Bishop Douglas J. Lucia recently celebrated in Binghamton and Syracuse Red Masses for those in the legal profession. The homily he delivered appears below.
Dear Members of the Judiciary and Legal Profession, Honored Guests, Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:
The Canon Law Society of America, of which I have been a member for 20 years, has as its most prestigious honor the “Role of Law” award. It is given to an honoree who exemplifies the “desire to promote the use of every method of serving God’s people that comes under the concept of law.” For me, this notion of the role of law at the service of the People of God both summarizes the Word of God just proclaimed, as well as puts forth the challenge placed before us.
In our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear the axiom, “Know the Lord.” Yet, its context seems to place us in a quandary since it is part of a sentence that reads, “They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, ‘Know the Lord.’” These words would seem to overrule any further action on the part of the listener; and yet, if one were to turn to the principle of jurisprudence and examine this “ruling” from its analytical, sociological, and theoretical viewpoints, you and I discover a deeper precedence.
Deeper in the sense that the prophet Jeremiah proclaims on God’s behalf that “the law” is literally part of us and written upon our hearts and that its ultimate purpose is to testify to the simple fact that God and you and I are bound together. In other words, you and I don’t have to announce, “Know the Lord” to others because in substance one is being invited to know the Lord by knowing you and me!
Whoa! Now I think you and I better understand the bushel basket because we might feel like covering up a bit. The brightness of the light in which we are being invited to stand may be too much for us. Furthermore, like salt, we might wonder what flavoring we bring to the world in which we live and have some concern about our effectiveness.
Yes, brothers and sisters, to truly know the Lord is a search for integrity … our integrity … what does define each of us? In truth, one of my favorite books is the dictionary and I love the meaning of words and to search out definitions. In my search for integrity I found three definitions:
• Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values;
• An unimpaired condition; or
• The quality or state of being complete or undivided.
Notice how they all denote an integration of hands and heart. That integrity involves oneness.
For you and me, that oneness … our true integrity … is found in our coming together with God. The legal term “covenant” signifies both bond (bound together) and testimony (testament). Specifically, on this occasion, you and I are being asked: “What do you and I testify to in the performance of our duties in the public service?”
In all honesty, the golden rule may not seem to be the governing principle of the day in our land. Too often, in too many situations, one must remind those around us that one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In so much rhetoric the fact of the matter can be lost. It sometimes seems that we know it all and have become hardened to our neighbor. Is this not the very situation that God’s word seeks to correct? That, again, we need God to take from us stony, cold hearts and give to us natural hearts, hearts that can beat as one with God and neighbor.
Pope Francis in addressing the judiciary has stated: “I assure you that I will continue to be close to you in your demanding work in serving the human family in the field of justice. There is no doubt that, for those among you who are called to live the Christian vocation of your Baptism, this is a privileged and dynamic field of world evangelization. For all, even those of you who are not Christian, there is a need in every case for the assistance of God, who is the source of all reason and justice. … Justice is not done in the abstract, but in always considering man in his true value, as being created in the image of God and called to realize likeness to Him here on earth.”
There is a story told of a pastor who asked a small boy, “Can you tell me who made you?”
The youngster thought for a moment. Then he looked up at the pastor and said, “God made part of me.”
What do you mean, ‘part of you’?” asked the pastor.
“Well,” answered the boy, “God made me little. I grew the rest myself.”
Growing the rest is a lifetime job for all of us. Brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Holy Spirit for the gift of integrity so we heed the call to help others “know the Lord” by who we really are — God’s sons and daughters — and not just hide it away. Amen.