| Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘The narrow gate’

Bishop Raica Celebrates Mass for the Order of the Fleur De Lis

On Aug. 21, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Madison for the Order of the Fleur de Lis’ annual convention. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a sobering question that an unknown person asked our Lord as He was passing through the village. The question and our Lord’s answer are recorded for us to think about: “Lord will only a few people be saved?” From our Lord Himself, we also hear His stark responses and phrases, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate … I do not know where you are from … you yourselves cast out.” (cf. Lk 13:22-30) It seems to be a rather bleak prospect – not one filled with hope this weekend. However, another look at this question can stir some thoughts that are more incisive.

Is it not a wake-up call to examine closely our Christian lives? What it means to belong to Christ? What does “saved” mean? How does all this correlate with the first reading from the prophet Isaiah who makes the claim of a universal nature: “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory”? It’s already a pre-cursor to what it means to be Catholic – universal! Nations of every language!

So, whereas the Gospel raises dire warning signs of a negative response, the first reading seems to cast the net out wide – a sign of a prophetic hope to bring in the nations with a net widely cast.  

The journey of a Christian is so unique so that we must go back to examine some of the factors that are part of this relationship.

Our journey, our human journey begins with recognizing the fact that none of us put ourselves here, none of us asked to be born and none of us gave ourselves life. Nor do we exist as the result of some sort of spontaneous combustion! No, we are somehow awakened to ask ourselves why? Why am I here? Why now? What is the purpose of my life? At the very core of my life, what are the great desires I have that correlate with the desires all humanity. It’s like an inner thirst, an unsatisfied itch, that my heart and soul have. It looks for, yes, it begs for some satisfaction. It all springs into action, not by something we have created on the inside, but because we have bumped into it from outside that awakens in us the possibility of something more, something greater – like our senses are awakened by various stimuli. The human heart – in its reality – desires great things. It seeks them out, despite our efforts to quiet and quell the promptings that we find within. These great things are not limited to what we know [empirically], but they reach out to the unknowable, to the unseen to the Mystery, to the infinite. But there is something dramatic that occurs in the lives of the disciples of which we should also take notice. It is not so much in reaching out to something that may be nearly impossible to grasp. Rather, God, through the cooperation of Mary, took on our flesh to come close to us and guide us. Emmanuel, God-with-us, answers what our hearts are looking for. Jesus is someone like us, looking us squarely into our eyes and asking: “Whom are you looking for? What do you want? Do not be afraid!”

Our life is decidedly different because we have encountered a person, “Christ”; a person so extraordinary that for those who seek, everything becomes different. “They were astonished … no one ever spoke like Him” we hear repeated in the Gospels. It is like a couple who has fallen in love – everything becomes different. We begin to see the world in a new light and move away from the darkness and confusion that envelope us. He is a person so awesome that the great desires of my heart are awakened like never before, and nothing can satisfy them except the infinite Mystery of Christ.

It is for this reason that we are here today. It’s why I am here with you. To be with each other  not merely because we are nice people, but because it is here that we have the privileged occasion to encounter Christ again. I can touch Christ again. I can see that powerful gaze looking at the desires of my heart like the woman at the well or Zacchaeus. It chips away some of the hardness of my heart, opening me again to the possibility of great expectations – great things that are in store.

Among the great things that the human heart desires are such things that are wanted by every human being – a sense of something truly beautiful, real happiness and joy, justice and fairness, to love and be loved, to name a few. I don’t know how many times I have stopped in awe before the power of a sunset or the Northern Lights. It satisfies something my heart is looking for – a beautiful event that reminds me of the One Who created it. The grandeur and majesty of our Great Lakes or the incredible display of Michigan autumns seem to be a signal of something beyond. I cannot help but melt before the experience of witnessing a tiny newborn infant with all the hope and possibility that he or she contains or a disabled person who exceeds the perceptions of society and the limitations of their bodies or minds by heroic achievements.

“Try to come in through the narrow gate,” our Lord exhorts us. (cf. Luke 13:24) The gate is not a place. No! It is a person – with a name – Who stood right before them. Yes, the gate is Christ, the Way, Truth, and Life!

So, to be saved means precisely this: For us Christians, Christianity is an event, a fact in the form of an event that awakens in us the prospect of who we really are. It is an amazing affection for my humanity, embraced by God, Who holds me close to Himself. So, will many be saved? I don’t know. I’m not God. However, reality and nature shout at us to look and see life in a deeper more hopeful way that no one can take from you. It is a presence to know we are not abandoned or alone. Once discovered, it becomes the foundation upon which I can achieve amazing things in life that goes beyond fashion, bank accounts, or the latest gadget. It is to see ourselves as not as some sort of accident of nature, but one who is loved and embraced by Christ – and who can experience the adventure of life in amazing aways. That is what we hold dear and is at the center of our lives which we celebrate today in this Eucharist. Christ comes to us so that we can be with Him always! May God bless you all!

For more coverage of the order’s annual convention, click here.