Cardinal Burke’s Sermon for Last Sunday after Pentecost – Limerick November 2019


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

In today’s Epistle, Saint Paul writes to the early Christians at Colossae, thanking God for the good fruits of his apostolic ministry in their midst. Nearing the end of his earthly life, Saint Paul was taking account of his ministry, in accord with its just measure: eternal life. In fact, a few verses later, in the same first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians, Saint Paul writes that he was, in fact, rejoicing “in [his] sufferings for [their] sake,” knowing that by his sufferings he was participating in the sufferings of Christ “for the sake of [H]is body, that is, the [C]hurch.”[1]

No doubt, the context of Saint Paul’s meditation was Our Lord’s instruction regarding His Final Coming, the consummation of His saving work, when both the justice and the mercy of God will be definitively accomplished. Our Lord teaches us that He will come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” sending out “his angels with a loud trumpet call,” who will “gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”[2] He tells us that His coming will be like the lightning which “comes from the east” and “shines as far as the west,” shedding the divine light upon men and their actions, rewarding the just with eternal life and condemning the unjust to eternal damnation.[3] The perspective of eternity forms us to live in accord with Our Lord’s instruction: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.”[4] Deeply conscious of the final destiny of our earthly days, we want one thing only: to welcome Our Lord with a pure heart and pure hands at His Final Coming.

Regarding the gift of faith and its fruit, love of God and of neighbor, Saint Paul writes to the Colossians:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth …[5]

In thanking God for the practical faith of the Colossians, Saint Paul underlines that the practice of the faith has its source in heavenly grace and its destiny in eternal life. According to the instruction of Our Lord in the Gospel, even though “heaven and earth will pass away,” His “words will not pass away.”[6]

In the perspective of eternal life, Saint Paul also assures these early Christians that he is praying to God for them, that Our Lord might grant them increased knowledge of His will for them and the unfailing commitment to do His will in their daily lives. In praying that they might “lead a life worthy of the Lord,”[7] he reminds his spiritual children that God has granted to them nothing less than “the inheritance of the saints in light.”[8] This is the great Mystery of Faith, the mystery of Christ’s life within us – thanks to His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension – through the outpouring of the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit into our souls. Saint Paul describes the reality of divine grace at work in our souls, thanks to the Mystery of Faith, thanks to the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son: “[God the Father] has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.[9]

Coming to the conclusion of the Liturgical Year, the Year of Grace 2019, we, like Saint Paul, must take account of the work of God’s grace in our lives through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts from the glorious pierced Heart of His only-begotten Son. As we thank God for all of the many graces which we have received during the various seasons of the Liturgical Year – Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, and Pentecost Sunday and the Sundays after Pentecost – , we are also deeply conscious of how much more the Holy Spirit desires to accomplish Christ’s saving work through us. So, like Saint Paul, we also pray, through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that we may place our hearts ever more completely into the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

During the Year of Grace 2019, we have seen around us, sadly in the world and even more sadly within the Church, “the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place.” Man today grows ever more rebellious before God and the good order with which He has created us and for which He has redeemed us from our sins. Man, in his pride, pretends to be God and to govern his personal life and public life according to human standards, instead of the only true standard: eternal life. In the Church, we have witnessed attempts to relativize the Lordship of Christ Who alone is our salvation, claiming that saving grace can also come from the sacrilegious worship of pagan idols. In our gratitude to God the Father who alone “has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” we pray that the Father, through His Son, will give us the grace to combat the sacrilege which so marks our time. We pray that we may ever more “lead a life worthy of the Lord.”[10]

We are deeply conscious that, in these times above all, each one of us will be held accountable for our witness to Christ alive for us in the living Tradition of the Church. Commenting on today’s Epistle, Dom Prosper Guéranger reminds us:

The just man cannot possibly remain stationary in this world; he must either descend or ascend; and whatever may be the degree of perfection to which grace has led him, he must be ever going still higher as long as he is left in this life … Therefore, let us make up our minds to walk worthy of God, ‘with dilated hearts’ [St. Benedict, the Holy Rule], and bravely; for the eye of His approving love will be ever upon us, as we toil along. Oh, yes! Let us run on in that uphill path, which will lead us to sternal repose in the beatific vision.[11]

As we conclude the Year of Grace 2019 and anticipate the Year of Grace 2020, let us not be complacent but rather ever more sensitive to the share in Christ’s suffering, which we are called to embrace for the sake of the Church, of His Mystical Body of which we are living members.

Under the maternal guidance of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Blessed Mother, let us unite our hearts to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus in His Eucharistic Sacrifice. As Christ, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, descends now to the altar to make sacramentally present His sacrifice on Calvary, let us lift up our hearts to His Most Sacred Heart, joyfully embracing His sufferings for the sake of our salvation and of the salvation of countless souls. Let us find in the Heart of Jesus the wisdom and strength to “lead a life worthy of the Lord.”[12]

Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in Thee, have mercy on us.

Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, Protector of holy Church, pray for us.

Saint Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, pray for us.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE

[1] Col 1, 24.

[2] Mt 24, 30-31.

[3] Mt 24, 27.

[4] Lk 12, 35-36.

[5] Col 1, 3-6.

[6] Mt 24, 35.

[7] Col 1, 10.

[8] Col 1, 12.

[9] Col 1, 14.

[10] Col 1, 10.

[11] “Le juste ne peut rester stationnaire ici-bas : il faut qu’il descende ou qu’il monte ; et quelle que soit la hauteur où l’a déjà porté la grâce, il doit toujours, tant qu’il est en cette vie, monter davantage … Marchons donc d’une façon digne de Dieu, joyeux et forts sous le regard de son amour, dans la voie montante qui nous conduit au repos sans fin de la vision bienheureuse.” Prosper Guéranger, L’Année liturgique, Le temps après la Pentecôte, Tome II, 15ème éd. (Tours: Maison Alfred Mame et Fils, 1926), pp. 556-557. English translation: Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, Time after Pentecost, Book II, tr. Laurence Shepherd (Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto Publications, 2000), p. 487.

[12] Col 1, 10.