FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was installed the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The following is the homily at the installation:
During these past few weeks of preparation for this day, my thoughts during prayer have centered on the scene of today’s Gospel: fishermen casting and mending their nets along the Sea of Galilee. They were ordinary men, busy with their daily work, but suddenly their lives changed. They met Jesus of Nazareth who said to them: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” The two sets of brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John, allowed themselves “to be won over by (Jesus’) gaze, his voice, his warm and strong invitation” (Pope Benedict XVI). They left their work, their livelihood, and their families to begin a new life in communion with Christ. Their adventure as fishers of men, as apostles, thus began. They would become intimately involved in our Lord’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel of God. The Church would be built on the foundation of these four men and the other apostles whom Jesus called to be fishers of men.
The Gospel account of Jesus calling the apostles to follow him resonates deeply within me today. Five years ago, I received the Lord’s call to serve as a bishop, as a successor of the apostles. Twenty-six and a half years ago I received the Lord’s call to serve as a priest. The majority of those years of priestly and episcopal ministry took place in my home diocese of Harrisburg. I thank our Lord for the many joys and blessings of those years and for the privilege I had of serving His Church in that beautiful portion of the Lord’s vineyard. But just as through the years, Peter, Andrew, James and John were called to proclaim the Gospel and carry on their apostolic mission in new lands, so too I have been called to serve in a new diocese and a new state. It is certainly a privilege to have been appointed by Pope Benedict, the successor of St. Peter, to be the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, another beautiful portion of the vineyard of the Lord. Though naturally I will deeply miss my family and friends in my home diocese, I come here with excitement and enthusiasm to promote the new evangelization in this wonderful diocese where I have been so warmly welcomed. I look forward to getting to know the faithful of this diocese and to visiting the parishes, schools and other communities throughout these 14 counties of northeastern Indiana. I look forward to my greatest joy as a bishop: celebrating the holy Eucharist and the other sacraments as well as teaching the word of God throughout the diocese.
Quisiera expresarme ahora a mis queridos hermanos de habla española. Durante este tiempo que ha transcurrido después de mi nombramiento como su obispo, mis oraciones se han centrado en el tema del Evangelio de hoy: He meditado muchísimo en aquellos pescadores que tiraban y arreglaban sus redes en el mar de Galilea. Sus vidas cambiaron cuando Jesús los llamó a que lo siguieran. El les dijo que los haría pescadores de hombres. Ellos dejaron su trabajo, su manera de ganarse la vida y sus familias y empezaron una nueva vida en comunión con Cristo.
Este pasaje del Evangelio de hoy en el que Jesús llama a sus primeros Apóstoles tiene mucho significado para mí en estos momentos. El Señor Jesús me ha llamado a dejar mis redes, mi familia, mis amigos, mi casa en Pennsylvania para servirle a El aquí en un nuevo mar, una nueva área de Su vina, la diócesis de Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Aunque naturalmente extraño a mi familia y a mi diócesis original, vengo aquí con mucha alegría y entusiasmo a promover la nueva evangelización. No veo la hora de conocer los feligreses de esta hermosa diócesis, de visitar todas las comunidades incluyéndolos, por supuesto, a ustedes los miembros de las comunidades hispanas.
Yo considero que la presencia de los hispanos en la Iglesia en los Estados Unidos es una bendición muy grande. Estoy seguro que ustedes me van a ayudar en la gran misión apostólica de proclamar el Evangelio de Cristo; Así como también confío en la especial intercesión de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y San Juan Diego ahora que empiezo mi apostolado como su nuevo obispo.
As I begin my ministry as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, I wish to reaffirm my commitment to my episcopal motto, “to proclaim the truth in charity.” These words come from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes: “Let us, then, be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine that originates in human trickery and skill in proposing error. Rather, let us profess the truth in charity and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.” — Ephesians,: 4:14-16.
These words of St. Paul remind us of our mission: to profess the truth in charity. In his trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus himself proclaimed that “(he had) come into the world to bear witness to the truth.” — Jn 18:37. We carry on this mission. Our duty is to bear witness to the truth of the apostolic faith we have received and to act as witnesses of the Gospel in word and deed. I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul to one of his successors, one of the first bishops of the Church, St. Timothy: “Never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.”
This is an important exhortation for us today, living in a culture of increasing secularism and relativism, a society in which the Catholic faith is increasingly counter-cultural. “Never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord.” At Baptisms and Confirmations, after the baptismal promises are made or renewed, the bishop or priest says: “This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.” My brothers and sisters, we should always be proud to profess our Catholic faith, doing so with courage and without equivocation.
My episcopal motto, “veritatem in caritate” (“truth in charity”) is a reminder that truth and charity must always go together. Love and truth are “the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person.” — “Caritas in Veritate” No. 1. Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God who is “Eternal Love and Absolute Truth” (ibid).
One of the greatest challenges we face in our culture today is relativism, the denial of the existence of objective truth. As we heard, St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the danger of letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching. The day before his election as pope, Cardinal Ratzinger said in a famous homily that “we are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as certain and has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.”
The future pope stated that we need to have a mature faith, one deeply rooted in friendship with Christ and therefore one that does not merely follow “the waves of fashion or the latest novelties.” In the midst of our culture’s dangerous confusion, we must stand firm in upholding the truths of our faith, including the moral truths that are sometimes unpopular in our increasingly secularized society, truths like the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and the dignity of marriage and family according to God’s plan.
As I mentioned, truth and charity must always go together. In the homily on the eve of the conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger also commented on St. Paul’s words about “professing the truth in love.” He described these words as “the basic formula of Christian existence.” The Holy Father explained that “in Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we draw near to Christ in our own life, truth and love merge. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like ‘a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.’” — 1 Cor. 13:1, Homily at Opening of Conclave.
Pope Benedict returned to this theme last year in his third encyclical entitled “Charity in Truth.” There he wrote that “without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality” and “love becomes an empty shell.” At the same time, without charity, truth is not really authentic and is no longer liberating.
The great Pope John Paul II also insisted on the necessity of both truth and charity. During his homily at the canonization of Edith Stein, he said: “Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie.”
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been saintly bishops who are examples for us of living and professing the truth in charity. Today is the feast of one such holy bishop from the fourth century, St. Hilary of Poitiers. He is one of the 33 doctors of the Church. Saint Hilary lived during one of the most challenging times in the history of the Church, when the heresy of Arianism was spreading rapidly throughout the world. This heresy denied the divinity of Christ. Bishop Hilary devoted his whole life to fighting the scourge of this heresy and to defending the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was forced to leave his diocese when he was sentenced to exile by the emperor who was Arian. Hilary was banished to an area totally dominated by Arianism, but he continued to proclaim the truth about Christ, the true faith as formulated by the Council of Nicea. While in exile, St. Hilary wrote his great masterpiece, a treatise on the Blessed Trinity, in which he showed how Scripture clearly testifies to the divinity of Christ, the Son of God, and to his equality with the Father. St. Hilary preached this truth with charity, always trying to reconcile the heretics to the true faith, helping them to see the truth about the divinity of Jesus.
When Bishop Hilary was released from exile, he returned to his diocese where he was received with great joy. There he restored discipline, peace, and the purity of the Catholic faith.
St. Hilary teaches us even today that we must never be indifferent to the truth. He teaches us also that truth can never be severed from love.
As I begin my episcopal ministry in Fort Wayne-South Bend, I wish to reaffirm our mission as Catholics and my mission as shepherd of this local Church: the mission of professing the truth in charity. Ultimately, that mission is to lead people to an encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ. In its essence, the truth of the Gospel is a Person — the Lord Jesus Himself. He is the Truth that sets us free. We are to proclaim Him in our words and actions. We are called to be instruments of His presence and action in the world. We are called to evangelize, to share with others the truth about God, about the human person, and about the world. The Church is the seed and the beginning of the kingdom of God and the place where we enter into true communion and friendship with Jesus Christ.
I wish to repeat today words spoken by Pope Benedict in his papal inauguration homily. He said that “the Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.”
This is my goal as your bishop: to lead this wonderful diocese in the way of truth and charity, to lead all to a deeper friendship with Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. In doing so, I invite you to join me in asking our Blessed Mother for her prayers. May Mary’s motherly protection accompany us in the days and years ahead on our journey together. May she who is the Queen of Apostles and Star of the New Evangelization intercede for us that we may always profess the truth in charity!
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