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Talk is cheap; we have to walk the walk

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Mass with Filipino community

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily while celebrating Mass with the Filipino community Sept. 26, 2020, at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami. The Mass anticipated the feasts of San Lorenzo Ruiz, which is celebrated September 28.

The Gospel reading today puts before us the question of honesty and integrity —Jesus through the parable of these two sons unmasks the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees who, as the religious leaders of their people, appear to say “Yes” to God but actually are saying “No” to him by their rejection of first, John the Baptist, and now, Jesus himself.

Talk is cheap — and thus, in doing the Father’s will as people who have become his children through baptism, it is not enough to talk the talk, we have to walk the walk.

San Lorenzo Ruiz not only could talk the talk; he walked the walk. He was quoted as saying that he would rather die a thousand deaths than deny the Savior.

In the second reading today, St. Paul says: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.” 

For Lorenzo Ruiz, an escribano, these were words not only to be copied down on paper but to be lived out in action.

His life — as was the life of St. Pedro Calungsod — was a “yes” to the will of God, a “yes” lived with honesty and integrity even till death.

Lorenzo died in a martyr in Japan; Pedro died in Guam — and the lives of both of these Filipino saints reminds us our baptism calls us to be “missionary disciples.”

To be a “missionary disciple” will not necessarily be easier for us than it was for San Lorenzo or for San Pedro. As Pope Francis has said, we must reject the “globalization of indifference” that would end up excluding or throwing away the weakest and poorest among us.

Too often, the societies in which we live assert values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace but yet at the same time act to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. (cf. Caritas in Veritate). This is to say “yes” but live a “no” — it is to lack honesty and integrity.

Just as the Father sends his Son; and the Son sends the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit sends us into the world to make God known and loved. To be a “missionary disciple” is the vocation of every baptized Catholic. But since the Philippines is the only nation in Asia with a majority Christian population and since Filipinos, because of the phenomenon of migration, are present in almost every country of the world, the vocation to be a “missionary disciple” should certainly describe a Filipino Catholic.

The proof of the truth of the Gospel is its power to change lives. This power is shown especially through mercy and compassion, as Pope Francis continually reminds us. 

San Lorenzo Ruiz witnessed to that power and we pray that through his intercession the Gospel may change our lives. For lives changed by the power of the Gospel is what introduces hope into the world. And that is essentially what the Church offers, what we offer, the world. In the midst of the chaos in which we live — "mourning and weeping in this valley of tears" — the Church offers a path to a future that can be different, a future that is different precisely because the man Jesus Christ, who is also the Son of the living God, lived, suffered, died and is risen from the dead.

Today, our world is suffering from a crisis of hope. We see this in triple crisis we face today. We are faced with a global health crisis because of the coronavirus and linked to this crisis is the disaster of our economic downturn as well as the social turmoil experienced in cities in this country as well as in other parts of the world. We may feel like we are set adrift in uncertain waters. More than ever we need the anchor of hope, that hope that sustained San Lorenzo even in his darkest moments, that hope that is Jesus Christ.

Again, to cite St. Paul in today’s second reading, we are to be “of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” In other words, we must say “Yes” to our Father — and seek to live that yes with honesty and integrity in all the circumstances of our lives. To a world of fragile peace and broken promises, we are to model through “mercy and compassion” what a reconciled world looks like.

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