To start anew from Christ

on Monday, 01 March 2004. Posted in Homilies

“Though heaven and earth shall pass away, My words will stand”

Here are large excerpts from the homily of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec City given in his diocese on November 28, 2003, following his elevation to cardinal by Pope John Paul II, in which he calls for a renewal of Christian life in our country:

Cardinal Marc Ouellet“Though heaven and earth shall pass away, My words will stand” (Lk 21:33). There was a time when these words created no difficulty here (in the Province of Quebec), because it was so obviously part of our culture, marked by the Christian Faith and values. What a contrast today, when these same words sound weird to the ears of citizens of a multicultural, egalitarian and pluralistic society. The evolution of society seems to go on the exact opposite side of these provocative words of Jesus, as if these words had really passed away, or gone down in the country of free trade and free choice. The very notion of “Word of God” unfortunately disappears from new spiritual currents that emerge, following the religious crisis of my generation.

Having been created a cardinal the day after the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, you will therefore not be surprised for me to echo the cry of the poor, the widow, the orphans, the ignorant, and the excluded. The dramatic situation of our society calls for a reawakening of Christians, and a great wind of hope, founded on He who carries not only values for the future, but carries the very future itself: “Though heaven and earth shall pass away, My words will stand.”

We live in a confused, depressive, and even suicidal society. Out of a hundred pregnancies, thirty-seven are interrupted by abortion. A society that barely gives life, and that gives death so easily, reveals that it is profoundly sick, that it no longer enjoys the beautiful adventure of life. Some sociologists warn us that the social fabric has deteriorated in an alarming way. A climate of inter-generational tension and a rise of violence accompany the breakup of the family, the dropping out of school, the epidemic of suicides that decimate the young generations.

It is in Quebec that one can find the smallest number of marriages, and the  highest number of divorces. Family values, which were, in times past, rooted in a generous Catholic culture of life, are demolished by the idolatry of the self, exaggerated individualism, and the search for selfish and narcissistic, promoted by the media. Our society is out of breath; it suffocates in an atmosphere polluted by alcohol, drugs, gambling, and pornography.

I stop here describing this gloomy — yet incomplete  — picture, for fear of increasing depression even more. Dear friends, brothers and sisters, have we not a big gap in values to make up, do we not suffer from a grave deficiency of spiritual energy that erodes our solidarity and saps our motivation for work? How can this dangerous slide towards self-destruction be stopped?

The Word of God that we have just heard reminds us of the foundation of our history and of our Catholic identity: “Though heaven and earth shall pass away, My words will stand.” The Christian history of this land has been written, at its beginnings, with the blood of the martyrs, who announced the Gospel to the first nations. Facing the challenges of the third millennium, has not the time come to “start anew from Christ”, as Pope John Paul II courageously invites us to do? Since my arrival in Quebec, I can feel a strong trend along this line. I discover encouraging signs of Faith, love and generosity in many circles...

Yet, much remains to be done and restored to realize a new evangelization that reaches the poor, those who remain distant, and the victims of injustices. By returning to Christ for a new start, don't we all need — and first of all we, the ministers of the Gospel — to invoke His Mercy for our abdications and betrayals of all sorts, that darkened the testimony of the Church, and tarnished its contribution to the welfare of society? The profound crisis of hope of our society also depends on our sins and on our little faith in the tenderness of His Mercy. The Merciful Christ wants to utter on each one of us, personally, His words of forgiveness and peace.

Since Easter and Pentecost, the Church lives by this mercy diffused by the Holy Spirit, which turned scared disciples into bold and invincible missionaries. Their apostolic testimony, transmitted by the great tradition of the Fathers of the Church and doctors of the Middle Ages, has shaped the Catholic heritage that has reached us. Brothers and sisters, the time of Christianity is not over. It is the practical atheism and relativism of our society that have failed. The tragic lessons from the wars and genocides of the last century urge us to rebuild the society of the future on spiritual and religious foundations. André Malraux wrote, from the top of his observatory of the history of cultures: “The twenty-first century will be religious, or it will not be at all.”

People of Quebec and of Canada, the time has come for a reawakening of consciences, and a new quest for spiritual values that can give back strength and motivation to our society. A common effort of the State, society, and churches is necessary to create a new sense of belonging to a community where human values must prevail over the demands of market and profit. Quebec must make the most of all its resources, and cultivate its spiritual heritage if it wants to continue to exist as a distinct community in North America.

To maintain and exploit requires a genuine family policy, a new inter-generational solidarity, and also schools which remain an important place for the transmission of the religious culture among our population. Recent Law 118 (which abolishes denominational schools) has not, and must not, make Catholic religious teaching disappear from schools, even if new modes of enforcement of the law remain to be defined in the real world, with all due respect due to the new religious diversity and the continuation of the Catholic heritage received from our ancestors.

Brothers and sisters, the time has come for a new start and a concerted effort to give our children reasons for coming into the world and living. Duc in Altum, let's advance into deep water; let's throw our nets on the side of the Word of God, and we will be surprised with the miraculous draught in our own society. Yes, let's hold our heads up high, for our deliverance is near. The time for the return of the King has come. Let us not be afraid to open wide the doors to Christ. He brings us the happiness and the true liberty of the children of God. May our communities be vibrant with gratitude and missionary charity, and may they radiate the values of compassion, justice and hope that our world needs so badly.

St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist is the patron of the French Canadians. On his feast day, June 24, 2003, Cardinal Ouellet gave a homily that reflected on the Catholic heritage of the French Canadians that is now threatened:

John the Baptist preached a baptism of conversion, and did not hesitate to denounce Herod, who lived in an irregular marital situation. This prophetic audacity cost him his head, when Herod's partner had a chance to take her revenge. What would he have denounced today as regards marriage? I let you guess... for it is quite obvious. However, I will not imitate him... not only for not losing my head, but also for not losing the opportunity to announce the main point of his message, Jesus.

The good news of children! This was, in times past, the strength and grandeur of Quebec... The good news of children who have a real father and a real mother, who are married together, and who still live together after ten, twenty, thirty years, thanks to their Christian Faith. Do today's governments — either federal or provincial — have something better to offer with their new laws?

St. Anne, protect our families

St. AnneSt. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, is the patron saint of the Province of Quebec. On July 26, 2003, Cardinal Ouellet gave a homily at the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré, calling for her protection over families:

The family, the basic cell of society and of the Church, is seriously threatened by trends of opinion that go against our traditional values. The spectacular rise of abortion, since a few decades, make the birth rate fall to an all-time low, to the point of making adoption almost non-existent. In Quebec, we do without orphanages and adoptive families because unwanted babies are killed. One out of four pregnancies ends up with an abortion. This is a real catastrophe that should be avoided, not only out of respect for life, but also out of compassion for these women who pay a heavy price for a decision hastily made...

To this disaster of abortion, one must also add now this federal bill that wants to change the definition of marriage to allow same-sex marriages... Even if some pressure groups seem to enjoy unlimited power to impose their views, let us throw in the balance the weight of our Faith and prayers, and also ask for the grace to act socially and politically, in order to avoid the ruin of society, which is battling against what Pope John Paul II calls a culture of death. Let us not lose hope; everything is not lost yet. The grace of God still works wonders in our society, and can do even more if we join forces to defend our traditional values... Good St. Anne, hope of a nation in distress, pray for us!

+ Marc Cardinal Ouellet