October 18, 2012
Editor’s Note: Bishop Patrick J. Zurek delivered the following homily Oct. 9 at the annual Red Mass for the opening of the new Judicial Year at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Amarillo.
A few decades ago Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his now famous “I have a dream!” speech. In those dark days, obscured by the lack of respect, dignity and equality for people of color, this speech spoke of a dream that he had for a society based on equality and justice.
He spoke a New Vision for America in which people were judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the quality of their character. With that speech he gave those who were treated as second-class citizens, Hope! He gave them something to look forward to. He gave them a dream…a vision.
I am told that during sleep, every single person dreams. Professionals tell us that we must enter into a very deep sleep in order to dream. It is called REM sleep, characterized by Rapid Eye Movement. They further tell us that without dreams, our psychological and even our physical health depend on this REM sleep, and hence on dreams!
Today’s First Reading from the Prophet Joel speaks of dreams, also.
“Then…I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream Dreams, your young men shall see Visions…I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” (Joel 3:1-3a)
Jesus had a vision also. His vision was of a new human family build upon witness of those whose lives would be changed through Faith in Him as Son of God. His vision was based on the in-dwelling of the Spirit of God that each person would receive through baptism. The conversion required by each of the Christian Faithful would draw each believer, as a “living stone,” into the one living Body of Christ with Jesus as our head. Jesus has the vision; we, the Body, must execute that vision with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.
Look at our society today. We lack civility! Way too many are unemployed. Greater and greater numbers are on food stamps. The housing market is still in the doldrums! Human life is not respected…life in the womb is expendable! Leadership offers no real solutions to the problems. Not finding employment, our young college graduates often return to their parents’ home.
Our young women and young men are not having Dreams. Our seniors are not having Visions. Our young men and women do not dream of a bright future, success or achievement. Our elderly no longer have visions of the “golden years!” We are in a malaise! Op-Ed pieces around the country speak of a “pervasive pessimism!” One party pledges to “reignite hope!”
Without dreams and visions there is no future for us! However, Jesus does provide a vision. He it is that calls us to go to the treasure house of the Values that the founding fathers of our country knew so well: civility, gratitude, respect for life, sanctity of marriage, “responsibility” that goes along with “rights,” generosity and love and respect for our neighbor.
You are in the “law” profession; some are attorneys, some judges, some may be legislators. You have an objective body of law to create, apply, judge or amend when necessary. You work with Justice, but Law is to be applied with Mercy and Compassion. Basic human values are to be instilled in us once again.
Jesus speaks of a Truth that cannot ever be forgotten. He applies this “truth” to himself when he says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” But Scripture also says that this Truth can only be known through an encounter with the Living Christ who gives us the Spirit of God. It is Jesus himself who said in today’s Gospel Reading:
“When he comes, being the Spirit of truth he will lead you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13)
Apart from God “truth does not exist as an autonomous reality; if it did, it would be an idol. Truth cannot unfold except in an otherness open to God, who wishes to reveal his own otherness in and through my human brothers and sisters.” This otherness is simply the difference in the thoughts and ways of God from the thoughts and ways of humans. For this reason, “truth can only be known and experienced in freedom.” (Benedict XVI, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, # 27)
“A healthy secularity frees religion from the encumbrance of politics, and allows politics to be enriched by the contribution of religion, while maintaining the necessary distance, clear distinction and indispensable collaboration between the two spheres.” (Benedict XVI, Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, # 29)
I have hope! Hope you can…and will do this! We have recently experienced two national political conventions. After the second one, the New York Times published two articles in which they had to admit; the truth had been stretched, exaggerated and, at times, dramatically manipulated. (New York Times, September 5, 6, 2012)
People have a right to the truth!
St. Paul admonishes us in the First Letter to the Corinthians.
“We speak about (the things freely given us by God) not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, in spiritual terms. The natural man does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The one who is spiritual, however, can judge EVERYTHING but is not subject to judgment by anyone.” (1 Cor 2:10b-16)
Jesus is speaking of a truth that is most basic to every society…basic human values…values that are based on the truth of Nature’s God…Natural Law itself! It is a law written on every human heart ever created…by the creator himself.
One of our Catholic spiritual giants is St. Theresa of Avila. She developed a wonderful anthropology of Christian Humanism. She taught that “no human person can ever be complete without Christ.” You see, she realized that God has a dream for each of us, also. Christ has a vision for each of his brothers and sisters. “Christ,” she wrote, “is the only one who can complete the human person. Only in and through Christ can the human person reach the maximum potential that God has for us! God created each of us for a purpose. Only with God can we reach this perfection!” (St. Teresa of Avila)
Ladies and gentlemen, help us to dream again. Create an environment in which we can have visions. Be the ones who cry out today, “I have a dream!”
Help us in Faith Communities to bring the material and spiritual back into a unity. It is not natural for one to only nurture the physical and psychological part of the human person. The Human Person is both material and spiritual. Somehow we must bring them together once again.
I do have hope! It is that soon we, as Americans, can once again shout out,
“Our sons and daughters shall prophesy, our old men shall dream dreams, our young men shall see visions;” (Joel 3:1b-c)
Then will the Word of God spoken through the Prophet, Jeremiah, come to fulfillment.
“I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord…plans to give you, a future… full of hope!” (Jer. 29:11)