Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Oct. 5 during the annual Red Mass.
The underlying theme of our readings today is the truth that God is all-knowing and ever-present, which provides me with a lot to think about as I exercise my responsibilities as bishop and a lot for you to think about as you go about your responsibilities in public service and in the legal profession.
We know from the scandals that have been much in the news these last few months how much trouble bishops get into if they are not transparent and have something to hide. Unlike God, we are not all-knowing, but word eventually gets out anyway. We’ve recently had politicians in northwest Arkansas go to jail for crimes committed that they never thought would get discovered. And what is true in the public square is also true in our own private lives as well.
Yet far from being something to fear, God’s omniscience and omnipresence should be for us a source of comfort, security and strength.
Our responsorial psalm today is Psalm 139. It starts out by proclaiming God’s omniscience: “Lord, you have probed me, you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand” (meaning in all of my physical movements), “you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar.” (verses 1-3).
God knows everything.
And then a little bit later the psalmist proclaims God’s omnipresence: “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of the dawn” (go as far east as possible) “and dwell beyond the sea” (go as far west as possible) “even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.”
God is everywhere.
We see the same thing in our first reading from the book of Job. Job has taken God to task for all the misfortune that has befallen him and now God responds, saying that he is bigger than Job could possibly imagine and his ways are more mysterious than Job will ever be able to understand.
God is all powerful, but Job is not — and neither are we.
God says, “Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place, for taking hold of the ends of the earth till the wicked are shaken from its surface?”
Nor is Job all knowing. God says: “Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell me if you know all …”
And we are not all-knowing either. Hence this Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit in which we ask our all-powerful God to give us strength in our weakness and we ask our all-knowing God to give us wisdom as we work to serve the Lord in the Church, in the public square, in the courts, everywhere.
Finally, in today’s Gospel Jesus has stern words for the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. He warns them of the judgment they are likely to face if they do not change their ways. And that is our role as well. Sometimes we have to speak difficult truths; I’ve had to do that quite a lot lately in connection with the clergy sex abuse scandals. It’s no fun, but it is necessary because it is the truth.
I’ll bet some of you have to speak difficult truths as well, shedding light on evils that must be corrected and warning people of the judgment that awaits them if they do not change their ways.
Therefore, once again, the importance of our coming humbly before our all-powerful, all-knowing Lord today to ask him to fill us with the strength of the Holy Spirit necessary to fulfill our duties with courage and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit we need to use good judgment in all that we do.
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