July 28, 2017

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson's homily from the Installation Mass

 (Photo gallery from the Mass | Video)

Archbishop Thompson speakingWelcome to all—Brother bishops, especially Cardinal Tobin, Cardinal Cupich, Archbishop Pierre, brother priests, deacons, religious, lay faithful, family and friends. All those who have traveled to this great metropolis honor us with your presence. Though standing here with a bit of trepidation, as to put it mildly, in this wonderful cathedral, named after the princes of the apostles on whose feast day I was ordained a bishop, I am struck with awe and wonder at both the mercy and humor of God in allowing me to be called to serve as the 7th Archbishop of Indianapolis...

Pastors—bishops and priests—are often asked about their vision when they come to a new place. Please allow me to take a few minutes to offer a glimpse of my conviction as archbishop towards that vision. Very, very simple. It involves a theme that the good people of southwest Indiana have heard me discuss on more than one occasion, namely, the Catholic Both/And. Far too often, we are being confronted with an “either/or” mentality.  We must dare to counter the growing polarization, division and radical individualism that breed fear, distrust, hatred, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, despair, violence and radical ideology.  Our role as people of faith—I especially hold myself accountable as bishop—is to be willing to stand in the breach of the divide, drawing people back from the ledges of extremism in self-indulgence and self-righteousness by serving as bridges of unity, ambassadors of hope, instruments of peace. To do so, we must allow the seed, as the Gospel reminds us, the word of everlasting life, Jesus himself, to take root in the very rich soil of our very souls, of our being.

I believe that Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis combine to provide us with a wonderful witness of how to stand in this breach. While some, both within and outside the Church, have attempted to draw divisive distinction between the two, I recall an article pointing out the complementarity of their pontificates. Per my paraphrasing, the article described Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI as the catechist par excellance and Pope Francis as the evangelizer par excellance. These necessarily depend and feed off of one another. The catechist needs the evangelist to flesh out the teaching in lived experience while the evangelist needs the firm foundation of the catechist from which to evangelize. Both are grounded in the beauty, the goodness and the truth of the Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son & Holy Spirit—made known to us by God’s initiative of divine revelation, especially in and through the life, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

The Catholic Both/And necessarily requires sound catechesis and bold evangelization, if we are to make a difference in the progress of humanity rather than be mere bystanders pushed around by the winds of change, denial and criticism of irrelevance.  We must be concerned about both worship and service, Word and Sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, Head and Body, clergy and laity, commandments (as we heard in the first reading) and beatitudes, tone and content (what good is it for us if we speak the truth but say it in a way that drives away the very souls we're trying to save?), justice and mercy, doctrine and pastoral care initiatives, marriage and family, faith and reason, spirituality and religion, healing wounds and warming hearts, holiness and mission, personal prayer and communal prayer, formation and education, local and universal belonging, security and welcoming, rights and responsibilities, speaking and listening, cross and empty tomb, passion and resurrection, and as the Benedictines who taught me remind us, Ora et Labora, prayer and work. It all must matter to us. To be effective and credible witnesses to our Catholic faith and the Joy of the Gospel, we cannot make decisions or act with an “either/or” mentality of ignoring one for the other. In essence, as an example of the necessary balance, we must provide a fish or two as we teach people how to fish.

How do we engage one another, as well as culture and society, with this Catholic Both/And approach? As Pope Francis has emphasized, while drawing on the wisdom of his predecessors—especially Popes Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Emeritus Benedict XVI—we must stand in the breach as missionary disciples, cultivating a culture of dialogue, encounter, accompaniment, mutual respect, reconciliation, mercy and hope. As Eucharistic-centered people, we must first be motivated by gratitude and appreciation for divine grace in our midst while seeking to engage rather than to react to or recoil from the world of cultures, economics, politics, science and religions. Amid structures, policies and programs, we must not lose sight of the person. Nothing of humanity and creation must escape our focus, engagement and outreach. Our task is not so much to resolve the world’s problems as to lead persons and peoples to personal encounter with the person of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. We ourselves must first, however, if we are to be credible and effective, be engaged in such a personal encounter with Him, not only the sower, but the seed.

Apart from God, our task is more than monumental. It is impossible. With God, however, all things are possible. Here we celebrate the very presence and grace of God in Word and Sacrament, giving us the direction and sustenance to carry out the task first handed on to the apostles by Jesus Christ; “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” [MT 28:19] We must leave no one behind, especially being attentive to the unborn, the poor, the young, the elderly, the migrant, the immigrant, the refugee, the sick, the dying, the addicted, the abused, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the hopeless, the imprisoned and all who suffer. We must be concerned about the wellbeing of each and every person as well as creation itself if we are to be truly Christ-centered. What we do or fail to do for the least of His brothers and sisters, our brothers and sisters, we do or fail to do for Jesus Christ. [cf. MT 25:31-46] It is simple, I'm the first to admit it, but it’s a place to start…the Catholic Both/And.

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