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Homily at Holy Hour

Knights of Columbus Gathering

It is a privilege to accept the invitation of Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant to reflect with you, my brother Knights, your ladies, whose presence is another sign for your support of our Order, and other family members and friends, on the word of God proclaimed in this Holy Hour.

Your theme, "Open Wide the Doors to Christ," is a theme the Church Universal takes to heart as we prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

For us in the Western Hemisphere the Holy Father applied the Jubilee theme in a specific way when he came to Mexico in January and gave us his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation entitled, Ecclesia in America, "The Church in America." In it he summed up and added to the discussions of the Synod of Bishops’ Assembly for America, which had met in Rome in 1997. (Incidentally, Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant was a participant at the Synod, offering his witness to the faith and concerns of the Catholic laity of America.)

In Mexico City, as in Rome, Pope John Paul II made it clear to us why he called our gathering a synod for America. He wanted us to understand that in this one hemisphere, for all our geographic and linguistic differences, we of the Church share a single calling. He said, "The decision to speak of America in the singular was an attempt to express not only the unity which in some way already exists, but also to point to that closer bond which the people of the continent seek and which the Church wishes to foster as part of her own mission." The way to strengthen that bond, he indicated, is to live out the synod theme, "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America."

The Holy Father spoke of the "Living Jesus Christ." This is the very Christ for whom we prepare to "open wide the doors." You Knights are helping to "open wide" the doors of St. Peter’s in Rome, with the enormous task of redoing the magnificent atrium at the entrance of the Basilica built over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. You are opening wide your own hearts in this and other activities of prayer and spiritual preparation for the Great Jubilee.

Early in his exhortation, Pope John Paul recalls the Gospel accounts of those who actually met the living Jesus Christ. Their experiences can be ours, even this afternoon, as we recall our own meeting with the living Jesus Christ at the Eucharist this morning and now are gathered in his presence.

Ours now can be the open attitude of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well. He asked her for a drink of water and stirred in her own heart a thirst for something deeper, something far greater than she could understand. He spoke to her of a "living water" and she was touched in her inner heart of hearts.

"Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst." (Jn. 4:15) Even though she did not yet understand, she was asking for this living water, the transforming gift of love built on faith. When Jesus reveals to her that he is the Christ, the anointed one of God (Cf. Jn. 4:26), she feels impelled to tell the other townspeople this good news, the news that she has found the Messiah. In this good news we too rejoice on the eve of the Great Jubilee.

Then there is the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, St. Luke reports, "and a wealthy man." (Cf. Luke 19:1-10) Zacchaeus has heard about Jesus, he is eager to see him, but he is a short man. We can see him running along side the crowd, craning for a glimpse of the one whose teachings and signs have attracted so much notice. He spies a sycamore tree and quickly climbs up to a perch with a good view of the road beneath. When Jesus passes by, he shouts to gain his attention. The Lord responds with words that must have startled and delighted Zacchaeus, "’Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘he has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.’"(Lk. 19:5-10)

Zacchaeus has had a profound change of heart. Jesus has touched him, even as he had touched the woman at the well. Of each he asked a material, a temporal favor. In return to each he gave the deepest joy, the joy that comes with surrender to him in the act of faith. This afternoon we give him some of our time and, for these moments of prayer, all of our attention. May he embrace us as he did them.

There is one more incident to be remembered. Again, it is St. Luke who draws us into the event. It was Easter, the day of the Resurrection. We see the two disciples plodding on their way from Jerusalem north to the village of Emmaus. As they walked along, they talked in sorrow and confusion about what was done to Jesus on Good Friday and about the rumors they had heard of his resurrection.

"Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." (Lk. 24:16) He asked them about their conversation. Downcast, they repeated what had happened, how Jesus, "a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" was handed over and crucified. They told of the hope they had reposed in him and of their discouragement. They mentioned also the rumor that he was alive but added that some had gone to the tomb and found it empty, "but him they did not see." Then, as you recall, Jesus began to speak, still not revealing who he was. He reviewed the teachings of Moses and the prophets, summing up, "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

When they reached Emmaus, they persuaded their companion to join them for supper. "…While he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?’"(Cf. Lk. 24)

The disciples forgot their meal, their plans to stay the night and immediately set out on foot to walk the seven miles back to Jerusalem, where they found the Apostles. They heard those they found with them in the Upper Room saying, "The Lord is truly risen and has appeared to Simon!" They told how they too had seen the risen Jesus and came to know him in the breaking of the bread.

For these two, and for us, God’s word is broken open, and we, like the disciples, learn again the excitement of listening to Jesus, and being sent by him to tell others of the joy we experience, as we meet the Risen Lord.

For our reflection this afternoon a passage from the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount has been proclaimed. This lifts up for us a point Pope John Paul made in his exhortation, when he told us that reading the sacred scripture and thus "listening to Jesus as attentively as did the multitudes on the Mount of the Beatitudes, or on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias as he preached from the boat, produces authentic fruits of conversion of heart." (Ecclesia in America, no. 12)

This passage from the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel is a marvelous key to opening up for us the thrust of the Jubilee message.

Jesus begins, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." What does it mean for us who live in most affluent culture, in the most materially blessed land, in human history? While it is true that many do suffer from want in our country, they do so among so many who enjoy the use of means beyond the imagining of most of our ancestors and of many of our neighbors on this planet.

The Holy Father reminds us that the corporal works of mercy offer us ways in which we can show that we are dependent on God and not on created things. The many works of charity you do as a Supreme Council and through your State and local Councils express a willingness to reach out to those in greater need in the name of the Lord Jesus. These are recited in the annual report, but they take on deeper meaning when seen as reflecting the "attitude of Jesus, who came ‘to proclaim good news to the poor.’(Lk. 4:18)" Pope John Paul asks us to see in the service of the poor a work which can show forth God’s infinite love, even as it communicates the hope of salvation which Christ brought to the world. He describes this as "a hope which glows in a special way when it is shared with those abandoned or rejected by society." Several years ago Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke to this convention of the care and love of the "poorest of the poor" for the name of Jesus. We could hear her joy and share her joy as she broke open for us the inner meaning of what it is to be "poor in spirit" even as she lived for God a life that was dramatically poor in fact.

Pope John Paul goes on to make a point which is a favorite of his: "The constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church’s social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs though individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal." (Op. cit., no. 18) This dimension of our Christian calling comes to bear especially when, as citizens who are also people of faith, we participate in the public policy-making and political processes of our land.

Says the Holy Father, "Fraternal charity means attending to the needs of our neighbor. "If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 Jn. 3:17) Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise ‘all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good.’ (Proposition 34)" Says the Holy Father, "Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. (Cf. Lumen gentium, No. 31)

Jesus said, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." In the context, Jesus is talking about mourning not the dead, but the spiritual death that comes with sin. How clearly do we understand this? How much does the sacrament of Penance, the rite of reconciliation, mean in our own lives? Do we help the young among us by our own example? Do we need now to refresh our understanding of this sacrament, in which the living Jesus Christ comes as a doctor and healer of our innermost self, offering not only his mercy, but also strength to combat and to overcome the faults that we confess.

Pope John Paul wrote clearly about sins that not only we as individuals but our whole society must mourn. And in Mexico City and in St. Louis he spoke out about these sins and sinful attitudes with deep feeling. He made his own the words of the synod members in denouncing "social sins which cry to heaven because they generate violence, disrupt peace and harmony within … nations, between nations and between the different regions of the continent." Such are "the drug trade, the recycling of illicit funds, corruption at every level, the terror of violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, inequality between social groups and the irrational destruction of nature." (Ecclesia in America, No. 56) These issues, sadly, are close to us in the United States: we read and hear about the effects of the drug trade in our cities and local communities throughout the land; we need to be reminded, perhaps, of the corruption which accompanies the huge amounts of money raised and expended in connection with political campaigns and governmental lobbying. The continuing painful wounds relating to racial discrimination still must be nursed and healed, and the pain is more acute as more people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds come to our shores in search of freedom and opportunity and the blessings which should ensue.

Other wounds come to the fabric of our society from the culture of death. The Holy Father sees this as a movement in which "the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless…." Such, he reminds us are the unborn children, helpless victims of abortion, the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia, and many others relegated to the margins of society.

Dramatically reminded us in St. Louis of how capital punishment, the death penalty, has become a cruel and unnecessary punishment now that government can "deal with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of their redemption." (Ecclesia in America, no. 63) This surely is true in those states which, like Maryland, have the possibility of life imprisonment without parole.

Jesus said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." He is speaking of holiness, of the way of the saints, including those who walked the streets of our land. We do well to remember St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the other heroes and heroines of God, including Father Michael McGivney, the founder of our order, whose memory is so beautifully recalled in New Haven. I am always happy to remind the Knights of our pride in Maryland that in Baltimore Father McGivney received his theological education at St. Mary’s Seminary and, at the hands of Archbishop James Gibbons, his priestly ordination in the Basilica of the Assumption, the historic mother cathedral of the United States.

Your preparation for the Great Jubilee includes a concerted effort to put the spiritual first, to be mindful of the words of Jesus to "seek first the kingdom of God" and all the rest of our needs will be addressed.

On the mountain Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God." What a challenge, especially in a culture where from every direction, it seems, come images and concepts which so contrary to the ideals of purity that Jesus preached. Here our young people can teach us a great lesson. In many dioceses through "True Love Waits" they are discussing among themselves and committing themselves to live chastely until they marry or make permanent their commitment in the vows of the consecrated life or in the priesthood. There are thousands of them who speak with joy of their walking in this way. Among them some hear the call of Jesus to walk with a measure of heroism in response to a vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life. The Lord bless you for what you do to encourage them, most especially by praying for and recommending vocations in your own family circles.

As to the media themselves, there is much you can do in your own homes, selecting what you view, what you read, what you encourage, based on its moral content. In your council become familiar with "Renewing the Mind of the Media," a guide from our bishops nationally on how we can help the media move from its gratuitous violence and displays of sexuality to an art which invites us to develop our freedom to see and choose and do the good.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." How intensely must we yet pray for peace. As the Psalmist puts it, we must pray "for the peace of Jerusalem" and the land surrounding it which is so holy for so many. Pray also for peace at last for Ireland, for the Balkans, for a number of regions in Africa, and for wherever other places may be troubled by continued conflict or injustice.

In his message to our hemisphere the Holy Father lifts up another aspect of faith-inspired peace-making, one to which he turned when he first began to speak of the Great Jubilee. This is the making of peace within the Christian family, first of all, as we open ourselves up to the fulfillment of the prayer which Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, that all his followers might be one, "so that the world may believe that you sent me." (Jn. 17:21)

This movement toward the restoration of communion among the churches is "nourished by prayer, dialogue and joint action." The Holy Father underscores the importance of the dialogue "already underway with the Orthodox Church, with which we share many elements of faith, sacramental life and piety." (Ecclesia in America, no. 49) Next June the international dialogue commission between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is scheduled to meet for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, in the United States, at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, near the tomb of our first native born saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Cardinals, metropolitans, bishops and experts, including members of the laity, will seek to build on past agreed statements in a movement toward bringing together churches comprising some 80% of Christendom.

Pope John Paul II also stresses our special relationship with the Jewish people, reminding us that Jesus himself "belongs to the Jewish people" and began "his Church within the Jewish nation." (Op. cit., no. 50) He urges us to avoid any negative attitude in their regard, since "in order to be a blessing for the world, Jews and Christians need first to be a blessing for each other." (Ibid.)

At the close of his Exhortation, the Holy Father responds to a request that the members of the Synod have made of him, namely, that he compose a prayer for the families of America. This brings Christ’s gift of peacemaking into the hearts and homes of all of us.

From the prayer I quote now these words:

"Increase, O Lord, our faith and our love for you,
present in all the tabernacles of the continent.
Grant us to be faithful witnesses
to your resurrection for the younger generation of Americans,
so that, in knowing you, they may follow you
and find in you their peace and joy.
Only then will they know that they are brothers and sisters
of all God’s children scattered throughout the world.You who, in becoming man, chose to belong to a human family,
teach families the virtues which filled with light
the family home of Nazareth.
May families always be united, as you and the Father are one,
and may they be living witnesses to love, justice and solidarity;
make them schools of respect, forgiveness and mutual help,
so that the world may believe;
help them to be the source of vocations to the priesthood and the
consecrated life,
and all other forms of firm Christian commitment.
Protect your Church and the successor of Peter, to whom you,
Good Shepherd,
have entrusted the task of feeding your flock.
Grant that the Church in America may flourish
and grow richer in the fruits of holiness.
Teach us to love your mother, Mary, as you loved her.
Give us the strength to proclaim your word with courage
in the work of the new evangelization,
so that the world may know new hope,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us!
Amen. Through her powerful prayer, may God bless us all.

Knights of Columbus Gathering

It is a privilege to accept the invitation of Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant to reflect with you, my brother Knights, your ladies, whose presence is another sign for your support of our Order, and other family members and friends, on the word of God proclaimed in this Holy Hour.

Your theme, "Open Wide the Doors to Christ," is a theme the Church Universal takes to heart as we prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

For us in the Western Hemisphere the Holy Father applied the Jubilee theme in a specific way when he came to Mexico in January and gave us his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation entitled, Ecclesia in America, "The Church in America." In it he summed up and added to the discussions of the Synod of Bishops’ Assembly for America, which had met in Rome in 1997. (Incidentally, Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant was a participant at the Synod, offering his witness to the faith and concerns of the Catholic laity of America.)

In Mexico City, as in Rome, Pope John Paul II made it clear to us why he called our gathering a synod for America. He wanted us to understand that in this one hemisphere, for all our geographic and linguistic differences, we of the Church share a single calling. He said, "The decision to speak of America in the singular was an attempt to express not only the unity which in some way already exists, but also to point to that closer bond which the people of the continent seek and which the Church wishes to foster as part of her own mission." The way to strengthen that bond, he indicated, is to live out the synod theme, "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America."

The Holy Father spoke of the "Living Jesus Christ." This is the very Christ for whom we prepare to "open wide the doors." You Knights are helping to "open wide" the doors of St. Peter’s in Rome, with the enormous task of redoing the magnificent atrium at the entrance of the Basilica built over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. You are opening wide your own hearts in this and other activities of prayer and spiritual preparation for the Great Jubilee.

Early in his exhortation, Pope John Paul recalls the Gospel accounts of those who actually met the living Jesus Christ. Their experiences can be ours, even this afternoon, as we recall our own meeting with the living Jesus Christ at the Eucharist this morning and now are gathered in his presence.

Ours now can be the open attitude of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well. He asked her for a drink of water and stirred in her own heart a thirst for something deeper, something far greater than she could understand. He spoke to her of a "living water" and she was touched in her inner heart of hearts.

"Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst." (Jn. 4:15) Even though she did not yet understand, she was asking for this living water, the transforming gift of love built on faith. When Jesus reveals to her that he is the Christ, the anointed one of God (Cf. Jn. 4:26), she feels impelled to tell the other townspeople this good news, the news that she has found the Messiah. In this good news we too rejoice on the eve of the Great Jubilee.

Then there is the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, St. Luke reports, "and a wealthy man." (Cf. Luke 19:1-10) Zacchaeus has heard about Jesus, he is eager to see him, but he is a short man. We can see him running along side the crowd, craning for a glimpse of the one whose teachings and signs have attracted so much notice. He spies a sycamore tree and quickly climbs up to a perch with a good view of the road beneath. When Jesus passes by, he shouts to gain his attention. The Lord responds with words that must have startled and delighted Zacchaeus, "’Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’ And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, ‘he has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.’"(Lk. 19:5-10)

Zacchaeus has had a profound change of heart. Jesus has touched him, even as he had touched the woman at the well. Of each he asked a material, a temporal favor. In return to each he gave the deepest joy, the joy that comes with surrender to him in the act of faith. This afternoon we give him some of our time and, for these moments of prayer, all of our attention. May he embrace us as he did them.

There is one more incident to be remembered. Again, it is St. Luke who draws us into the event. It was Easter, the day of the Resurrection. We see the two disciples plodding on their way from Jerusalem north to the village of Emmaus. As they walked along, they talked in sorrow and confusion about what was done to Jesus on Good Friday and about the rumors they had heard of his resurrection.

"Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him." (Lk. 24:16) He asked them about their conversation. Downcast, they repeated what had happened, how Jesus, "a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" was handed over and crucified. They told of the hope they had reposed in him and of their discouragement. They mentioned also the rumor that he was alive but added that some had gone to the tomb and found it empty, "but him they did not see." Then, as you recall, Jesus began to speak, still not revealing who he was. He reviewed the teachings of Moses and the prophets, summing up, "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

When they reached Emmaus, they persuaded their companion to join them for supper. "…While he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?’"(Cf. Lk. 24)

The disciples forgot their meal, their plans to stay the night and immediately set out on foot to walk the seven miles back to Jerusalem, where they found the Apostles. They heard those they found with them in the Upper Room saying, "The Lord is truly risen and has appeared to Simon!" They told how they too had seen the risen Jesus and came to know him in the breaking of the bread.

For these two, and for us, God’s word is broken open, and we, like the disciples, learn again the excitement of listening to Jesus, and being sent by him to tell others of the joy we experience, as we meet the Risen Lord.

For our reflection this afternoon a passage from the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount has been proclaimed. This lifts up for us a point Pope John Paul made in his exhortation, when he told us that reading the sacred scripture and thus "listening to Jesus as attentively as did the multitudes on the Mount of the Beatitudes, or on the shore of the Lake of Tiberias as he preached from the boat, produces authentic fruits of conversion of heart." (Ecclesia in America, no. 12)

This passage from the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel is a marvelous key to opening up for us the thrust of the Jubilee message.

Jesus begins, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." What does it mean for us who live in most affluent culture, in the most materially blessed land, in human history? While it is true that many do suffer from want in our country, they do so among so many who enjoy the use of means beyond the imagining of most of our ancestors and of many of our neighbors on this planet.

The Holy Father reminds us that the corporal works of mercy offer us ways in which we can show that we are dependent on God and not on created things. The many works of charity you do as a Supreme Council and through your State and local Councils express a willingness to reach out to those in greater need in the name of the Lord Jesus. These are recited in the annual report, but they take on deeper meaning when seen as reflecting the "attitude of Jesus, who came ‘to proclaim good news to the poor.’(Lk. 4:18)" Pope John Paul asks us to see in the service of the poor a work which can show forth God’s infinite love, even as it communicates the hope of salvation which Christ brought to the world. He describes this as "a hope which glows in a special way when it is shared with those abandoned or rejected by society." Several years ago Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke to this convention of the care and love of the "poorest of the poor" for the name of Jesus. We could hear her joy and share her joy as she broke open for us the inner meaning of what it is to be "poor in spirit" even as she lived for God a life that was dramatically poor in fact.

Pope John Paul goes on to make a point which is a favorite of his: "The constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church’s social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs though individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal." (Op. cit., no. 18) This dimension of our Christian calling comes to bear especially when, as citizens who are also people of faith, we participate in the public policy-making and political processes of our land.

Says the Holy Father, "Fraternal charity means attending to the needs of our neighbor. "If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 Jn. 3:17) Hence, for the Christian people of America conversion to the Gospel means to revise ‘all the different areas and aspects of life, especially those related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good.’ (Proposition 34)" Says the Holy Father, "Involvement in the political field is clearly part of the vocation and activity of the lay faithful. (Cf. Lumen gentium, No. 31)

Jesus said, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." In the context, Jesus is talking about mourning not the dead, but the spiritual death that comes with sin. How clearly do we understand this? How much does the sacrament of Penance, the rite of reconciliation, mean in our own lives? Do we help the young among us by our own example? Do we need now to refresh our understanding of this sacrament, in which the living Jesus Christ comes as a doctor and healer of our innermost self, offering not only his mercy, but also strength to combat and to overcome the faults that we confess.

Pope John Paul wrote clearly about sins that not only we as individuals but our whole society must mourn. And in Mexico City and in St. Louis he spoke out about these sins and sinful attitudes with deep feeling. He made his own the words of the synod members in denouncing "social sins which cry to heaven because they generate violence, disrupt peace and harmony within … nations, between nations and between the different regions of the continent." Such are "the drug trade, the recycling of illicit funds, corruption at every level, the terror of violence, the arms race, racial discrimination, inequality between social groups and the irrational destruction of nature." (Ecclesia in America, No. 56) These issues, sadly, are close to us in the United States: we read and hear about the effects of the drug trade in our cities and local communities throughout the land; we need to be reminded, perhaps, of the corruption which accompanies the huge amounts of money raised and expended in connection with political campaigns and governmental lobbying. The continuing painful wounds relating to racial discrimination still must be nursed and healed, and the pain is more acute as more people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds come to our shores in search of freedom and opportunity and the blessings which should ensue.

Other wounds come to the fabric of our society from the culture of death. The Holy Father sees this as a movement in which "the powerful predominate, setting aside and even eliminating the powerless…." Such, he reminds us are the unborn children, helpless victims of abortion, the elderly and incurably ill, subjected at times to euthanasia, and many others relegated to the margins of society.

Dramatically reminded us in St. Louis of how capital punishment, the death penalty, has become a cruel and unnecessary punishment now that government can "deal with crime and control those who commit it, without abandoning all hope of their redemption." (Ecclesia in America, no. 63) This surely is true in those states which, like Maryland, have the possibility of life imprisonment without parole.

Jesus said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." He is speaking of holiness, of the way of the saints, including those who walked the streets of our land. We do well to remember St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the other heroes and heroines of God, including Father Michael McGivney, the founder of our order, whose memory is so beautifully recalled in New Haven. I am always happy to remind the Knights of our pride in Maryland that in Baltimore Father McGivney received his theological education at St. Mary’s Seminary and, at the hands of Archbishop James Gibbons, his priestly ordination in the Basilica of the Assumption, the historic mother cathedral of the United States.

Your preparation for the Great Jubilee includes a concerted effort to put the spiritual first, to be mindful of the words of Jesus to "seek first the kingdom of God" and all the rest of our needs will be addressed.

On the mountain Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God." What a challenge, especially in a culture where from every direction, it seems, come images and concepts which so contrary to the ideals of purity that Jesus preached. Here our young people can teach us a great lesson. In many dioceses through "True Love Waits" they are discussing among themselves and committing themselves to live chastely until they marry or make permanent their commitment in the vows of the consecrated life or in the priesthood. There are thousands of them who speak with joy of their walking in this way. Among them some hear the call of Jesus to walk with a measure of heroism in response to a vocation to the priesthood or to the consecrated life. The Lord bless you for what you do to encourage them, most especially by praying for and recommending vocations in your own family circles.

As to the media themselves, there is much you can do in your own homes, selecting what you view, what you read, what you encourage, based on its moral content. In your council become familiar with "Renewing the Mind of the Media," a guide from our bishops nationally on how we can help the media move from its gratuitous violence and displays of sexuality to an art which invites us to develop our freedom to see and choose and do the good.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." How intensely must we yet pray for peace. As the Psalmist puts it, we must pray "for the peace of Jerusalem" and the land surrounding it which is so holy for so many. Pray also for peace at last for Ireland, for the Balkans, for a number of regions in Africa, and for wherever other places may be troubled by continued conflict or injustice.

In his message to our hemisphere the Holy Father lifts up another aspect of faith-inspired peace-making, one to which he turned when he first began to speak of the Great Jubilee. This is the making of peace within the Christian family, first of all, as we open ourselves up to the fulfillment of the prayer which Jesus himself prayed at the Last Supper, that all his followers might be one, "so that the world may believe that you sent me." (Jn. 17:21)

This movement toward the restoration of communion among the churches is "nourished by prayer, dialogue and joint action." The Holy Father underscores the importance of the dialogue "already underway with the Orthodox Church, with which we share many elements of faith, sacramental life and piety." (Ecclesia in America, no. 49) Next June the international dialogue commission between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches is scheduled to meet for the first time in the Western Hemisphere, in the United States, at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, near the tomb of our first native born saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Cardinals, metropolitans, bishops and experts, including members of the laity, will seek to build on past agreed statements in a movement toward bringing together churches comprising some 80% of Christendom.

Pope John Paul II also stresses our special relationship with the Jewish people, reminding us that Jesus himself "belongs to the Jewish people" and began "his Church within the Jewish nation." (Op. cit., no. 50) He urges us to avoid any negative attitude in their regard, since "in order to be a blessing for the world, Jews and Christians need first to be a blessing for each other." (Ibid.)

At the close of his Exhortation, the Holy Father responds to a request that the members of the Synod have made of him, namely, that he compose a prayer for the families of America. This brings Christ’s gift of peacemaking into the hearts and homes of all of us.

From the prayer I quote now these words:

"Increase, O Lord, our faith and our love for you,
present in all the tabernacles of the continent.
Grant us to be faithful witnesses
to your resurrection for the younger generation of Americans,
so that, in knowing you, they may follow you
and find in you their peace and joy.
Only then will they know that they are brothers and sisters
of all God’s children scattered throughout the world.You who, in becoming man, chose to belong to a human family,
teach families the virtues which filled with light
the family home of Nazareth.
May families always be united, as you and the Father are one,
and may they be living witnesses to love, justice and solidarity;
make them schools of respect, forgiveness and mutual help,
so that the world may believe;
help them to be the source of vocations to the priesthood and the
consecrated life,
and all other forms of firm Christian commitment.
Protect your Church and the successor of Peter, to whom you,
Good Shepherd,
have entrusted the task of feeding your flock.
Grant that the Church in America may flourish
and grow richer in the fruits of holiness.
Teach us to love your mother, Mary, as you loved her.
Give us the strength to proclaim your word with courage
in the work of the new evangelization,
so that the world may know new hope,
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, pray for us!
Amen. Through her powerful prayer, may God bless us all.