Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago offered the following Homily on the Augustinian Feasts of St. Augustine & St. Monica, August 27, 2015. He offered the Homily at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.
My warmest welcome to Fr. Bernard Scianna, Prior Provincial, and all the members of the Augustinian community as you begin the celebration of your Diamond Jubilee of the Midwest Augustinians in this Year of Consecrated Life. As we gather to honor the past, we have with us a vivid reminder of the enormous contribution the Augustinians have made to the Archdiocese of Chicago since arriving here in 1905 and also with the establishment of the Midwest Province by honoring today Bishop John McNabb celebrating 70 years, Fr. Jerry Knies, 60 years, and Frs. Dick McGrath and John Ohner and Br. Jerome Sysko, 50 years. Congratulations to you all. We are so grateful for your witness, ministry and dedication.
But today also allows us to look towards the future with the profession of the Solemn Vows of Richie Mercado. I welcome his dear parents, Ricardo and Cynthia, who will formally affiliate with the Order today, his brothers Cynric, Christian and Jonas, and five aunts and uncles. The future is also bright as we know that 12 novices are present, who are part of the 41 young men in formation, 14 of which are from the Midwest. These are the best numbers for your congregation in 30 years.
St. Gregory the Great once observed that everything that occurred in the life of Jesus now has passed over into the life and sacraments of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles testifies to the fact that Christians from the earliest days of the Church had an awareness of that truth. Just as we see Jesus as the protagonist in the Gospel of Luke so now the Church, the community of believers, disciples now stand front and center in the Acts of the Apostles, moving ahead in time on pilgrimage.
There is a message for us today as we honor consecrated life in this multi-faceted celebration of the Augustinians: Christ is revealed as present and acting in the world through community life. Living in community as disciples is not a social construct aimed at a more economical use of resources, nor is it primarily about grouping people together to satisfy the human need for relationships, as important as that may be. Rather, the reading tonight from Acts testifies to the early Church’s vivid understanding about the value of living this risen life in community. The way the community acts and works is important to understanding how the Risen Lord is present and active, how He brings about the Reign of God and the salvation promised to us. Community life is a manifestation of how that Reign of God is present in some initial way even in our very temporal world.
The Gospel nicely fills in the picture. There we see Jesus calling himself the Good Shepherd, the one who lays down his life for his flock. He does so with the same power that he takes it up again. All of this suggests, keeping Pope Gregory’s insight in mind, that now the community as a whole is to act like the good shepherd, caring for the flock and that each person as a member of the community, baptized in the spirit, is empowered to give their lives for each other not on their own power, abilities and terms but with the power of the risen life in Christ.
Unfortunately, the experience of community life found in the Acts of the Apostles was not replicated in most Christian communities over time. But, religious life has kept fresh for the entire Church the truth about how Christ acts and is present in the world. It is in the living out of communal life that religious orders offer a great gift to all Christian communities, reminding them and showing them how the dying and rising of Christ can take place in the world as they give their lives for others and are raised to a new life in doing so.
You and all the other religious communities keep fresh that truth that would otherwise be lost. That is the wonderful and primary contribution you make to the life of the Church – yes, it is true that you grace the Church with teaching, operating charities, parishes and other good works, but to understand the unique gift you offer to the Church, we need to return to what we hear in the Acts today. You are the descendants of this great tradition in the early Church that Christian communities have the power to manifest the risen Lord, by the way their members live, committed to dying and rising in love and sacrifice for each other.
This is the witness and the challenge you offer in all ages to all Christian communities to imitate. That is your heritage, that is your grace, that is what we celebrate today and which you, Richie, are the newest witness to, as you make your solemn vows today, joining your brothers who mark jubilee years as a province but also those who now recall the many years of ministry in which they lived the dying and rising of Christ, shepherding the people by giving their lives and witnessing to the power of the resurrection. For all of this we not only congratulate you, but we thank you.