles, but, even more so, by the consistent day-to-day witness of devotion, charity and courage demonstrated by those who embraced the faith.
Outstanding in the history of the early Church is Paul of Tarsus, former persecutor of the Church who became a great Apostle. Ardent in his observance of the Law, at first Paul saw in the Christian way a threat to the purity of Judaism. Only when, on the Road to Damascus, he encountered the Risen Jesus was Paul transformed. Christ in His glory identified Himself with His Church: AWhy are you persecuting me?@ Then Paul=s former way of thinking gave way to a new understanding that only in Christ do Awe live and move and have our being@ (Acts 17:28).
In every situation, Saint Paul never missed the opportunity to draw people to know Jesus. Furthermore, he reminded them of how they contribute to the spread of the Gospel. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul emphasized that AThere are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit@ (12:4-7).
For all of you who are engaged in such significant matters in the temporal order this teaching of Saint Paul is crucial. God, who has lavished various gifts upon you, has placed you in the sphere of public service and influence, particularly in the realm of law, justice and administration.
The Bishops of the United States, in their document on Political Responsibility, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, noted in Paragraph 9 that: Athe Church=s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.@ And in Paragraph 10: AWhat faith teaches about the dignity of the human person and about the sacredness of every human life helps us see more clearly the same truths that also come to us through the gift of human reason. At the center of these truths is respect for the dignity of every person. This is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching. Because we are people of both faith and reason, it is appropriate and necessary for us to bring this essential truth about human life and dignity to the public square.
In Paragraph 22, Faithful Citizenship reminds us that in standing up for human life and dignity, we must both oppose evil and do good. AThere are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighborY. These are called intrinsically evil actions. They must always be opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion or euthanasia. In our nation, >abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others= (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.@ Friends: you each have a unique and extraordinary opportunity to work with zeal and do your part to help correct and perfect our legal system.
In Paragraph 24, Faithful Citizenship reminds us that we must also do good: AOpposition to intrinsically evil acts that undercut the dignity of the human person should also open our eyes to the good that we must do, that is, to our positive duty to contribute to the common good and act in solidarity with those in needY Both opposing evil and doing good are essential obligations.@
It is particularly important that you who are guided by the light of faith and inspired by the truth make use of your gifts to have a positive influence in a morally declining culture. Just as Christians of old were steadfast and consistent in their proclamation of and witness to the truth, so you, placed by God in the midst of the temporal order, can do so much to improve our society by promoting and protecting the most basic human rightCthe right to life. In so many citiesCespecially our own beloved City of PhiladelphiaCwe witness almost daily the heart-wrenching violence which is the bad fruit of a culture in which the inviolable sanctity of human life is neither valued nor protected. In this situation you are well equipped to be a leaven of life and witnesses to hope.
In this era, when proposed legislation can have a devastating impact upon issues of life and morality, the witness of the Church, and the consistent efforts of the lay faithful to act as a leaven within society, will help to promote a Aculture of life.@ In this regard I cannot emphasize too strongly the important role that all of you, endowed with splendid gifts, can fulfill for the benefit of humanity and the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit continues to inspire new attitudes and new hope in our society. So many of our people, including so many young people, want to restore God to the public sphere and to safeguard His many gifts given to humanity. You, dear friends, are collaborators in the exhilarating mission of defending and promoting human life and human dignity. You are engaged in the transformation of our society as you work to build up a civilization of justice, love and peace. Today, in a special way, we invoke the Holy Spirit upon you and upon the public service that you endeavor to render to our fellow citizens and to all humanity. Therefore, we pray ALord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!@