Homily: 25th Anniversary of EWTN—the Eternal Word Television Network—Liacouras Center, Philadelphia
Cardinal Justin Rigali
June 25, 2006
We gather here in Philadelphia this morning in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in union with our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI and all the Bishops of the Church.
We gather here to listen to God's holy word, to accept it into our hearts, and to participate in the Church's celebration of the Eucharist, which is the holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
As we assemble here today, we are immediately challenged by our responsorial psalm: "Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting." We are immediately conscious of our great Eucharistic task: to give thanks to God the Father through and with and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, His Eternal Word. We are immediately conscious of our need to proclaim God's everlasting love that originates in the Most Blessed Trinity and is manifested to all of us in Jesus Christ and in His Church.
The context in which this Eucharistic gathering takes place is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Eternal Word Television Network. This event is itself a manifestation of the outpouring of God's love for His people. It is likewise a summons for us and for all those who have benefited from EWTN to give thanks to the Lord for what He has achieved through this network. To Him belong all glory and praise in the communion of the Most Blessed Trinity: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The objective of EWTN, its only boast, its sole reason for existence is to draw people to a knowledge and love of Jesus Christ the Eternal Word as He is found in His one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. This great task, this challenging enterprise is possible only by God's grace and mercy. It is therefore, above all, God's grace and mercy that we lovingly extol in prayer on this important anniversary.
As we thank the Lord for all those who have been His instruments and collaborators in organizing and sustaining this great project, EWTN, we also express gratitude for the faith and labors of Mother Angelica, her Sisters, the Friars, and all those who have shared the vision of this work and borne its burdens; for all those who have offered their work as a service to Christ's Church and its Bishops; for all those who in the silence of prayer and pain have offered their lives that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere (cf. 2 Thes 3:1); for all those who have given generously of themselves and their possessions to bring about the triumph of God's Kingdom.
Dear friends: the liturgy of this Sunday in Ordinary Time immerses us deeply into the mystery of God and into the mystery of Jesus Christ the Eternal Word. We speak of "Ordinary Time" because we have just finished celebrating a great cycle of special events in the history of salvation. Our liturgical year has led us, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to celebrate the expectation of Christ's coming into the world, His birth in Bethlehem, His life in Nazareth. We have prepared for and celebrated His Paschal Mystery in its double aspect of death and resurrection. We have watched as Jesus ascended into heaven and we have been encouraged by His promise to be with us until the end of time. At Pentecost we opened our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit of God's love as we await the return of the Lord Jesus in glory. And finally, last Sunday, we celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Eucharistic gift which renews the Sacrifice of Calvary and is therefore the source and summit of all Christian life.
At this point the Church asks herself if there can possibly be anything else to celebrate in the history of salvation, anything else to emphasize and draw attention to in the mystery of Christ. And she answers, yes. After having celebrated so many events of salvation, so many facets of redemption, the Church decides to celebrate the love itself that is at the origin of all her feasts.
It was just last Friday, two days ago, that the Church did just that. She celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In so doing she celebrated the divine and human love of Jesus Christ who shows us His human heart as a sign and symbol of His love.
With the celebration of this great Feast of the Sacred Heart, the cycle of extraordinary commemorations yields to Ordinary Time, which delves into the details of Christ's mysteries and the depth of His words as they are systematically presented in the liturgy of the Church.
Today our reflection turns to the Gospel of Saint Mark. Jesus is with His disciples in a boat, just as He is with us today in another boat—the barque of Peter. A violent storm comes up and waves are breaking over the boat, just as has happened so often in the history of the Church. And Jesus is asleep, just as He so often seems to be when we call out to Him in our needs. But then Jesus awakes. He rebukes the wind and says to the sea: "Quiet! Be still!" Then it happened: "The wind ceased and there was great calm." Then Jesus asked the apostles as He so often asks us: "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" Today Jesus renews the question to us: Why are you afraid? Do you not yet believe in me? Do you not yet accept me for who I am? To accept Jesus for who He is is to accept Him in the fullness of His identity, the fullness of His being.
The Gospel goes on to tell us that the apostles were filled with great awe and that they posed a question to one another: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
Dear friends: this question is for us, and our answer to it plunges us into the mystery of Christ: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
In our first reading from the Book of Job, we see that it is the Lord who commands the seas; it is He who fastened the bar of its doors; it is He who sets limits to the waves. Only He.
And in our responsorial psalm we see how it is the Lord who controls the sea. The Psalm says: "His command raised up a storm wind which tossed its waves on high." And then He "hushed the storm to a gentle breeze and the billows of the sea were stilled."
The liturgy of the Church and the fullness of our holy Catholic faith lead us now to respond to the question of the apostles: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"
In faith we respond: He is the Lord. He is Jesus Christ, the Lord God. He is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, the Incarnate Word. He is Jesus Christ, true God and true man. He is Jesus Christ, Son of the Eternal Father, Son of the living God, Splendor of the Father, Brightness of Eternal Light, King of Glory, Sun of Justice, Son of the Virgin Mary. He is Jesus Christ, divine like His Father, human like His Mother and like us. He is Jesus Christ, God of Peace, Author of Life, Model of all Virtues. He is Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, the true Light, Eternal Wisdom. He is Jesus Christ, our Way and our Life, Delight of Angels, King of Patriarchs. He is Jesus Christ, Master of Apostles, Teacher of Evangelists, Strength of Martyrs. He is Jesus Christ, Light of Confessors, Purity of Virgins, Joy of Families, Crown of all the Saints.
Who then is this? He is Jesus Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is Jesus Christ, who as Saint Paul reminds us in our second reading "died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."
Who then is this Jesus of the Gospel? He is the Eternal Word, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. And it is the Father who reveals Him and commands us to listen to Him.
Dear friends: as we give thanks to God for this television network that bears the name of the Eternal Word, and for all the good it has accomplished in these past twenty-five years, we pray that it may faithfully fulfill its mission for years to come: that it may, closely united with our Holy Father and all the Bishops in communion with him, proclaim ever more effectively Jesus Christ the Eternal Word, and lead people to discover Him in His Church. Through the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Eternal Word, may this Network constantly rise to the challenge before it of proclaiming the truth in love, for the good of God's people and for the glory of His Name.
And may all of us in our own lives rise to the challenge of accepting and communicating the Eternal Word, and give thanks always to the Lord, for His love is everlasting. Amen.