A. Together with our Worthy Supreme Knight let me say what an honor it is for me to offer this Holy Mass at the end of which the medals of office will be blessed and conferred on our new State Deputies. This Mass is being offered for your intentions and for the intentions of the state jurisdictions you are privileged to serve.
B. Today’s Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart and the Scripture readings shed divine light on what it is we are about this morning, beginning with our reading from the First Book of Kings.
II. 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-16
A. In the first reading, we meet the prophet Elijah, arguably the most colorful of the prophets. He not only conveyed God’s word by sermons and speeches, he also had a way of illustrating God’s word – all at the Lord’s instigation. Today’s prophetic episode is no exception.
B. God has told Elijah to stand on Mount Horeb because he, the Lord, would be passing by. There followed a series of spectacular events of nature: first a windstorm, then an earthquake, and then fire… Elijah did not hear God’s voice in any of these dramatic happenings. Then, a tiny whispering sound followed and Elijah hid his face. He had found the Lord in silence, his voice barely audible.
C. Reflecting on this passage of Scripture, I was reminded of the motto of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous 19th century Catholic intellectual. It reads in Latin, “Cor ad cor loquitur”, which means “Heart speaks to heart.” The merciful heart of God, revealed most fully in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is anxious to speak to our hearts and indeed he speaks to us in many ways. Sometimes the Lord knocks us off course, as in the case of St. Paul and sometimes the Lord shouts, as he did in the case of St. Augustine who wrote that God’s shouting “shattered his deafness”. But mostly God whispers: speaking softly, confiding to us the hidden glory of his love. That is why prayer, which is mostly listening, is best done in silence: so that we might hear the voice of the Lord echoing in the depths of our hearts. Every day we must unplug ourselves from life’s noisy distractions to pray. Every spiritual writer in every period in the Church’s history tells us this.
D. What good advice for rising State Deputies and all of us who lead the Order. As you form your teams, make your plans, and interact with your brother knights, what is better and more necessary than a heart that listens prayerfully to the Lord. When we pray, the Holy Spirit’s gifts are stirred up in our hearts. In prayer we grow in our ability to judge matters rightly and we grow in our capacity to extend ourselves generously to our brother knights, to their families, and to the works of the Order. Charity, unity, and fraternity flourish when nurtured in prayer.
III. Matthew 5:27-32
A. The Gospel pulls in the same direction. Jesus, whose heart perfectly reflects his Father’s mercy and self-giving love, tells us in this part of Matthew’s Gospel that it’s not enough to refrain from killing or to refrain from adultery. It’s not enough for one to appear righteous on the outside while on the inside being a boiling cauldron of anger, selfishness, and lust. The Lord sees the heart, not merely appearances. He invites us every day to purify our hearts, to be holy from the inside out. This is especially important if at Mass we would worship God in spirit and truth. If we approach the altar while being angry or self-indulgent, we will be incapable of receiving the mercy and pure love that pours forth from the heart of the crucified Savior. That is why the spiritual writer St. Thomas a Kempis advises us that following sensual desires leads to a “dissipated conscience and distracted heart.”
B. Many of the problems that arise in our jurisdictions are all tied up with tangled motivations of tortuous hearts, motives that are opposed to the teaching of Father McGivney and the mission of the Order. As leaders, we have to set the tone. We have to exemplify charity, fraternity, and unity from the inside out, from an interior life that is shaped by charity, fraternity, and unity – the very qualities with which the heart of Jesus overflows. This is what gives our leadership credibility, authenticity, and even the ability to change recalcitrant minds and hearts.
IV. The Witness of Fr. Jose Maria Robles Hurtado
A. Of course, as leaders it is not enough to be problem solvers, important as that is. Rather, as leaders in the Order we are called to be witnesses to the charity of Christ. If the first principle of the Knights of Columbus is charity, then our first concern should be to bear witness to Christ’s love in our solidarity with brother knights and their families but also in our spirit of service to the Church and to those who are in need. Our witness to the truth and love of Christ extends also to the public square where the Church’s teachings, especially on life and marriage, are unwelcome.
B. In answering our call to bear witness to the love in the heart of Christ, we should take inspiration from a fellow knight who gave his life for Christ, Father Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, a Mexican priest, who was known as “the madman of the Sacred Heart”. We should all hope for such madness in our lives! He served as a priest in the 1920’s, a time of intense religious persecution in Mexico. He wrote and preached fearlessly about the Sacred Heart of Jesus and founded a religious order of women dedicated to the Sacred Heart. His enthusiasm and his devotion were contagious. In spite of government threats and violence, people flocked to his parish. Religious education and lay groups began to flourish. The harder the Mexican government tried to strangle religious freedom, the more courageously and joyously Father Robles bore witness to Christ until this brother Knight of ours laid down his life for Christ in 1927.
C. We may not be called to die for our faith as did Father Robles but as leaders of the Order we are indeed called to bear witness to Christ, and to do so with courage and joy, even in the face of opposition and criticism. As you prepare to assume the mantle of leadership, let us ask the Lord Jesus, the faithful witness to the Father’s love, to grant you the gift of prayerful, loving, and courageous hearts – capable of leading your jurisdictions to new heights of devotion and service. Vivat Jesus!