Homily of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron at CYO Rainbow 2018

From The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop | Issued January 27, 2018

I’m really very grateful to have this opportunity to lead you in the offering of the Holy Eucharist. I particularly want to express my gratitude to all the people who are leaders in the CYO and all of those who have helped organize our time together for this Rainbow Conference. I’m very grateful for that.

The people who picked the readings we’re supposed to hear tonight had a real proper sense of balance, of coordination, because the point is, really, pretty obvious: God makes a promise through Moses and we see, in the Gospel, that the promise we heard about in the first reading is fulfilled. Moses tells the people, as they’re about to come into the Promised Land, “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you; from among your own kin.” And then we hear in the Gospel, the children of Israel proclaim that Jesus is that prophet. He’s the new Moses, in effect. He’s the way that God keeps his word.

The prophet that Moses promised was a solution to a problem. God wanted to speak with his people. That’s the kind of God he is, not aloof, not unable to be contacted, but in fact, from the time of Abraham on we see God take the initiative. God is always looking for a way to address those he loves and wants to call to himself. The problem was, when he spoke to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, it was too much for them – that’s what this reading says. It was too much fire, it was too loud. This was before rock and roll, when things were too loud! It was too much for them. God was, in fact, such a powerful voice, such an intense presence, that the people asked that he address them through a spokesman, and Moses said that’s how it will be.

The way God kept that promise, and solved the problem, is remarkable because yes, he did raise up a prophet, Jesus Christ. But that prophet is God the Son. So, God – being very, very clever – has found a way to speak directly to his people but in a way that they can understand and in a way that is approachable to them.  God doesn’t back off. He did get what he wanted. He wanted to speak directly to his people. That’s how it is when you’re in love. It’s not just enough to pass notes and share letters, but it’s about speaking face-to-face. God took on, we might say, a human face. God took on a human nature. God took on a human heart so that he could speak with his people as the prophet foretold by Moses.

I’d like, in the rest of my preaching tonight, to reflect a little bit about this, about the implications of what we know about Jesus. What we, his disciples, profess to be the case. What here in him is the prophet, the great voice, the great speech, the great presence of the Father to us. So, to make that move, I’m going to ask for a little bit of help. I happened to notice on my way in that my nephew and his wife and the people from Anchorville are here. Where are you seated? I’m not going to ask everybody this question, but I’m going to give you a choice (nobody’s going to have to come up here and be interrogated): If you had the choice between communicating with somebody you love, would you rather have a letter or would you rather do Skype? How many would rather do a letter? A couple. How many would rather do Skype? All right, I think that’s pretty common as an answer. What’s the point about that? Skype, is about the voice, it’s about presence, it’s about a more immediate interaction. It’s about communion, being one whole person there with another whole person. And as better as that would be, all the more important it is to be in the actual presence of someone we love and how we appreciate that.

That helps us understand this marvel of Jesus as the prophet who was predicted by Moses. God found a way to be in most intimate communication with his people without causing fear, without pushing them away, without intimidating them, but in fact, inviting them to hear, inviting them to enter, we might say, conversation, inviting them to be part of this friendship, this communion, between himself and his people. What we call The Covenant. God became a man in order to bring this about. This communion, this face-to-face connection between God and us is so important to God that he sent his only-begotten Son to be this special kind of spokesman, this special kind of prophet so that he could be with us and speak to us person-to-person.

And yet, it is even more marvelous, this way that God adopted in order to be in communication with us because he didn’t only simply become a human being, he humbled himself even more, yet more, becoming obedient unto death. Sharing our mortality and doing it out of love for us, transforming his death, transforming death itself, into a way of communicating to us how important we are to God, how dear we are to the heart of God, so that when we sing that Psalm that the choir led us in, “O that today you would hear his voice.” Yes there are words in that voice that require certain commandments of us, but that’s not the most important part of what God says. What the voice of God says that’s most significant is, “You’re dear to me, you are so precious to me that I gave my son away in order that I could adopt you and make you my own.” O that today we would hear that voice, addressed not to some mass gathering, but that word is spoken to each of us. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to make that word personal so that wherever we are in our lives, whether it’s a time of confusion or a time of triumph, a time of well-being or a time of sickness, a time of youth or, as for me, moving a little bit beyond middle age. But, O today, if I would only hear his voice, speaking to me, speaking to each of you, saying “Do you not know how important you are that I would have given Jesus away just for you and that my hope for you is that, in this world, you will live lives of holiness and that when this world is done you will come and be with me forever?” O that today we would hear this word.

This is the implication of the Gospel today, this is the good news. This is what we’re about as we try to unleash the Gospel and become a missionary church, That we are evangelized. That we embrace this good news. That we’re not just a part of a system or a worldwide conglomerate organization. Roman Catholicism, Incorporated, branch offices on all continents of the world. Like American Express. No. We’re God’s people, living in covenant, in communion, with God, his family, God’s sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and we will live forever. That’s the good news and we’re evangelized.

Not just evangelized, we have to be evangelists. If we know this, if we’ve heard God’s voice speak to each of us and say, “I’ve something for you – eternal life, a reason for living. I have in mind for you a great destiny, something important to accomplish. Your life is of infinite worth to me.” Once we hear that, how can we not seek to share that good news with other people? With those with whom we study, those with whom we work, those in our families, our best friends. How could we keep this to ourselves? We have found the prophet who was promised, who tells us what life is for and who God is and why he loves us.

I mentioned before that each of us hears God speak in Jesus Christ from the place where we are in our lives. I, from pretty soon being 70 years old. Your youth ministers, from their discipleship. But those of you who are young Christians, young disciples, in the name of Jesus Christ I say to you, he speaks to you in your youth and invites you to think about and consider how your choices in life and the possibilities that await you and everything you can accomplish, and indeed the things you might be afraid of in the future, but he wants to be part of that. O if today you would only hear his voice as he tells you that as much as you cherish your future, he cherishes it all the more and sees what it can be and what you can do and how, in the years that you look forward to, you can serve him and glorify him and accomplish something immeasurably important. That you can know Jesus; every day know him better and better through prayer, through study, through the way you treat other people, through your aspirations, through your striving to be good and make the world better and you can share Jesus. In fact, you have a remarkable capacity to share Christ with others. Perhaps there is no witness as great, no megaphone for the voice of Jesus as powerful as you can be in this time in your life.

So, whatever vocation you might have: marriage, religious life, a missionary, no matter what occupation you might take up, hear the voice of Jesus every day, every hour of every day. Hear him say, “My father loves you. I love you and I want to give you eternal life so that we can be together forever, because that’s where friends want to be. That’s where people who are in love want to be.” I need you to do this. As your pastor and father in Christ, in the name of Jesus, I say this: he needs you to be evangelized, to hear the Gospel and to be evangelists, to share this Gospel. I hope you will seriously consider recommitting to this or perhaps making a fresh commitment to respond. We have a chance to do that tonight. That’s what the Eucharist is.

In a way that’s so easy for us to hear in the Eucharist, God speaks. It’s not some frightening thunderstorm, earthquake, fire from heaven. It looks so simple, so plain. It looks like a little wafer of cheap bread. But, O if you would hear his voice when you receive his flesh and say and understand that in its simplicity, in its humility, in the lowliness of the Eucharist, God speaks volumes. More than an earthquake. More than a thunderstorm. God speaks eloquently about how he loves me and how he loves you. God makes his point unmistakable that we are so important to him that he who could do anything, who has made galaxies after galaxies, has been willing and glad to humble himself, to become our food and our drink and to bring that food to us from the cross.

It’s really pretty simple after this. You’re going to meet Jesus. You’re going to have him, with us, in our presence, and you can listen or you can not listen. I pray you will listen. I ask you to pray that I will listen because I need to be evangelized too. I pray that you will listen and I will pray that you answer. That you hear him say, “I love you and I want your love in return.” And that you will say, “Yes, Lord. I love you. I might not be the best lover you’ve ever had, the best friend you’ll ever find, but I will do my best to be my best in loving you as you have loved me.”

I thank you that you let me be the minister for your conversation and Christ’s conversation with all of you.

Praised be Jesus Christ. Now and forever.