This homily was originally preached at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana on Thursday, April 7, 2016. I meant to record it for a podcast, but it’s been so long I forgot to hit the record button while I was preaching.
The image above is a picture from the crypt with the remains of the martyrs I mention in my first paragraph. I added a gallery to the bottom of this post of the other images. There are pictures of the crypt and of their last notes to their family and the Claretian Congregation. If you want to read the whole story of their martyrdom, you can do so here.
First Reading: Acts 5:27-33
Gospel: John 3:31-36
A few years ago, I spent the summer on the Rome Experience with about 20 other seminarians from around the country (including a couple from here at Notre Dame). Near the end of that trip, we were in Barbastro, Spain. There, we visited the tomb of the Claretian martyrs from the Spanish Civil War. 51 men, mostly seminarians, were killed for no other crime than refusing to abandon their Catholic faith in a society in which, God was forbidden.
John tells us God pours out his Spirit without measure or ration on the Son. In the greatest gift in the history of creation, that same Spirit is poured on us in our Baptism and Confirmation. For most of us in this chapel, the Spirit will be or has been poured out in a different way yet again in the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
What is this gift of the Spirit that is poured out on us? First, it is faith itself for no one can have faith if it is not given to him from God. John goes on to say that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” That life is a life in the Trinitarian God whom we adore, a life that is born in Baptism, sealed in Confirmation, and fed in the Eucharist. How much more could Jesus pour himself out than he has in giving us the gift of his body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament? So, in imitation of our Lord, we must pour ourselves out without reserve to make this world a perfect sacrifice to God.
If I look at the world around me, martyrdom, red or white, is as present in the world today, a century after those 51 men gave their lives, as it was twenty centuries ago when Peter stood before the Sanhedrin. As long as the world persists in a fallen state, we will have to choose whether we will obey God and so attain salvation or obey man and so earn an eternal separation from our God.
My brothers here in formation for the priesthood, are we ready to be called before the courts to answer for our decision to unreservedly follow our Lord and His Church. I think it likely our willingness to pour ourselves out for the salvation of souls will be challenged many times in our lives. So we each ask ourselves here and now: Will we hide behind safety and comfort? Or will we persevere in obeying God rather than man?