Cardinal Burke's Homily While Visiting Ireland for Liturgy Conference

«Our reflection upon the struggle to practice justice which is the minimum and indispensable condition for love helps us, in particular, to see how to live faithful Christian lives in a society marked by the culture of death»

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Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, was in Ireland to attend the 6th International Saint Colman’s Society on the sacred liturgy. While in Cork, the cardinal officiated at several liturgical events in the city, including a Pontifical High Mass last Sunday, during which he gave the following homily;

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever.  Amen.

Saint Paul provides for us today a fundamental lesson on justice which is the minimum and yet indispensable condition for the fulfillment of the vocation to divine love to which each of us is called, according to our state in life and vocation. Justice finds its first and highest expression in the worship of God. By means of divine worship, we recognize that we have come from the hand of God and that He has written His law upon our hearts, guiding us to happiness during the days of our earthly pilgrimage and to the fullness of happiness when we reach the destiny of our pilgrimage: our lasting home with Him – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in Heaven, in the company of the angels and all the saints.

Our worship of God is the fullest expression of the Fear of the Lord which, as the Gradual reminded us, God teaches us.[1] Fear of the Lord draws us near to God, with humility and confidence, so that we may be enlightened, and our faces may not be put to shame.[2] It is, in fact, in the act of giving worship to God “in spirit and in truth”[3] that we receive the grace of a pure and selfless heart disposed to act justly, to obey God in all things, honoring the truth which He has inscribed in our human nature and in all of nature by His creative hand. It is through worship of God that God gives us a share in His justice by which we live ever more faithfully the truth in love. Let us recall the words of Our Lord in today’s Gospel:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven.[4]

Let us pray that, uniting our hearts to the Heart of Jesus, we will bring forth the good fruits of a just and holy life.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his classic work on Sacred Worship, The Spirit of the Liturgy, has reminded us of the inseparable relationship between true worship of God, and a good and upright life. He wrote:

Worship, that is, the right kind of cult, of relationship with God, is essential for the right kind of human existence in the world. It is so precisely because it reaches beyond everyday life. Worship gives us a share in heaven’s mode of existence, in the world of God, and allows light to fall from that divine world into ours…. It lays hold in advance of a more perfect life and, in so doing, gives our present life its proper measure.[5]

According to divine wisdom, we only understand the truth, the goodness, and beauty of our own being and of the being of the world sub specie aeternitatis, under the aspect of eternity, under the aspect of our origin in God and our destiny in Him.

Let us then reflect a bit more attentively upon the teaching of Saint Paul. Addressing our early ancestors in the faith, Saint Paul reminded them of how they, because of the effects of original sin, had thought to free themselves, through sin, from the demands of justice, the demands of a right relationship with God, within themselves, with others and with the world. He asked them to reflect upon the fruits of this so-called freedom from justice, the fruits of a life of sin, which he sums up with one word: death. He declared:

But what fruit had you then from those things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of these things is death.[6]

He invited them to recognize the self-deception of a life of sin, to acknowledge that the failure to respect the right order which God has placed in our human nature and in nature itself can only result in violence and death.

He then urged them to discipline their lives “as slaves of justice unto sanctification.”[7] He invited them to recognize the profound and lasting happiness which the practice of justice, leading to an ever holier life, had brought to them. He declared:

But now set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and as your end, life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is life everlasting in Christ Jesus our Lord.[8]

The recognition of the source of happiness in holiness of life means, at the same time, the resolve to engage in the struggle, with the help of God’s grace, against the effects of original sin in our daily living.

Writing about the desire to know the truth, Dom Prosper Guéranger reminds us that following the way of truth demands the unfailing practice of justice. He teaches us with these words:

Do thou love and desire, at the very outset, and above all things, this object which is so worthy of thy possession; but, let the ardour which burns within thee show itself, first of all, by its leading thee cheerfully to endure the fatigues of the road which leads to the prize, towards which thy love is all directed. Yea, and when thou has reached it, remember, thou wilt never enjoy beautiful truth in this life, without having, at the same time, still to cultivate labourious justice.[9]

It is precisely the truth of Saint Paul’s words, so masterfully taught by Dom Guéranger, that we experience directly in Sacred Worship, above all, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. When we worship God “in spirit and in truth,”[10] we enter into the Sacrifice of Christ, embracing the suffering by which, in the words of Saint Paul, we “fill up in [our] flesh [the sufferings of Christ] for his body, which is the Church” [11], while, at the same time, we receive from Christ, from His glorious pierced Heart, the grace to live the truth in love of Him and of our neighbor, especially of the neighbor most in need, no matter how great the struggle.

We contact directly the truth about justice and holiness of life, above all, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. By means of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Christ, God the Son incarnate, makes present anew the Sacrifice of Calvary, the most perfect act of His obedience to the will of the Father and, therefore, the perfect expression of Divine Love. From His glorious pierced Heart, Christ pours out, without measure and without cease, the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit by which we are taught justice and strengthened to practice it for the sake of love of God and of our neighbor.

Our reflection upon the struggle to practice justice which is the minimum and indispensable condition for love helps us, in particular, to see how to live faithful Christian lives in a society marked by the culture of death. As we approach the altar of Christ’s Sacrifice, we are deeply conscious of the critical situation in which the practice of justice finds itself in many supposedly advanced nations. More and more, we witness the violation of the most fundamental norms of divine natural law, written upon every human heart by God, in the policies and laws of nations, and in the judgments given by their courts.

Justice founded on obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, first of all, safeguards and defends the inviolability of innocent human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death, and the integrity of the faithful and indissoluble union of man and woman in marriage through which spouses, in cooperation with God, create and nurture new human life. Yet, the governments of so-called free nations dare more and more to compel individuals and institutions entrusted with the stewardship of life and the family to violate the most sacred tenets of the conscience by cooperating in egr
egious violations of the natural moral law.

The reality of the situation is cloaked in a false garment of justice. The direct taking of human life at its very earliest stages of development and the direct abortion of infants in their mother’s wombs is, for example, justified as the research necessary to find cures for dread diseases or as necessary for so-called “reproductive health.” The violation of the integrity of the marital union is justified as the practice of tolerance without respect for the prior demands of truth and charity. The present situation in many nations of the so-called “First World” is rightly the source of our deepest concern. The lives of millions of our unborn brothers and sisters have been and continue to be legally destroyed through embryonic stem-cell research and procured abortion; the lives of those who have the first title to our respect and care – the seriously ill, those with special needs and those advanced in years – are increasingly viewed as a burden to be eliminated from society; our laws presume to redefine marriage and the family, the first cell of every society, in defiance of the law of nature; and the freedom of conscience is denied to individuals, even taxpayers in general, and to institutions by means of policies and laws which demand cooperation in acts which are always and everywhere evil.

We see before our eyes the evil fruits of a society which pretends to take the place of God in making its laws and in giving its judgments, of a society in which those in power decide what is right and just, according to their desires and convenience, even at the cost of perpetrating mortal harm upon their innocent and defenseless neighbors. It is the kind of society which we have rightly deplored and against which we have so often fought at the greatest human and material cost. It is a society which has abandoned its Judeo-Christian foundations, and above all, the fundamental obedience to God’s law which safeguards the good of all. It is a society which embraces a totalitarianism masking itself as the “hope,” the “future,” of a nation. Our faith, as Saint Paul has powerfully reminded us today, teaches us that such a society can only produce violence and death, and in the end destroy itself.

The situation, profoundly disturbing as it is, cannot be for us a cause of discouragement, let alone abandonment of the pursuit of the justice which comes from God and, therefore, serves the good of all without condition or boundary. Uniting ourselves to Christ in His Eucharistic Sacrifice, we accept not only our portion of His suffering for the sake of justice[12] but are also filled with confidence in His victory over sin and the forces of evil. Praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the leaders of our society from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, from His Eucharistic Heart, we must be completely honest about what justice demands of them in our time, even engaging in public demonstrations, in order that the voice of truth be heard in our society. We ask the Holy Spirit to instruct the hearts of our leaders, so that they realize that the only way to serve justly is obedience to the law of God written upon their hearts, lest they claim, like the false prophets, to be friends of God, while, at the same time, they violate grievously the most fundamental tenets of His law: respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, for the integrity of marriage and the family, and for the free exercise of a rightly-formed conscience.

Christ now makes present for us the immeasurable and unceasing outpouring of His love on the Cross. From His glorious pierced Heart, He pours out upon us all the healing and strength of the Holy Spirit. Let us lift up our hearts to His Eucharistic Heart, let us be one with Him in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, so that we may have live justly, loving God and our neighbor. Let us lift up to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus those charged with the leadership of nations, imploring for them the gift of obedience to God and His law, the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit to inspire and strengthen them in doing what is just and right on behalf of every brother and sister, without condition and without boundary. Let us pray that we may all live with ever greater integrity the divine truth and love which we now encounter in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, pray for us.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, pray for us.

[1] Cf. Ps 33 [34], 12.

[2] Cf. Ps 33 [34], 6.

[3] Jn 4, 23-24.

[4] Mt 7, 21.

[5] “Anbetung, die richtige Weise des Kultes, der Gottesbeziehung, ist konstitutiv für die rechte menschliche Existenz in der Welt; sie ist es gerade dadurch, dass sie über das Leben im Alltag hinausreicht, indem sie uns an der Existenzweise des »Himmels«, der Welt Gottes, beteiligt und damit das Licht der göttlichen Welt in die unsrige fallen lässt…. Er greift voraus auf ein endgültigeres Leben und gibt gerade so dem gegenwärtigen Leben sein Maß.” Joseph Ratzinger, Gesammelte Schriften, Band 11, Theologie der Liturgie: Die sakramentale Begründung christlicher Existenz  (Freiburg: Herder, 2008), p. 38. English version: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, tr. John Saward (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 21.

[6] Rom 6, 21.

[7] Rom 6, 20.

[8] Rom 6, 22.

[9] Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book II, tr. Laurence Shepherd (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 180.

[10] Jn 4, 23-24.

[11] Col 1, 24.

[12] Cf. Col 1, 24-26.

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