It’s the New Year! And you know what that means…Top 10 lists.
So, while Hollywood and the network news stations are publishing and broadcasting Top 10 lists about everything from commercials to celebrity meltdowns, political gaffes to consumer purchases, I thought I would do something a little different—okay, way different: my Top 10 excerpts from our Holy Father’s homilies in 2010. (Now, if I had my way, it would be more like a Top 500 list, but I had an inkling that such a catalog might be a little overboard for anyone interested in reading this.) In my opinion, each one of these quotes is a gem, a little treasure of wisdom from the Vicar of Christ worth praying with and reflecting on, giving us understanding of our world, Christ, the Church, and hope just in time to begin a new year, and thus a new journey with the God who remains close to us and within us.
10. What is the reason why some men see and find, while others do not? What opens the eyes and the heart? What is lacking in those who remain indifferent…? We can answer: too much self-assurance, the claim to knowing reality, the presumption of having formulated a definitive judgment on everything closes them and makes their hearts insensitive to the newness of God. They are certain of the idea that they have formed of the world and no longer let themselves be involved in the intimacy of an adventure with a God who wants to meet them. They place their confidence in themselves rather than in him, and they do not think it possible that God could be so great as to make himself small so as to come really close to us. Lastly, what they lack is authentic humility, which is able to submit to what is greater, but also authentic courage, which leads to belief in what is truly great even if it is manifested in a helpless Baby. January 6, Solemnity of the Epiphany
Can you think of times when you have been blinded by your lack of trust in God? How about all of those instances when the mystery of Christ’s love for you loses its luster, all because of your own heart’s hardening to His grandeur and your unwillingness to relinquish control over your life and hand everything over to Him? Let 2010 be a year for courage in allowing God to sit in the driver’s seat (where He’s meant to be), humility in that submission, wonder in His ability to work miracles in your life, and hope in the Star that will always guide you to His Sacred Heart.
9. It is important, however, to emphasize that this witness, then just as now, is born from the encounter with the Risen One, is fed by a constant relationship with him and animated by a profound love for him. One can only be his witness if one has had the experience of feeling Christ alive and present “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Lk 24: 39) of sitting at table with him, of listening as he sets one’s heart aflame! January 25, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
The mission of the Church—you and me!—is to evangelize. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I missed a few opportunities this past year to really live out this mission fruitfully. The Holy Father reminds us that our personal witness can only be fruitful if we first establish a profound love for Christ and a continuously deepening relationship with Him in our own lives. In this coming year, let us take the opportunity to tighten our grasp on God’s love, so we can share that love with others.
8. But this God gave himself a Name. He made himself known to us, he initiated a history with human beings; he chose a man Abraham as the starting point of this history. The infinite God is at the same time the close God. He, who cannot be confined to any building, nevertheless wants to dwell among us, to be totally with us. March 28, Palm Sunday
Can you believe that the God who came to Abraham, promising a blessing on all the nations, is the same God that arrived—in time and history—2,000 years ago to fulfil that promise in Christ? This same God is the God who created you, and holds you in existence by His love. We should regularly remind ourselves that the God to whom we pray is the Lord of history—His story, and He can dramatically affect your own story if you let Him.
7. Just as in the affairs of this world it is impossible to achieve great results without self-sacrifice and hard work; just as joy in a great discovery of knowledge or in a true operational skill is linked to discipline, indeed, to the effort of learning, so the way toward life itself, to the realization of one’s own humanity, is linked to communion with the One who ascended to God’s heights through the Cross. March 28, Palm Sunday
My first exam week in graduate school was one of the most trying experiences I’ve had this year. I’m sure you can think of many (and worse) challenges that you’ve faced over the past 12 months. It is in the midst of these challenges that we must raise our eyes to Jesus on the Cross, who endured the greatest trial, knowing that Resurrection would come thereafter. Perhaps in 2011, we can see our challenges not as meaningless, but in light of a higher suffering—a redemptive suffering.
6. Dear brothers and sisters, the entire life of Venerable John Paul II was lived under the sign of this love, this capacity to give himself generously, without reserve, without measure, without counting the cost. What motivated him was love for Christ to whom he consecrated his life, a superabundant and unconditional love. And precisely because he drew ever closer to God in love, he could become a travelling companion for people today, sprinkling in the world the scent of God’s Love. March 29, Holy Mass in suffrage of the deceased Holy Father John Paul II
As you look back on the previous year, can you see the ways you have sprinkled God’s love all around you? Pope John Paul II’s legacy has lived on (and will continue to) long past his bodily death because of the love that remains in every heart that he touched. May we take this next year as a renewed opportunity to aspire to sainthood, spreading love in every corner of our lives.
5. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church throughout her universal history. From the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages…The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with States nor with Federations of States, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier. May 23, Solemnity of Pentecost
Are you ever in awe of the universality and unity of Christ’s Catholic Church? Our Holy Father goes as far as to call this unity the “business card” of the Church—a visible mark of the reality of the oneness of the Church founded by Christ on the rock of Peter. Now, God established two institutions: the Church and the family. Both He intended to be built upon unity and flourish it. Is your family reflecting the unity of the Catholic family, the Church?
4. This audacity of God who entrusts himself to human beings – who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in his stead – this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word “priesthood”…Together with the whole Church we wanted to make clear once again that we have to ask God for this vocation. We have to beg for workers for God’s harvest, and this petition to God is, at the same time, his own way of knocking on the hearts of young people who consider themselves able to do what God considers them able to do. June 11, Holy Mass concluding the Year for Priests
Are you praying fervently for an increase in vocations? If not, it’s time to step it up! I am so grateful for all of the holy priests in my life, and it is my responsibility and privilege to pray for these holy servants of Christ who bring us Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist. A miracle happens every Mass at the hands of the priest—and who doesn’t want more vessels through which God works miracles?
3. The Church is an immense force for renewal in the world. This is not, of course, because of her own strength but because of the power of the Gospel…The challenges of the present time, the historical and social and, especially, the spiritual challenges, are certainly beyond the human capacity…However, there was not and there is not hunger solely for material food: there is a deeper hunger that only God can satisfy. Human beings of the third millennium want an authentic, full life; they need truth, profound freedom, love freely given. Even in the deserts of the secularized world, man’s soul thirsts for God, for the living God. June 28, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
Blessed Mother Teresa spent her whole life among the poor. But she constantly reminded the West that there was a greater poverty of which we must continuously work to alleviate: spiritual poverty. I saw a TV news segment on “top celebrity meltdowns of 2010” the other day. At the end of the segment, the guest celebrity psychologist commented that America is seeing a general decay in morality, and celebrities simply reflect this—just to a higher degree. We must bring our faith, the faith of the Church—more often and to more people—in order to give those in our culture a story to their lives, a narratio, a meaning for their existence. They are thirsting for the living water of the Gospel, of Jesus Christ.
2. Faith, therefore, is Mary’s greatness, as Elizabeth joyfully proclaims: Mary is “blessed among women”…because she believed and lived uniquely the “first” of the Beatitudes, the Beatitude of faith…Dear friends, let us not limit ourselves to admiring Mary in her destiny of glory, as a person very remote from us. No! We are called to look at all that the Lord, in his love, wanted to do for us too, for our final destiny: to live through faith in a perfect communion of love with him and hence to live truly. August 15, Solemnity of the Assumption
How often have you entrusted your pains and sorrows, your joys and triumphs, to our Blessed Mother this past year? Our Heavenly Queen is a model of purity and holiness, the Queen of Saints and the Mother of God. You want a deeper relationship with Christ in 2011? Grow in relationship with His Mother, who will, undoubtedly, draw you closer to her Son.
1. This child is truly Emmanuel – God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth. He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God’s own peace…This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the “rod of his oppressor” is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the “garment rolled in blood” (Is 9:4f) still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God’s closeness. We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfill the prophecy that “of peace there will be no end” (Is 9:7). We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world – the “kingdom of righteousness, love and peace.” December 24, Christmas (Midnight Mass)
Did you do everything within your abilities to make it to Mass more frequently over the previous several months, to receive the peace that God has in store for you in the “world-encompassing breadth” of the Holy Eucharist? St. Pius X said that Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven. Furthermore, are you preparing yourself for Heaven—everyday? Christ’s coming at Christmas should remind us of our need to prepare ourselves for His Second Coming. This next year, let us be able to say with conviction, “Find us ready, Lord!”