Card. Burke’s sermon in Houston

With my emphases and comments, Cardinal Burke’s recent sermon…

MAY 9, 2011

Acts 6:8-15
Ps 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30
Jn 6:22-29


Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever!

The trial, condemnation and execution of Saint Stephen Protomartyr is profoundly instructive for us who pray and work for the restoration of the respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent human life in our culture which sadly has become, in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II, “a culture of death.” Saint Stephen was seized and brought before the Sanhedrin for speaking the truth about Our Lord’s Resurrection to those who preferred to hear the falsehood which justified a way of life contrary the law of the Lord. His enemies could not refute the truth which he announced, for he spoke in obedience to the Holy Spirit. They, therefore, resorted to a perversion of justice, to a trial based upon false accusations, in order to have him condemned to death. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles, to which we have just listened tells us that even those “who sat in the Sanhedrin … saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”[1]

When the high priest questioned Saint Stephen regarding the truth of the accusations brought against him, he gave an honest and complete account of his faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all the promises of salvation, given by God the Father to His holy people. But, in the end, as the inspired account tells us, the Sanhedrin “cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him.”[2] They took Saint Stephen out of the city, and there they executed him by stoning. Saint Stephen, for his part, remained faithful to Our Lord to the end, even to the perfect imitation of Our Lord in forgiving those who were putting him to death.[3] Saint Stephen fulfilled, to an heroic degree, the words of Our Lord in the Gospel, who responded to the question about how “to accomplish the works of God” with the instruction: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”[4] His martyrdom is a most powerful witness to the truth of the Resurrection, which we celebrate with greatest joy in this Paschaltide.

Like Saint Stephen, we, too, often experience resistance, even hostile resistance, to our proclamation of the truth of the Resurrection, especially as it is expressed in the Gospel of Life. The resistance may not be physically violent, as it was in the case of Saint Stephen, but it is nevertheless resistance. Our witness is often enough ignored or held to be an expression of extremism. We meet with indifference, or we are chided for a lack of dialogue with our culture and tolerance of a diversity of viewpoint.

In his homily during the Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff, celebrated before the conclave in which he was elected to the See of Peter, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger spoke of how “the thought of many Christians” has been tossed about, in our time, by various ideological currents,” observing that we are witnesses to the “human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error,” about which Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Ephesians.[5] He noted that, in our time, those who live according to “a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church” are viewed as extremists, while relativism, that is “letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’,” is extolled.[6] In his Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, Blessed Pope John Paul II also observed:

Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting.[7] [People who not only partake of the life of the Church, your Joe Bagofdoughnuts, but also very public Catholics, for example those who are in political life, politicians who support abortion legislation or who are in a state of public impropriety and nevertheless receive Communion in a public act, often with the approval or tacit approval of their shepherds.]

Before this not uncommon phenomenon which thoroughly compromises the witness of the Church and her service to the world and its salvation, [the stakes are high] Blessed Pope John Paul II reminded us of our responsibility to confront the situation, with these words:

With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth.[8] [And so he seems to be moving from theory to practice.]

Each of us, in accord with his or her vocation in life and particular gifts [He is getting concrete.] received from Our Lord must be alert to whatever is compromising the proclamation and living of the Gospel of Life in our homes and parishes and other institutions, and must be ready to do our part to establish a strong and steadfast culture of life, beginning in the home and extending to the wider community[How?]

Each of us is called to have the courage of Saint Stephen in announcing the truth of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, created in the image of God and redeemed by the Most Precious Blood of God the Son Incarnate, and in making whatever sacrifices are necessary to protect and foster human life. Each of us is called to recognize Christ in every brother and sister, and especially in the least, the tiniest, the most defenseless who have no one else to defend and protect them. In doing so, we well find the deepest happiness in this life and the fullness of happiness in the life which is to come. When we are ignored, belittled or resisted because of our courageous fidelity to the Gospel of Life, we should pray, as we prayed, with the words of the Psalmist, in response to the First Reading:

Though princes meet and talk against me,
your servant meditates on your statutes.
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
They are my counselors.[9]

[Pray, and vote.]

Those who would resist our testimony to the truth of the Gospel of Life should see on our faces the joy and peace of those who follow the law of the Lord. [This is not a small point.  Often when I speak to people who have strife in their families over issues of the Faith, I will at some point offer the suggestion that they should show to their loved ones who are fallen away or of a different or no faith, that they are joyful in the Faith, that being a Catholic brings joy.  Joy is attractive.  Gloom is not.  Persistent joy is alluring.]

In facing the many and difficult challenges of living the Gospel of Life in our time, let us, in a particular way, call upon the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of God who came to our continent to manifest the mercy and love of God toward all of His children, especially those experiencing any threat to their lives. [Think of the terror of some of the places in the Americas in the centuries before Our Lady appeared in Mexico.] She has assured us that she is with us in the Church as our heavenly Mother. She says to us today, as she said to Saint Juan Diego who felt the challenge of his mission as her messenger:

Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of our joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.[10]

Let us never fail to call daily upon the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization. [New Evangelization.] She will not fail to be at our side as our mother and model of the Christian life. She who is the first and the best of the disciples of her Divine Son is our never-failing intercessor.

Our Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father and, at the same time, alive and active for us in the Church, now comes to meet us in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. He comes to make present anew the outpouring of His life for us on Calvary. He comes to unite our hearts with His glorious pierced Heart, so that we, with Him, may pour our lives in pure and selfless love of one another. With Mary Immaculate, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us place our hearts completely into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as did Saint Stephen, so that they make be purified and strengthened for our mission in the world, above all, the mission of proclaiming and living the Gospel of Life. Let us sustain the life of the Holy Spirit within our hearts through communion with Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the incomparable food which is indeed the Bread of Heaven, His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, given to us for the salvation of the world.

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America and Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer, pray for us.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

[1] Acts 6:15.

[2] Acts 7:57.

[3] Cf. Acts 7:60.

[4] Jn 6:29.

[5] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Mass for the Election of the Roman Pontiff: Monday, 18 April: Homily by the Cardinal who became Pope.” L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, 20 April 2005, p. 3. Cf. Eph 4:14.

[6] Ibid., p. 3

[7] Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Litterae Encyclicae Humanae Vitae, 25 March 1995, no. 95.

[8] Ibid., n. 95

[9] Ps 119 [118]:23-24.

[10] Nican Mopohua, nn. 119-120; Handbook on Guadalupe, p. 200.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. JamesA says:

    Thank you for posting, Father. I was at the dinner and reception the night before, but could not attend the Mass because I had an exam scheduled. What a gentle and humble man– you could tell that he was a little embarrassed with all the attention. From everything I read, much like the Holy Father in that respect.

  2. wanda says:

    Thank you for posting Cardinal Burke’s wonderful sermon. I am passing it along to the pro-life
    group at my Church. We’ve got to get the word out and the word on Cardinal Burke is ‘bravo’. Thank God for him.

  3. benedetta says:

    Especially appreciate the quotation from JPII. “With great openness…” It does not help things to live in denial about this as if it does not concern us all. Nor at this time should it any longer be considered appropriately “pastoral” to neglect it on the level of parish and diocese, institutions of higher learning, as the pretense that it is not happening or that it is not a priority scandalizes our youth who by and large already believe in, and wish to continue to support, the goodness of life as created by God. The neglect by some Catholics to admit that it has become an enormous problem and burden in our midst will increasingly become an enormous issue of lack of credibility, integrity and authenticity in terms of attempts to lead or advise young people. Young people will simply find the message of the culture of death to be not trustworthy. One can already see it playing out in light of Gosnell in Philadelphia and the horrendous statistics. It’s not 1973 anymore, evidently,

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