Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Turibius of Mogrovejo (1538-1606)

Together with Rose of Lima, Turibius is the first known saint of the New World, serving the Lord in Peru, South America, for 26 years. Born in Spain and educated for the law, he became so brilliant a scholar that he was made professor of law at the University of Salamanca and eventually became chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. He succeeded too well. But he was not sharp enough a lawyer to prevent a surprising sequence of events. When the archdiocese of Lima in Peru required a new leader, Turibius was chosen to fill the post: He was the one person with the strength of character and holiness of spirit to heal the scandals that had infected that area. He cited all the canons that forbade giving laymen ecclesiastical dignities, but he was overruled. He was ordained priest and bishop and sent to Peru, where he found colonialism at its worst. The Spanish conquerors were guilty of every sort of oppression of the native population. Abuses among the clergy were flagrant, and he devoted his energies (and suffering) to this area first. He began the long and arduous visitation of an immense archdiocese, studying the language, staying two or three days in each place, often with neither bed nor food. He confessed every morning to his chaplain, and celebrated Mass with intense fervour. Among those to whom he gave the Sacrament of Confirmation was St. Rose of Lima, and possibly St. Martin de Porres. After 1590 he had the help of another great missionary, St. Francis Solanus. His people, though very poor, were sensitive, dreading to accept public charity from others. Turibius solved the problem by helping them anonymously.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (8.21~30)

Once more Jesus said to them, "I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come." This made the Jews ask, "Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, 'Where I go, you cannot come'?" But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins." "Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is true, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

The key to life
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

Occasionally one comes across those who do not seem to care in thinking of physical death as the absolute end of everything for a person. One fairly elderly person said to me that as far as he was concerned, death for him would be the same as it is for any animal. It would be the end, with nothing beyond it. Now, this belief is most uncharacteristic of human thought. In the main, man is and always has been religious, and religion almost always includes belief in an Afterlife. Man expects to continue in some form after death, although the views and images of the Afterlife have been legion. There is an immense difference between the Afterlife of Judaeo-Christian revelation and that of Buddhism, for instance. We all know that death must come, but this thought is assuaged by the prospect of an Afterlife — which is to say, we believe that after death, life will continue. The thought of death in an absolute sense is a shocking prospect. All this is to say that life is one of our most precious possessions, even though we usually take it somewhat for granted. If there is any threat to our life, our whole being is roused in fear and apprehension — and even animals respond in similar fashion. If a loved one embarks on a course which may mean the loss of life — as in some military campaign — then his family and friends become immensely concerned. They dread the day they might receive notice that he has lost his life. Clearly, one of the principal goals of a society is to ensure the preservation the lives of its citizens. A culture that undervalues life and allows its destruction for reasons of convenience or for trivial misdemeanours is to that extent closer to barbarism. Now, we may ask, if life is one of our greatest possessions, is there any key to its secure possession? We try to eat properly, maintain good health, and avoid unnecessary dangers such as driving recklessly on the roads. Life is a truly precious gift, and in all sorts of ways our conviction of this, and the conviction of society about this, is manifest. But we cannot hang on to our physical life indefinitely. What, then, is the key?

Our Lord in today’s Gospel (John 8: 21-30) gives us the key to attaining, holding on to, and flourishing in the gift of life. He tells us what is the ultimate threat to life. It is sin. The average person in a secular culture assumes that the ultimate threats to life are those he sees as destroying physical life. Life is threatened ultimately, he thinks, by hunger, disease, neglect, imprudence in health, and so forth. But Christ has revealed that the ultimate threat to life is sin and its consequent separation from God. St Paul writes that sin entered the world through one man and with sin came death, and death has spread to the whole human race. In our Gospel passage today, our Lord tells his hearers that they will die in their sins. This is the ultimate tragedy, to die in one’s sins, for this will bring the ultimate death — not a death that is extinction, but a dying forever, as it were. It will be an eternal separation from God. Horrible thought! It is the ultimate fate of the demons, and such is the lot of the one who does not die in God but in his sins. So what does our Lord provide as the key to the possession of life? The key to life is belief in him and in his word. “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” He was going to his Father, to life forever at the right hand of God, and he was telling his hearers that the course they were presently pursuing would lead them to death in their sins. “You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins.” The one way to avoid ultimate death is to believe in the One whom God had sent. Significantly, our Lord alludes to his divinity and to belief in this fundamental doctrine. “If you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins” — the “I am” is a clear reference to the name that Yahweh God had pronounced before Moses as being his own. On a different occasion, just before he raised Lazarus from the dead, our Lord had said to Martha that the one who believes in him will live, even though he die. The key is faith in Jesus.

On a separate occasion again, our Lord was visiting the home of Mary and Martha. He said to Martha that Mary her sister had chosen the better part in sitting before him and listening to his word. The most important thing in life is to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Saviour, and to live according to his word. This belief constitutes the key to life. By means of this, death is overcome in its ultimate sense, and we live now and forever in God. Let us then take our stand with Jesus, knowing that being with him is the one thing necessary.

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