Final Vows Homily: Freed for Mission

Author: Fr. David T. Tyson, C.S.C.

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Today at 2 p.m. ET in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Mr. Matt Kuczora, C.S.C., made his final profession of religious vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross.  Now he is one of the spiritual sons of Blessed Basil Moreau forever.

Receiving Matt's final vows and presiding at the Mass was Fr. David T. Tyson, C.S.C., Provincial Superior of the United States Province.  Fr. Tyson graciously shared his powerful homily at the Mass with us at Spes Unica, and we now share it with you. It is a deep reflection on the meaning of the evangelical counsels in our world.

Today, we gather here in this Basilica: Matt’s parents and family, his brothers and sisters in Holy Cross, his friends and colleagues, as well as those who travelled here to represent the Holy Cross community in Mexico and of Parroquia Nuestra Madre de la Luz where Matt will minister to the People of God. We come to support him as he stands before the Lord to pledge his life commitment as a disciple of Christ by living that discipleship through the evangelical counsels. We are here to support him as he makes his perpetual profession in Holy Cross gathered with his brothers with whom he pledges to work for the mission of the Lord, doing it together in order to build up the kingdom of God.  The readings chosen by Matt for this liturgy speak poignantly to what he is about to do here.

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Our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah describes the call of the young Jeremiah to be the mouthpiece of the Lord to His people. The Lord declared to Jeremiah that he had been chosen and dedicated before he was even born to be a prophet to the nations. Quite understandably, Jeremiah, very unnerved, pleads to the Lord that he is too young, and not only that he is too young, but that he is totally unprepared. The Lord’s response, though reassuring to Jeremiah, is noticeably quite persistent. He dismisses the young man’s concerns about his youth and ability. The Lord’s mission is then revealed to Jeremiah, and he is told by the Lord to trust in Him for He would be with to deliver him.

Young Matthew’s journey to this day started 28 years ago when he was claimed for Christ at his Baptism. As he grew in Faith and confirmed that Faith as his very own, his Lord’s call to discipleship began to take shape in the “eyes and ears” of his heart. But it goes without saying that Matt, like Jeremiah, surely had more than one of those moments over the years when he proclaimed to his Lord, “Whoa.”  “I’m, too young.” “I do service.” “I pray.” “I like my life.” “I’m diligent.” “I’m analytical.” “I plan.” AND “I just don’t see this in the plan.” In those instances, Matt, like Jeremiah, encountered the persistent Lord, and he encountered the promise of that same Lord to remain with him in his discipleship.
 
For our second reading today, Matt chose a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, that great story of the early post- Resurrection, Christian community. This passage describes the characteristics of this neophyte community that existed solely to proclaim the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. The passage characterizes the Christian Community, very basically, as a community of prayer, a Eucharistic community, a community of common table and common purse. The Christian Community was to be devoted to the Gospel, and marked by a clear sincerity of heart.
 
Matt’s journey of discipleship led him to Holy Cross, a group of men who choose to live lives of discipleship through the profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience – many of whom also answer a call to serve the Lord through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, ministering to the people of God through Word and Sacrament. Matt learned that a clear tenet of the mission of Holy Cross is a preferential option for the poor, a tenet which he has embraced with great zeal. He learned early on of the exhortation of our Blessed Founder, Basil Moreau, that all men of Holy Cross are to have “trust in Divine Providence, confidence in the Cross of Christ as our only Hope, and zeal for the work of the Mission.”
 
On this journey, Matt has found that the mission of Holy Cross is not one that belongs to us as individuals. Rather, our mission, which is the Lord’s, is a mission that we hold in common, and that is nurtured by our common prayer, our common life, and our common effort – all of this with the Eucharist at the center. Our Holy Cross Constitutions liken our community to that of the one which we hear about in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Just as our vows bind us to the Lord in a unique and intentional way, they also bind us to one another in a way that affords us the grace to allow our individual desires to give way to the common good for the sake of the mission.
 

Litany of the Saints

Matt’s journey in discipleship led him to reinforce the promises of his Baptism when he made the decision to live according to the evangelical counsels in August of 2008. In these three years of casting his lot with his brothers in Holy Cross, Matt has heard the Lord’s call of choosing him in a deeply profound way through his life as a religious. He has embraced the graces of our life, as well as the Cross of Christ that we are called to embrace as our only Hope.

Matt chose a reading from Matthew’s Gospel that illustrates the mandate placed before every baptized Christian who claims discipleship with Christ. It also most vividly illustrates the choice that is publically made when one professes to live according to the evangelical counsels.  In this encounter between Jesus and the rich young man, we see the clear and unequivocal difference between that which binds us by the laws of the world, and that which binds us by the Law of Christ.

The young man tells Jesus that he is seeking eternal life, and he asks what he must do to get it. He asks a question that has as its assumption that doing a certain set of actions will result in attaining eternal life. We might perhaps understand it best by the image of the balance sheet, with one amassing life’s credits and debits. Jesus answers the young man on His own terms by telling him to keep the commandments. Interestingly, Jesus cites the second five commandments, those which govern our duty to other human beings. These commandments address our personal relationships and attitudes about those things human. The young man answers that he has kept the commandments but also realizes there is something else that he thinks he should have and realizes that he doesn’t, and he asks what else he must do.  So, Jesus tells him to go sell everything he has and give it to the poor, and then to come and follow Him for his treasure would be great in heaven.
 
There is another account of this encounter between the young man and Jesus that is found in one of the early traditions of the Church.  It sheds light on what Jesus was implying in the Gospel of Matthew. In this account there is an additional response of Jesus to the young man. In it Jesus tells the young man that he claims that he has kept the law and the prophets. He then goes on to tell him that it is written in the Law that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, yet, many of your brethren, sons of Abraham, are clad in filth, dying of hunger, and your own house is filled with riches, with nothing ever going to the brethren.”
 
Jesus attempts to show the young man that he may be in keeping with the letter of the law, but it is the spiritual law by which we gain eternal life. The attitude, the life stance that the rich young man displays is wrong headed, and defies the moral law set down by Christ. As a result Jesus challenges him to give all away to the poor. He couldn’t do it because he saw his possessions as solely for his own good comfort. They were ends in themselves, and thus they became a chain that could not be broken, whereas giving them away to those who were in need would have been his key to that which he desired – eternal life!
 

Final Profession of Vows

The reading from Matthew goes on to show that the teaching of Jesus warns of the dangers that great possessions can present. The Gospel does not say that those with many possessions are turned away from, or shut out of, eternal life. However, it does tell us that these things can lead to attitudes that block us from true discipleship. With material goods or possessions like status and power, we can be lured into a false independence from the things of eternity, including God. We can be shackled to things that in the end gain us nothing. We can forget that we will lose what we keep and gain what we give away. We can fall prey to the old saying, “Enough is always a little more than a person has.”
 
Finally, Peter comes forward and quite bluntly asks Jesus what they should expect to get out of their faithful discipleship. However, Jesus did not scold or rebuke Peter which one might expect. Rather Jesus answered the question for those present. His answer lays out a number of principles about discipleship in the Christian life. Jesus declares that those who pick up the cause of Christ, and share in preaching that cause, will also share in His victory. And he who bears the cross will wear the crown. Further, we hear that true Christians will always receive far more than they ever had to give up but the rewards will not be material possessions. Rather, the reward will be a new fellowship that is human, comprised of Christian community, and also divine in which the Christian shares in the divine life of the Lord. At the very end of the passage, Jesus sets down a further principle that God’s standards of judgment are different than that of the world, and some that were first in the world will not be first in eternity.
 
At our religious profession in Holy Cross, we pledge to divest ourselves of the very things that are most valued in the world. To do so frees us to be about the work of the mission of the Lord. To do so heightens our awareness to those who are poor in our midst. To do so ensures our dependence on the Lord and those who have made the same pledge by professing the same vows. Matt comes here to make that pledge again today. This time, it is a life pledge that binds him to our Lord and to his brothers in Holy Cross for the sake of the kingdom forever.
 

Preparation of the Gifts

Matt, what you are about to profess is of great witness to us. It is a great gift to the Church. You have walked with us for these past few years and now join the ranks of those whose footsteps form the path for all those who will come in the years ahead. The legacy of those who have gone before you is now yours to preserve and to share with the future. Remember, too, that today is a beginning, not an end. I remind you of what our Constitutions tell us: "We pronounce our vows in a moment, but living them for the sake of the kingdom is the work of a lifetime. That fulfillment demands of us more than the mere wish, more even than the firm decision. It demands the conversion of our habits, our character, our attitudes, our desires" (Constitution VI).
 
This is a joyous day, a solemn day, truly a day of the Lord. You can count on our support, you can count on our continued prayers, you can count on our challenge, and you can be most assured of our fraternal love. Matt, may the Lord who called you in the beginning bless you for your response to his beckon. May he shower you with the grace of perseverance and fidelity.

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