The Church Tells Us the Story of God | Fr. Richard Janowicz | Holy Week 2010 | Ignatius Insight
Editor's note: For most of the past ten years my family and I have attended Nativity of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Springfield, Oregon, pastored by Fr. Richard Janowicz. This past Sunday, Palm Sunday, Fr. Richard gave the homily below; I asked him if I could republish it on Ignatius Insight. He graciously agreed.
One note of explanation for those who might not be familiar with Holy Week liturgies in the Byzantine rites: on Good Friday, a burial shroud with an image of the crucified Christ is venerated by the faithful, and carried in procession. (See, "Good Friday and the Royal Doors," by Fr. David M. Petras, for further information.) — Carl E. Olson
I recently read an article which said that one of the greatest and most important works of the Church is to "tell the story of God".
This made a serious impression on me, the idea of this "Story of God": Who He is and what He has done, and what He will do, and why He does it. It is the Church's job to proclaim to all people why we are alive, and how we came to be, and what will become of us at the end of our lives on this earth, because this is also the Story of God.
It is the role of the Church to let us know the Good News that we would not have known unless the Father had spoken it, unless the Son had lived it, and unless the Holy Spirit had sealed it into our hearts by the gift of His own divine life when we were baptized.
We have all heard, or watched, or read many stories, but there is no story that even comes close to matching God's story. It is greater than the universe, but also deeply involved with me—just one person among the billions who live on this earth.
And at the heart of God's Story is our Lord, Jesus Christ. He was first proclaimed on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, and thousands were baptized. Gradually, over time, this story spread and the Western world came to believe in the Good News, and its culture became tied to the Gospel. All of Europe, its art, its architecture, its music, its schools, its customs, its political powers, and its ordinary men and women—all of these reflected the truth of the story of the Gospel; sometimes in great ways, sometimes not as well, but the Gospel was the story that people lived by and died in.
Yet that began to change in Europe some centuries ago when certain people became fascinated with a different kind of story: the Story of Man.
It was about the brilliance of the human person as a creature, man's ability to achieve, create, discover and understand himself, and the world, without having to rely upon divine revelation. The importance of humanity in itself, its own genius, and the belief in the ability of the individual to confidently make his way through this world without any help from God—this idea began to grow in the culture we have inherited today. This is the Story of Man, and we live today in a society that loves and embraces the Story of Man.
It is not a society that demands us to deny God. It is not a society that requires us to deny our faith. It is a society that simply finds God to be rather unimportant in the daily events of life. Open a newspaper on any given day: local news, national news, politics, the economy, sports, culture—but where do you find the Story of God? Turn on the television, go to the movies, pick up a magazine; where do you see the Story of God?
The city streets have little traffic on the Fourth of July because people stop their regular business in order to celebrate the freedom of our country. But on Good Friday the streets are as busy as any other day because very few people feel the need to celebrate the eternal salvation that was won for us by Christ crucified.
We are more citizens of America than we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Because, you see, if you neglect or leave out the Story-teller, then there is no story to tell.
In the past century the Church in Africa has grown from two million to over 140 million Catholics, while in our own society faith has been pushed to the sidelines. Africa enthusiastically embraces the Story of God, while America opts increasingly for the Story of Man.
Which society is poor? Which society is rich?
Here, this week, the Church tells us again the Story of God in the strongest and most beautiful way possible as we celebrate the central truth of the story of God's love for each and every one of us. And it is not just a story of words; it is a story that we, ourselves, take part in through worship.
We are the ones who receive the Body and Blood of Christ. We are the ones who stand at the foot of the cross and ask for forgiveness. We are the ones who carry His body to the grave, and keep vigil at His tomb, and carry candles in procession to that grave on the third day.
We tell the story, we do this story, on our feet and on our knees, in the Scripture, in bowing and crossing ourselves, as we stand, and walk and sing, and pray to the living God. We are the ones who cry out, "Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!"
We are the ones who tell this most excellent of all stories, the story of love, and hope, and God-given mercy and life when we worship during these coming days. We tell the story before God, and we tell it to the world for whoever will listen, and we tell it to ourselves and our children, again and again, so that it may be rooted more deeply into our own lives, guiding us in all that we do, because this story is true.
The Story of Man can only take us as far as the grave, and it leaves us there to rot and decay, as others take our place in this world. The ending of the Story of Man is death.
But the Story of God for us, in Christ, is one of love which does not end, life everlasting, and hope that we will eternally be in the arms of Him Who saved us.
This is the week for us to sing it, say it, do it, pray it, confess it, and worship in it, believing its truth even more deeply, so that God's story molds and shapes our lives even more profoundly than it has until now. Friends, we have Good News!
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles, Excerpts, & Interviews:
The Truth of the Resurrection | Excerpts from Introduction to Christianity | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Balthasar, his Christology, and the Mystery of Easter | Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar's Mysterium Paschale | Aidan Nichols O.P.
The Cross For Us | Hans Urs von Balthasar
The Question of Suffering, The Response of the Cross | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
The Paradox of Good Friday | Carl E. Olson
Easter: The Defiant Feast | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Easter Delivers Us From Evil | Carl E. Olson
The Easter Triduum: Entering into the Paschal Mystery | Carl E. Olson
Fr. Richard Janowicz is the pastor of Nativity of the Mother of Ukrainian Catholic Church in Springfield, Oregon.
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