Sunday, June 08, 2008

'The Love of Christ impels us!' (Homily for Saint Boniface)

Today we celebrate a feast just for our parish—our patron, Saint Boniface.
Saint Boniface was born in England, around AD 680.

Boniface felt a call to the religious life,
but as often happens today, his family and friends discouraged him.
His parents wanted prosperity and, “success” for him.

I can imagine Boniface telling his family
what St. Paul said: “the love of Christ impels me!”
How can we not see everything differently,
once we have been changed by the love of Christ,

made a new creation, made a citizen of heaven?

Eventually, his father gave in,
and Boniface entered a nearby monastery.

Boniface did well. He excelled in Scripture, history, poetry and oratory.

He was ordained a priest at 30.

Boniface was a Saxon, so he wanted to go back to his people in Germany.
If we wonder with whom we’re to share the Gospel,
we need look no further than our families and friends.

The love of Christ impels us!

In 719, arriving in Germany, Boniface found many Christians

who had fallen back into a mixture of Christianity and superstition—
just like the people described in the first reading.
It’s not so different today.
How many people filled the churches on 9-11,
then went back to business as usual?

After three years, Boniface returned to Rome to report his progress.
The pope liked what he heard and made him a bishop.
When Boniface went back, he decided to confront false worship directly.
He walked up to one of the idols, carved into an oak tree;

he took off his shirt, and hacked it down.
“How stands your mighty god now?" he asked.
The pagans waited for lightning that never came;
and they were won to the power of Christ.

Look around, you will find plenty of false gods:
“Love” on the Internet, “public opinion,” lottery machines, TV;
we build splendid temples to sports heroes and to entertain ourselves,
while more urgent needs go without.

Like Boniface, you and I must confront these for the false gods they are,
and recall people to the true God who dwells in our midst.

One of Boniface’s challenges
was to provide Catholic education.
I think he’d heartily approve of our sacrifices
for Piqua Catholic and Lehman High School.

The love of Christ impels us!

As Boniface reached his 70s, he might have rested;
but he had one more mission that proved to be his last.

Recall what his family said when he entered religious life—
oh no, we want you to be successful in life!
By one measure, they were surely right.

Boniface never made any money for himself.
There were surely times of loneliness and doubt,
And more hardships than there needed to be.

On the other hand, Boniface, cris-crossed Germany,

establishing parishes and monasteries,
baptizing, confirming and teaching from the Alps to the Baltic.
He recruited priests and religious, he ordained bishops.

He is rightly called the Apostle to Germany.

How’s that for “success”?

If you are thinking about a vocation
as a priest or deacon or religious—this can be you!
Where would you like to be an ambassador for Christ?

You can go anywhere:
to the people of Asia and Africa, where the Church is exploding;
to the slums of Haiti, where some of our fellow parishioners will be this week;
or simply to the exotic streets of Piqua.

The whole world is at your feet:
You can be a success like Saint Boniface!

When a son or daughter says, “I’m thinking about the religious life,”
parents think about the grandchildren they hope for.
Maybe Boniface’s parents thought about that.

Yet how many hundreds of millions of Christians
in the world today trace their roots to Germany?
Every one of them are Boniface’s “children” in Christ—

how’s that for grandchildren?

As I said, for his last mission,
Boniface set off to a corner of Germany,
near present-day Netherlands, to share the Gospel.

And it was on there, on June 5, AD 755,
that a group of non-believers set on him
and his companions, and they were all killed.
That was the day of his entrance into eternal life.

Boniface’s body is still honored in Fulda, in the heart of Germany.
But we need not go so far to venerate his body.
We have a relic of Boniface here.
We deem the bodies of the martyrs as precious
Because the Lord considers them precious.

At the end of Mass, I will bless you with the relic of our patron, Saint Boniface.

When the end of Boniface’s life on earth came,
what was his focus? Was he looking back,
considering the best days were behind him?

No—his gaze was on Christ
and on the miracles yet to come.

How about us, Church of Saint Boniface?
We’ve been here 153 years.

This parish survived a Civil War, two world wars,
a Great Depression, all kinds of trouble.
We have trouble now? We wonder about the future?
What’s new?

The Church Boniface built in Germany
has gone through a lot in 1300 years;
the last century was the darkest for Germany,
and many have lost the Faith.
Yet, as we speak, a son of Germany, the first ever,
is Bishop of Rome!

The Church that one generation builds,
the next must rebuild—so it always is.

The watchword, Church of Saint Boniface—
do you know what it is?
It’s the same in every age, until he comes;
it is our watchword: The love of Christ impels us!

Saint Boniface…pray for us!


Anonymous said...

Happy Feast Day, Father - for you and your parish. I loved the homily - not only the theme of Christ impelling us - to love Him, to make Him known everywhere - with words and actions BUT also the connection to the religious vocation.

And - thanks for the very overt teaching on relics and blessing the people with it. Relics have been forgotten and many today have no idea - but what a connection with our heros - our older brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Thanks for being a good Dad.

Anonymous said...