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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: August 3, 2014
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the closing Mass for the Ozark Liturgical Conference at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 and for the closing Mass of the Arkansas Catholic Charismatic Conference at the Wyndham Hotel in North Little Rock on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014.
"The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew." These are the words with which Pope Francis begins his great apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel" (which was the theme of today's Ozark Liturgical Conference of which this is the closing Mass).
In this document, Pope Francis emphasizes that the most fundamental task of the Church is the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus and what this means for us: that we are set free from the power of sin and death and given a share in his victory. This proclamation invites us to a personal encounter with the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, which in turn produces in us an irrepressible passion to share this gift with others in everything we do. And this leads to a Church that is permanently in a state of mission and Church structures that are mission-oriented. What a powerful message. But also, what a big challenge.
If we have only our own strength and talents and good will to rely on, we'll never succeed ... but we're not in this alone. Empowered by the love of Christ described by St. Paul in today's second reading we can overcome all obstacles; and fed with the Eucharist prefigured in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, we are surprised to discover our deepest needs and the deepest desires of our heart to have been satisfied in a way we would never have expected, just like the people in today's Gospel.
We are surprised to discover our deepest needs and the deepest desires of our heart to have been satisfied in a way we would never have expected
I ask your indulgence today, because today's Mass has special significance for me personally. Not only is today my anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, by God's design today's second reading just happens to contain — in a different translation — the quote on my ordination card from 34 years ago: "I am thoroughly convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger from heaven nor ruler of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither the highest of walls nor the deepest of chasms, nor anything else in God's whole creation has any power to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
And if I were to print up a new card today, I'd use the same quote. It is the love of God which I have experienced in Jesus Christ that has enabled me to turn to the Lord for strength and understanding amid all the trials that have ever come my way: trials coming from within me — the temptations I face and my own sins, and problems coming at me from outside myself.
And then, in addition to the quote on my ordination card taken from our second reading, today's Gospel touches on the heart of our call to follow Jesus. What do we see here?
The meaning of this passage for me as a priest and now bishop is obvious, but look at what it also means for you. You too are called to sacrifice your life for others. You too are called to allow your heart to be moved with pity for others, and find a way to help people with their physical and spiritual needs. Think of the great humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied minors — and adults — who come here fleeing violence in Central America.
Think of the need that people all around you have for a personal encounter with the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, opening the way for them to have a place at the table of the eucharistic banquet of the Lord! "The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew."
You have been called. You have been set free. You have been empowered. And now, Jesus sends you forth to share the gift you have received with others!