Below is Most Reverend John G. Noonan, Bishop of Orlando's , opening mass homily delivered August 5, 2014 at the Knights of Columbus 132nd Supreme Convention:
Today the 5th of August marks the dedication of Rome’s first Marian Basilica; it is said that Mary signaled her choice of the churches site with an August snowfall. Today we come together to open the 132nd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. We open in prayer and thanksgiving to God and our Blessed Mother, Mary. I welcome my brother bishops and priests; Supreme Officers and Supreme Directors; brother knights their wives and family to Orlando.
These past few months have been difficult and I am reminded by these words, “These are the times that try men’s souls” words written by Thomas Paine during the American revolutionary war. These words may ring true today to summarize the state of our world. The first reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah we hear a similar cry. God asks Jeremiah to list the sins of the people. Despite this long list of sins, God still offers them hope “you shall be my People and I shall be your God.” The Church, the world and society face many challenges today and in the future. The Church’s moral and spiritual teaching and its role in society is been questioned; some ask: Is there a need for God in our world? People’s behavior is no longer influenced by any standard or moral code. Politics is gridlocked in extreme liberal and conservative points of view. Greed has led to economic turmoil; people losing their homes and their financial security. Hatred, lack of respect for human life has brought wars and violence. Hunger and poverty have brought disease and famine. Marriage and family values are been questioned. Human life itself is dehumanized. These are the challenges we face today and we ask — what will the future be like?
In all this doom and gloom, Jeremiah reminds us of God’s unconditional love. The challenges we are facing are whether we are willing to recognize God in our lives and are we willing to have a relationship with Him. Along comes a man named Jorge Mario Bergoglio who becomes Pope Francis. He captures the world with his humility and simplicity. Riding on the bus with the other cardinals after his election; paying his hotel bill; riding around in a Ford Focus.
In his first message to the world, he is telling us not to view the world with fear but with the joy of the Gospel. Pope Francis challenges us to let God into our lives. He illustrates this by telling us that the moon has no lights, but we have to be like the moon, because the moon reflects the light of the sun just as we must reflect the love of Christ in our lives.
In Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus coming to the aid of the disciples in the boat. Jesus walking on the water tells the scared disciples, “take courage (heart), it is I, do not be afraid” Jesus encounters Peter’s faith or lack of faith. Peter asks “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” Jesus simply replies “Come” but Peter relies too much on his own resources so he becomes fearful and begins to sink and cries out, “Lord save me.” Jesus reminds him and you and me “O you of little faith, why did you doubt.”
Pope Francis reminds us that fear will always be interwoven with our hopes. We need to discern not only our hopes but also our fear, that our fears will not overcome our hopes and leave us in doubt. The joy of the Gospel is a gift of the Holy Spirit it is in our relationship with Christ that we overcome all fears and doubts. In Sunday’s readings we heard that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” The joy we experience in a relationship with Jesus Christ is more than a simple enthusiasm; it is forged into our lives in our surrender and ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. Jesus challenges Peter to receive Jesus’ unconditional love. Peter finally accepts Jesus’ love when asked three times “Do You Love Me.” It is then that Peter finally recognizes and surrenders to Christ’s love. We too are challenged by the trials and tribulations of life; are we too busy or too self-confident to answer Jesus question “do you love me?