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Installation of Father Mago at Our Lady of Guadalupe

Homily preached by Archbishop Thomas Wenski on Oct. 16 at the installation of Father Israel Mago as pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Doral.

First, I will say a few words about the gospel today – and what it means for us to be both a citizen and a member of Christ’s faithful. Then, I’ll say something about Father Mago’s installation as pastor on this your parish’s 10th anniversary.

First, something about the gospel today: St. Augustine pointed out in a Book he wrote as he watched the Roman Empire collapse around him, we, Christians, are citizens of both, the City of God and the City of Man. We do well to thank God that the City of Man where we dwell is the United States of America and not the Rome that sent Christians to the lions.

Yet there are inevitable tensions for any City built by men, even a city that shines, as it were on a hill, as a beacon of liberty like our United States of America. For any City built by fallen men will unavoidably reflect man’s fallen nature.

200 years ago slavery was written into the constitution and of course women could not vote. More recently, the right to abortion has been read into our Constitution by our Supreme Court judges.

Having a dual citizenship – one in the City of Man by birthright or naturalization, the other in the City of God through baptism can bring about tensions. No surprise here –but thank God that our forefathers, in establishing our republican form of democracy, did not pretend that they were building heaven on earth. In the 20th century, dreamers of that ilk – men like Stalin and Hitler and Castro - ended up making their nations hells on earth. Our Founding Fathers got it right in setting up a limited government –with checks and balances -in order to provide ordered freedom for its citizens. 

Even what has come to be called “separation of Church and State” although these words are not found in the constitution, was to limit the power of the state over purely religious affairs. In other words, it was meant to keep the State from dictating to the Church. It did not mean that government must be insulated from religious values, or the separation of faith from society. Indeed, from the very beginning of our nation, the participation of God-fearing people in the formulation of our nation’s laws and policies was welcomed and encouraged. 

However, today in America, the role of faith is increasingly under attack. Public institutions whether in government or the media hardly ever take account of the role that religion plays in the lives of most Americans, except to criticize it. And more and more the price of admission to public life is to check one’s faith-based values at the door. When we speak about abortion or rights of immigrants, we are accused of imposing our religious views; when we call for parental rights and choice in education, we are told that we are violating the separation of Church and state. If we defend the traditional understanding of marriage, we are accused of being intolerant. When we call for immigration reform – so that those in an irregular status can find a path to citizenship, we are told that we are mixing religion and politics. Religion is a private matter, we are told. 

As Christians and Catholics we are guided by the words of Jesus who in today’s gospel teaches us “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God”. But in doing so, we understand that Caesar does not stand apart from God but is also subject to God. For this reason, Peter and the other apostles would defy the civil authorities of their day who tied to prohibit them from preaching with the words: “We must obey God rather than men”.

From he earliest days of Christianity, the Church has taught that unjust laws cannot bind our consciences. But our consciences can and must challenge such unjust laws less we become complicit in their evil. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., used to say: The Church is not meant to be the master of the State, nor is the Church its servant, the Church must be its conscience.

We cannot privatize our beliefs – nor, as Americans, are we required to do so. In any case, a privatized religion would not be our Catholic faith.

En el evangelio, Jesús dice: “dar a Cesar lo que es de Cesar”. Pero, también, el insiste que demos a Dios lo que es de Dios. Y, a fin de las cuentas, todo es de Dios – y hasta Cesar tiene que someterse a Dios. Por eso, como católicos no podemos aceptar la idea que nuestra fe es solo un asunto privado.

Hoy hay hasta en este país de libertad hay personas – incluso dentro de la administración actual en Washington – que quieran hacernos callar. Si levantamos la voz contra el aborto, nos dicen que estamos imponiéndonos sobre los demás; si defendemos el matrimonio como una unión entre una mujer y un hombre, nos denuncian como intolerantes; si abogamos por cambios justos en las leyes migratorias, nos critican por involucrarnos en la política. Pero una religión privatizada – no será la de la Iglesia Católica.

When we act as citizens, we do not impose our views. The Church has no army, she has no police force to impose her views; all the Church can do – all we can do as members of the Church and at the same time as members of an earthly City is make our proposition. We don’t impose, we propose – and hopefully in the give and take of the democratic process, we can convince our fellow citizens of the wisdom of what we propose and thereby affect changes in law and custom.

As Catholics we cannot opt out of the political system. In the first place, if we allowed ourselves to be cowered into keeping quiet, in “staying in our place”, we would reduce our selves to being “second class citizens”. In the second place, opting out is not our Catholic way. Opting out would be a failure of charity, a failure to render the service of sharing the good news to our brothers. In our Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue; and, participation in the political process is a moral obligation.

No podemos aceptar que nos tratan como ciudadanos de segundo rango: De acuerdo con nuestra tradición católica, como hombres y mujeres de fe tenemos ser también ciudadanos responsables. Participar en los procesos políticos de la nación no es solamente virtuoso es también obligatorio. Pues, America necesita que nosotros, los católicos, seamos, de verdad, católicos, católicos coherentes: un buen católico será siempre un buen ciudadano. Así, tendremos algo que aportar por el bienestar de esta gran nación. Y como católicos tenemos el derecho y el deber de hacer nuestra propuesta.

What does America need from the Catholic Church today? It needs for us Catholics to be truly Catholic – that’s the best contribution we can make, for in being the best Catholics we can be the best citizens.
Now, a few words about Father Mago and his installation as your pastor: his job is simply to help you become those “best” Catholics.

As I have already tried to make clear our worship of God does not remove us from the world but rather it inserts us in the world in a new way. Yes, as Church, we are called not to be of the world – yet we remain in the world, not to be against the world but to be for it. Christ calls us to be salt – to give flavor to the world; Christ calls us to be leaven – to transform the world.

This requires, on our part, hard work, for one cannot transform the world without transforming first oneself. And this transformation comes about through our keeping the commandments. For the Christian, love is much more than just a sentiment or some passing emotion. For the Christian, love is not about “feeling good” but rather it is about “doing good” Father Mago, as your pastor, is to be a faithful steward of you, the people entrusted to his care, and he is to dispense to you – with single minded and wholehearted devotion – the means of grace by preaching the Word and administering the sacraments.

Después de un año de buen trabajo, yo he venido aquí a nombrar al Padre Mazo oficialmente “párroco” de esta comunidad de fe, esperanza y amor. Lo que el tiene que hacer como su párroco es ayudarles a Uds. para que sean los mejores católicos posibles. Así, serán como sal en esta nueva tierra de los Estados Unidos. Por su ejemplo y su palabra el debe enseñarles fielmente lo que la Iglesia cree y enseña. No habla en nombre propio sino en nombre de Cristo. Como buen pastor debe guiarles a los verdes prados donde podrán descansar. Y através de los sacramentos debe ayudarles crecer en la santidad.

Father Mago, love your people with a shepherd’s heart and feed them, lead them to Christ and teach them gently – by word and example.

Father Mago is entrusted with the “care of your souls,” what in Latin is called the “cura animarum”. He is to carry out his duties “not with a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self control” (cf. Timothy). This care of souls is a three fold task: first, he must teach you faithfully what the Church believes and teaches. He doesn’t speak in his own name but in the name of Christ; second, he must lead you, like the Good Shepherd, to safe pastures and third, he must bring you to greater holiness. In the confessional, in the Eucharist, in the anointing at Baptism, Confirmation and in the care of the sick, Father Mago will strengthen you in the grace that will have you grow in holiness before the Lord.

Father Mago, I am sure, will serve you well; and he will serve not by calling attention to himself but by calling attention to the Lord; he will serve not by seeking his own interests but by putting first God’s will and his people’s good and well being; he will serve not by trying to please everyone – for one who tries to do that usually ends up pleasing no one; rather he will serve you best by trying to please the Lord in all things.

Comments from readers

patricia fairfield - 10/23/2011 03:29 PM
My prayers go to Father Mago. He is a good man and I believe he will be a good pastor.

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