Addresses, Speeches, Homilies 1984

Eucharistic Celebration – Homily

SEPTEMBER 15, 1984

“Wisdom speaks her own praises, in the midst of her people she glories in herself. I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and I covered the earth like mist” (Sir 24:1,3).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today’s feast finds us united in this City of Toronto, together with Cardinal Carter, Bishop Borecky and the other Bishops, to proclaim God’s eternal Wisdom. The liturgical readings of the Mass lead us in our praise of this eternal Wisdom.

The commemoration of Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows is linked with yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. The mystery of the Cross on Golgotha and the mystery of the Cross in the heart of the Mother of the Crucified One cannot be read in any other way: only in the perspective of eternal Wisdom is this mystery clarified for our faith. Indeed it becomes the beam of a special light in human history, in the midst of people’s destiny on earth. This light is, first of all, in the Heart of Christ lifted up on the Cross. This light, reflected by the power of a special love, shines forth in the Heart of the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross.

For Wisdom also means Love. In Love is the ripest fruit of Wisdom and, at the same time, its fullest source.

In Christ crucified, man has become a sharer of eternal Wisdom, approaching it through the Heart of the Mother who stood beneath the Cross: “Near the Cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala” (Jn 19:25).

Today – perhaps more than in yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross – the liturgy emphasizes the “human” aspect. This is nothing unusual. For in it there is reflected the human Heart of Mary, and beside the Mother is the human Heart of the Son, who is God and Man.

In the Letter to the Hebrews we read the following words about Christ: “During his life on earth he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death” (Heb 5:7). Does this not perhaps evoke for us the prayer in Gethsemane when Jesus prayed that the chalice be removed from him, if possible! (cf. Mt 26:39).

Dear brothers and sisters: the Christ whom we encounter in our liturgy, alongside his own Mother of Sorrows, the Christ who offers his “prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears”, does so as head of humanity – a humanity immersed to a great extent in the promises and problems of technology and tempted to embrace a technological mentality. Christ continues to send forth to his Father his cry for the salvation of the world, for the building of a new earth, one that is more human because it is embraced by the love of a Mother – his Mother and ours.

In this same Letter to the Hebrews we read: “Although he was Son, he learned to obey through suffering” (Heb 5:8). Elsewhere Saint Paul will say: he became “obedient unto death” (Phil 2:8), but here we read: “he learned to obey”.

And together with him, with the Son, his Mother learned obedience – she, who had previously said “Fiat”: “I am the handmaid of the Lord… let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:38).

This cry of the Son’s Heart and of his Mother’s Heart – a cry which from the human standpoint would reject the Cross – is expressed even further in the Psalm of today’s liturgy. This Psalm is a cry for salvation, for help, for deliverance from the snare of evil:

“In you, 0 Lord, I take refuge. Let me never be put to shame. In your justice, set me free, … speedily rescue me. Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold. Release me from the snares they have hidden… Deliver me from the hands of those who hate me.

(Ps 30(31):1-3,5,16).

Since these words of the Psalm reflect the whole “human” truth of the Hearts of the Son and of the Mother, they also express an act of absolute entrusting to God – dedication to God. This dedication is even stronger than the cry for deliverance.

“Into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me, Lord. But as for my trust in you, Lord, I say:  ‘You are my God”  (Ps 30 (31):5,14).

This awareness – “You are my God. Into your hands I commend my spirit” – prevails absolutely in the Heart of the Son “lifted up” on the Cross, and in the Mother’s Heart humanly emptied by the Son’s crucifixion.

We read in the Letter to the Hebrews: “He submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard… but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb 5:7,9). In this consists the mystery of the “Triumph of the Cross”, on which, together with the whole Church, we meditated yesterday.

Eternal Wisdom has embraced all that the Cross of Christ contains.

“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High and I covered the earth like mist” (Sir ?4:3).

So it is: the whole earth has been covered by the mystery of eternal Wisdom, whose real name is Love. “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).

And behold – at the very centre of this “giving himself” through love, from the height of the Cross on which the Son is completely united to the Father, and the Father to the Son – the words resound which confirm his Mother’s presence and her special sharing in the mystery of eternal Wisdom. Jesus says: “Woman, behold your son!” Beside Mary at the foot of the Cross stood John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (cf. Jn 19:26). And he says to John: “This is your mother!”

These words were written by John himself, as an Evangelist. And he added: “And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home” (Jn 19:27).

Eternal Wisdom came into the world and was spoken in the Son who became Man and was born of the Virgin Mary.

Eternal Wisdom embraced then from the very beginning also Mary when it assigned the Son’s dwelling place on the earth: “Pitch you tent in Jacob, make Israel your inheritance” (Sir 24:13). For she is the daughter of Israel; she is from the line of Jacob. She is the Mother of the Messiah!

How marvellously [sp] are the words of the Book of Sirach fulfilled in her – an unknown and hidden Virgin of Nazareth: “From eternity, in the beginning, he created me, and for eternity I shall remain” (Sir 24:9). You, beloved Daughter of God our Father – you were truly foreseen from eternity in Divine Wisdom, since from eternity by this Wisdom the Son was given to us.

You, beloved Mother of God’s Son!

You, Virgin Spouse of the Holy Spirit!

You, who dwell in the tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity!

Truly, you will never cease to be in the very heart of the Divine Plan.

And that which Wisdom proclaims further on in Sirach is also true: “I ministered before him in the holy tabernacle, and thus was I established on Zion… and in Jerusalem I wield my authority” (Sir 24:10-11).

Eternal Wisdom caused all this. And in time eternal Wisdom concealed it – to the point of the emptying that took place on the Cross of Christ. But right there – at the Cross of Christ – eternal Wisdom revealed both your service and your power! And it did so with the words: “This is your mother!”

The only one who hears these words is John, and yet in him all people hear them – everyone and each one.

Mother, this is your service, your holy service!

Mother, this is your power!

By means of this holy service, the most holy service, through this motherly power you “took root in an honoured people, in the portion of the Lord, who is their inheritance” (Sir 24:13).

All of us desire to have you as a Mother, for as such you were left to us by Christ lifted up on the Cross. And this act of his was the fruit of eternal Wisdom. All of us desire your motherly service which conquers hearts, and we long for this power which is the motherly service born from the whole mystery of Christ.

The title Sorrowful Mother means precisely this. Alma Socia Christi means precisely this, for you have been associated with Christ in his whole mystery, which eternal Wisdom reveals and in which we desire to share ever more deeply: “They who eat me will hunger for more. They who drink me will thirst for more” (Sir 24:21).

Dear brothers and sisters: through the liturgy today, Christ’s prayer and entreaty and the love of his Mother are offered for all those who experience the pains and challenges of this world of technology:

  • For all of you who in your ethnic diversity compose the fabric of this great city, striving to remain faithful to your origins, while working together to express your new moral unity in Canada.
  • For all of you who live in Toronto, this heartland of Canada’s industrial and technological development.
  • For all who in one way or another make up the technological society: for workers in industry; all those engaged in activities of finance, commerce, education, publishing, informatics, medical research, the arts; for the leaders in communities; for the direct and indirect employers of millions of people.
  • For the unemployed and all of you who are caught in the coils of an economic crisis and suffer its social effects.
  • For the poor, those who experience alienation and all those who hunger and thirst for solidarity.

Christ’s prayer is for all of you who live in hope, beside a cross that rises to the sky and illumines daily existence with the light of eternal Wisdom. And side by side with you, beneath this cross, there is that loving Mother who has experienced sorrow and understands pain, and who, in her maternity and femininity, offers to all humanity the reassurance of loving care and personal concern for each individual, each human person.

And today I appeal to all of you to view technology within the context of the message of the Cross and to do your part so that the power of technology will serve the cause of hope. Technology has contributed so much to the well-being of humanity; it has done so much to uplift the human condition, to serve humanity, and to facilitate and perfect its work. And yet at times technology cannot decide the full measure of its own allegiance: whether it is for humanity or against it. The same technology that has the possibility to help the poor sometimes even contributes to poverty, limits the opportunities for work and removes the possibility of human creativity. In these and other instances technology ceases to be the ally of the human person.

For this reason my appeal goes to all concerned: to you, labour leaders; to you, business leaders; to you, scientists; to you, political leaders; to everyone who can make a contribution toward ensuring that the technology which has done so much to build Toronto and all Canada will truly serve man, woman and child throughout this land.

And in its final and greatest triumph may technology lead us to proclaim the surpassing magnitude of that Divine Wisdom which makes technology possible, but which from the Cross of Christ reveals the very limitations of this technology. And from the Cross of Christ, Divine Wisdom portrays that new earth which all technology must serve: the one embraced by a Mother’s love. Today we address our prayer to that Mother:

Be a guide to Christ for us, 0 Mary.

Be for us a Morning Star that shines in the heavens of eternal Wisdom, above the horizons of our human world. Amen.

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada