I welcome you to our annual Red Mass. We pray for all who have dedicated themselves to the promotion of the common good of society and the protection of the human dignity of each person through service to the law. We pray that the gifts of the Holy Spirit may guide you in your deliberations. We welcome our judges, lawyers and paralegals.
These are troubling times of continued polarization and mistrust in our political and social arena. We hear from St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians who presents us with a list of vices from his time. This is not a time to reflect on vices but to seek wisdom and guidance. We need the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to make us instruments of peace and justice.
The Holy Spirit gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, council, courage, piety and wonder and awe. St Paul reminds us that we can receive from God the freedom to serve each other not only with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but through these gifts, we bear their fruits; love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In the Gospel today, Jesus scolds the Pharisees with his “woe to.” “Woe to you Pharisees: you are too concerned about tithes of mint and rue in every herb garden.” Jesus criticizes their disparity between action and motives. Giving tithes is praiseworthy, but it should be based on justice and love of God.
Jesus echoes and reminds them of the great commandment: love of God and love of neighbor. Then he continues, “Woe to you Pharisees you love your seat of honor in synagogues instead of loving God. Finally, Jesus says to one of the scholars of the law; “Woe to you.” The late supreme Justice Scalia clarified this at a law school graduation. I paraphrase; ‘if you think that Jesus is condemning you because you just have become a lawyer, Jesus in the Scriptures is not condemning you, lawyers; it is the canon lawyers he is condemning, so don’t be scared or worried.’ I just wanted to clarify that in case any of you had any doubts.
G.K. Chesterton said, “When people begin to ignore human dignity it will not be long before they begin to ignore human rights.” It is imperative that we, as a nation of laws and religious tradition, protect and cherish the human dignity of all. At the end of the Second World War the Church began to reflect and the Church had no answer in preventing two wars. It seems that its role of preaching and teaching the Gospel had no impact.
The Church’s response was Vatican II. One of its documents, “The Church Today”, states, “It remains each man’s duty to preserve a view of the whole person, a view in which the values of intellect, will, conscience, and fraternity are pre-eminent. These values are rooted in God the Creator and have been wonderfully restored and elevated in Christ.” Justice Scalia said, “the process of looking for the answer, the process of research, is a process that stimulates the mind. New analogies occur, new avenues of inquiry come to mind, new insights are afforded.”
Pope Benedict XVI also reflected, “. . . the deep conviction that the more we put Him at the center of our lives rather than ourselves, the more fruitful our communication will be. And this is also true for Christian communities: they are called to show the transforming action of God’s grace, by overcoming individualism, closure, selfishness, indifference, by living out God’s love in their daily relations. Let us ask ourselves whether our communities really are like this. To be so, we must, always and truly proclaim Christ and not ourselves.”
There are no easy answers or solutions to problems. Today we put our trust in the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in our deliberation’s and search for justice and peace for others.
Bishop John Noonan
Red Mass Homily at St. James Cathedral, Orlando, October 17, 2018