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April 2, 2007
Homily by Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C., Bishop of Peoria
As we enter together into these days of Holy Week it is good to remember the
foundational conviction of Christianity that is the greatest possible Good News!
God made us to be happy! God formed us for surpassing joy. God destined us for
boundless bliss. God fashioned us for infinite satisfaction. God wants our eternal home
to be heaven.
But even we, who serve daily in the Church, may sometimes almost forget this wonderful
truth, that we were created by God for God. That God made us in his own image and
likeness. God designed us for his own delight.
Dear friends in Christ, that really is Good News!
From the beginning, without any necessity, God freely and generously desired that all
men and women participate in his own sheer goodness, in his own perfect existence, in
his own astonishing beauty and endless love.
And as it is written in the Book of Wisdom: It was not God who made death. God
fashioned all things that they might have life. Suffering and death came from our human
choice, to seek out what only makes us sad, to tear apart the harmony of being, with the
discord and emptiness of sin.
But thanks to God, Love is stronger than death, and the full Revelation of God, steadfast
love, in Torah and Gospel, was given to us in great mercy, to reform, to restore, and to
recreate, a people made worthy again of happiness.
That is the whole purpose of the moral law.
The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus empowers our badly broken sin-prone
humanity, to once again be conformed to God’s own Divinity. In Christ, we are justified.
In Christ, we may be sanctified. In Christ, we can be saved forever.
Whenever we turn to the Lord, love bursts forth, as an unending explosion of goodness
God himself becomes known in the knower, and beloved in the lover.
God redeems us in amazing, sanctifying grace so that we may be divinized, so that we
may actually come to share in the very life and love that is our God.
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Remember, the Father forever loves the Son, and the Son forever loves the Father, and the
Spirit is forever their shared exchange of inexhaustible, wondrous love. So the gift of
grace is really the gift of God’s own self-disclosure.
God persistently invites each of us into face-to-face communion with himself. Where
our human beatitude will, at last, reside in God alone.
My spiritual sons, my brother Priests of the New Testament, my beloved deacons and
consecrated religious, my most dear young and old People of God, this is the greatest
possible announcement of the Gospel of the great Good News!
We were made to be happy. We were made for the beatifying vision of our God.
Remember that for Mary and the Holy Apostles praying together in the Upper Room at
Pentecost, this promise of bliss and beatitude became a rapturous reality even in time,
even while still living here on this earth.
The crowds thought they must be drunk. They supposed that their enormous happiness,
their very obvious joy and their loud exulting, could only be the result of drinking. That
first company of believers, that first assembly of the faithful, that newly-born Church
was certainly intoxicated, not with wine, but with the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit of
God, blazing with love, that set their hearts on fire.
Those very first Christians began to boldly preach the Good News!
First in Jerusalem, and then throughout the world, they evangelized and generously
served. They taught the Gospel, they baptized with water, and with the Holy Spirit they
had received, empowered by that Spirit, they worked signs and wonders. The Apostles
and elders healed the sick, strengthened the catechumens, and ordained bishops and
other presbyters for sacred duties, with oil sanctified by the awesome power of the
The entire Church, sharing in different ways, in the rich and various gifts of the Spirit,
worshiped together in spirit and truth, just as Christ himself has once prophesied.
Striving and enduring, in the face of relentless prosecution, even the unbelievers came to
recognize, the Church’s shared joy in the Holy Spirit. They lived for the bliss and
beatitude of God, and they truly began their heaven on this earth.
And the world came to know they were Christian, by their love.
Now 2000 years later, during this Holy Week, the Church of Peoria, represented by all of
you, assembles in this Cathedral of Saint Mary to celebrate a Chrism Mass.
Like Blessed Mary, the first and greatest disciple, whose own life was entirely
overshadowed the Holy Spirit, whose soul magnified the Lord, whose spirit rejoiced in
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God her savior, today we should very consciously imitate her and surrender our lives, to
the very same Spirit of love.
We will soon bring oil to be sanctified and richly perfumed, by the transforming grace of
the Holy Spirit. We will offer our gifts of bread and wine, placed on the altar, as a
sacrificial obligation that will truly become the Body and Blood of Christ through the
power of the same Spirit.
And if at this Mass we would, in the happy wonder of these Holy Mysteries, begin to
recognize that, in the Eucharist, heaven already touches earth, eternity enters into our
time, and that even now God unites himself with us through our Holy Communion, we,
too, could be born again, powerfully renewed in our vocations, as holier priests, more
zealous deacons, religious who live and serve only for the Lord: husband and wives,
parents and children, brothers and sisters, united by Christ in the bonds of love.
The Church of Peoria could then more fully become, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people set apart, drunk with love, on fire with the Holy Spirit, intoxicated by the New
Wind of the Kingdom. This experience of God would be so great a joy; we would all be
compelled by the Spirit to share the Gospel with everyone we meet.
So when we are tired, when we are tempted, both in good times and in bad, may we
always remember, God made us for himself. God made us for the beatific vision. God
made us to be happy. God made us for His Great Love, without end.
This certainly, this absolutely, this truly is, the greatest possible Good News!