Bishop Jugis: Never stop proclaiming the good news of Jesus
Editor's note: The homily was written in advance, but Bishop Peter Jugis had to improvise as the bishops were going to celebrate Mass at the Altar of Blessed John Paul II, but had to change their plans. This is the full text of the prepared homily.
We come to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul during the Ad Limina visit, and today to the altar of Blessed John Paul II, to draw inspiration and courage from the faithful witness of these shepherds of the flock, each of whom in his own time shed his blood in witness to the Gospel.
In the book of his memories and reflections on his years as a bishop, Blessed John Paul II in Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, quotes the words of Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski in 1946, at the beginning of the communist dictatorship in Poland: "Being a bishop has something of the Cross about it, which is why the Church places the Cross on the bishop's breast. On the Cross, we have to die to ourselves; without this there cannot be the fullness of the priesthood. To take up one's Cross is not easy, even if it is made of gold and studded with jewels." (p. 189).
We have all at some point experienced the suffering involved in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. Today, the citizens of North Carolina are voting in a primary election, and considering an amendment to our state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We are the last state in the south to consider a marriage amendment. Because Bishop Burbidge and I publicly supported the traditional definition of marriage, we faced criticism and adamant opposition over the past few months from some sectors of our society. I shared with another bishop my sadness over this criticism of our support for something as beautiful and foundational to society as traditional marriage. We know the lines in the sand are drawn not only on this issue of the definition of marriage, but also on other issues such as religious liberty, and the culture of abortion, and that the bishop is called upon to be courageous in witnessing to the Gospel.
In his book, Pope John Paul II again quotes Cardinal Wyszynski on the courage that is needed by a successor of the apostles to carry out his ministry:
"Lack of courage in a bishop is the beginning of disaster. Can he still be an apostle? Witnessing to the truth is essential for an apostle. And this always demands courage.
"The greatest weakness in the apostle is fear. What gives rise to fear is lack of confidence in the power of the Lord; this is what oppresses the heart and tightens the throat. The apostle then ceases to offer witness. Does he remain an apostle?" (pp. 189-190).
Courageous witness to the truth describes the ministry of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Blessed John Paul II. We recall the words from the Acts of the Apostles regarding the apostles' courage in the face of opposition: "The apostles left the Sanhedrin full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name. Day after day, both in the temple and at home, they never stopped preaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah." (Acts 5: 41-42).
As shepherds of our respective dioceses we ask for the grace to "never stop preaching and proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Messiah."
We realize that we have to set the tone in our diocese. We need to be men of prayer, men after the Lord's own heart, who have an intimate union with Christ, seeking him with all our heart. We know this is where strength for our ministry comes from.
In this regard, Blessed John Paul II set a good example for us bishops.
He inaugurated daily Eucharistic Exposition in Saint Peter's Basilica in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, just a few feet from this altar where we are now, to be a continuous prayerful support for him during his many pastoral journeys around the world in the cause of Christ.
We can never forget the memorable impressions we have of him being absorbed in prayer even during busy public liturgies, for instance at Papal Masses, at the procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the feast of Corpus Christi, and at other times.
In his book he tells how every meeting he had with people was a moment of prayer: "I simply pray for everyone every day," he wrote. "As soon as I meet people, I pray for them, and this helps me in all my relationships." (p. 66).
In his chapel, his prie-dieu was filled with slips of paper containing the names of people he wanted to remember in prayer, and periodically he opened the prie-dieu to read through all the names and intentions written on those slips of paper.
His strong inclination toward contemplative prayer led him to the writings of the great Carmelite mystic, St. John of the Cross.
The Blessed, at whose altar we celebrate Holy Mass this morning, teaches us by his example about the power of prayer for a fruitful ministry.
During these days of our Ad Limina pilgrimage we have the opportunity for prayer and renewal. Every day during our ministry we already carry all the faithful of our diocese in our heart, but these days of our pilgrimage give us a special opportunity to pray for our diocese at the holy shrines of Rome. May we be renewed in our commitment to Christ and His Church, and to the proclamation of the Lord's Gospel.
Bishop Peter Jugis gave this homily at the Altar of Blessed John XXIII May 8 as part of the ad limina visit.
ROME -- Bishop Peter Jugis was the principal celebrant and homilist at a morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. (Photos by SueAnn Howell and CNS.)
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