Father Groeschel to the Legion of Christ
"This Is Not the Legion of Anybody Except of Christ"
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THORNWOOD, New York, MARCH 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a homily given Feb. 20 by Father Benedict Groeschel, one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, when he concelebrated Mass at the formation center of the Legionaries of Christ in Thornwood.
Father Groeschel hosts Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel on EWTN, directs the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and teaches pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York and at the Institute for Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia.
Well, brothers and sisters, I'm delighted to be here and grateful to God that I can talk, because I came down with laryngitis yesterday. And I wanted to be with the members of the Legionaries and of Regnum Christi in a time that obviously is one of great suffering, of pain, but also of promise.
It happened just by an unusual circumstance that this little book of mine, "The Tears of God," arrived yesterday. I wrote it and sent it to the publisher a year ago. The name of the book is "The Tears of God: Persevering in the Face of Great Sorrow and Catastrophe." And so I brought several copies with me. It's hardly a book; it's a long essay with prayers, but I hope that it will be helpful to you all.
And first of all, let me say that the Legionaries have many friends, and I've been on the phone with a number of members of Regnum Christi who are friends and associates of mine, especially through the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, which I am a faculty member of. And I'm so delighted to know that the spirit of the Lord is with you in this time of suffering and that people are holding on.
Now: "You all need reform!" We ALL need reform! When do we need it? Every single day, no matter what goes on. Send anybody around to me who says, "They need reform!" and I'll tell them, "Wake up, smarty!" Our Divine Savior says, "The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news." And that is something that must go on every single day.
When I was a young fellow, fourteen years old, I saw a book: "The Confessions of St Augustine." And I started to read it. The only translations were old Anglican translations in very stilted language: Dr. Pusey's translations. And it intrigued me. (I skipped over the parts about the Manicheans.) But the whole story of St Augustine, not only his conversion, but also his great belief on every page that God, that Christ, called to him no matter what was happening, even before his conversion. He wrote, "You called me with an unheard voice, and you pushed me on with a hidden goad."
Right in the first paragraph, there is a sentence. It almost knocked me on the ground when I read it: "You have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." And down through the ages, the spirit of St. Augustine has guided religious orders in the West over and over again (St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, many, many others... St. Ignatius). And on into modern times. "You have made us for yourself, oh God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
And in St. Augustine, you read a great deal about human weakness, about how much we need every day to be converted. You'll never read in St .Augustine: "We've arrived." Absolutely not.
And at times, in individual lives, and sometimes in corporate lives, events occur which are difficult for us to comprehend, to get our arms around. And often, not always, but often, the answer is a personal, individual call to repentance on our part, on OUR part. And the willingness to go on.
The friars, work with the poorest section of society, and we get along very well with humble people. Right during the priests' scandal, this great scandal four years ago, two of our brothers are walking down Broadway. It's a little hard to miss us, you know. (At least we LOOK religious; I wish we WERE that religious.) And this truck driver with a leather jacket and a handful of keys walked by the two brothers. He turned around and he says, "Hey brothers, don't let the turkeys get you down."
It's a great motto. Now, it's not elegant, and those of you who speak English in a second language: get someone to explain to you why they call them turkeys. (How do you say it in Spanish? "Pavo" is turkey?)
Now, what goes on is that each individual soul is called in the way that the Holy Spirit calls us to turn all of the events of life -- successes, failures, joys, sorrows, virtues, and even sins -- to turn them all into our personal repentance and following of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Legionaries of Christ were built and sustained by a deep Christological theology and devotion. It will stand you in the best stead at this time. This is not the Legion of anybody except of Christ.
And I encourage you... my little book is about this. That's Christ on the cover with tears running down his face. This painting was made in the 19th century. No one knows who made it, but it shows Christ in the agony, crowned with thorns, and the tears running down his face. The tears of Christ are the tears of God. He weeps with us. He wept in the garden. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Don't ever, ever think that he does not weep even now.
If you look at the religions of the world, there are unique qualities about each of them, that were founded by sincere people, far away from Christianity, and perhaps with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in those cultures: Buddhism, for instance. And in those religions, God never suffers. In the Jewish religion, from which we come, God gets mad. He gets annoyed. He also gets happy; he rejoices when things are going well. But in Christianity, God suffers. An incredible, impossible thought. The absolute, infinite, divine being, eternal, unchangeable... That he could weep: This is the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ comes and weeps with us. He suffers with us. We have the unthinkable reality of a God who dies. Incomprehensible. Theologically, we have explanations through the Councils of how it could happen, but it's a mystery of mysteries. And the devotions of the centuries, especially of the Sacred Heart, reveal that Christ in a mysterious way suffers with us today.
Pope John Paul quoted the French writer Léon Bloy that "Christ is on his cross till the end of the world in his Mystical Body." And so Christ suffers with you in a very special way.
Years from now, you'll think back on these difficult days, and I hope you'll remember that Christ suffered with you. Let the cross be your guide. St. Augustine says, "When the cross was first preached to the few who believed, it was mocked by the multitudes. But by the power of the cross, the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and even the dead rose so that even among the powers of this world, men would come to believe that there is, in fact, nothing more powerful than the humility of God." Nothing more powerful than the humility of God.
And if I may say this as a friend to your community, this is a time when the face of Christ, covered with tears and sweat, calls each of us to participate in the humility of God. Amen.