TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland opened the Door of Mercy in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler on Tuesday to inaugurate the Year of Mercy.
The Holy Year proclaimed by Pope Francis began Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and continues through Nov. 20, 2016, the feast of Christ the King.
Bishop Strickland was main celebrant and homilist at the Mass celebrating the solemnity and marking the start of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Tyler.
It is fitting that Pope Francis chose the Marian feast to open the Year of Mercy, the bishop said.
“Mary is the first disciple who is anything but short-sighted,” he said. “She had to have the vision by the grace of God, the faith, to say yes to the will of God as her son would 33 years later, and as all of us are called to do.”
The bishop said it is often easy to question whether God’s mercy exists. He pointed to the large stained glass window behind the cathedral’s altar, a depiction of Christ in the garden the night before his crucifixion, as an example.
The window, he said, captures the moment “where the Son of God is asking his Father for mercy, asking, ‘Father, that this cup may pass me by, yet not my will but yours.’ The Lord of mercy in this beautiful window in this beautiful moment tells us what a day, a year, a millennium of mercy is about: to focus, ultimately, on the will of God.”
Reflecting on that moment, and on all that came after, Bishop Strickland said, “we might initially say, well, the Father wasn’t merciful to his Son. He allowed him to die on a cross.
“But his Son, the Lord of Mercy, mercy incarnate, models for us that that is short-sighted,” Bishop Strickland said.
He referred to his own impaired vision.
“I’m what they call near-sighted,” he said. “I need some pretty powerful contacts. But we’re all, in a very real sense, short-sighted by our own human reality. And even the Son of God shows a glimpse of that, because he is really human and really divine, in all the mystery that entails, kneeling in the garden, and asking, ‘Just possibly, Father, in your mercy, could this cup pass me by?’ But because our Lord and Savior is never really as short-sighted as we are, he knew that he must seek the Father’s will.”
That short-sightedness is as old as humanity itself, Bishop Strickland said. He referenced the liturgy’s Old Testament reading from the Book of Genesis, recounting the fall of Adam and Eve.
“Adam and Eve blew it because they were short-sighted,” he said. “Every one of us here, even these beautiful children, are short-sighted as well. It’s part of our reality. We only see a little way down the road.
“How many of us have offered prayers similar to our Savior’s, saying let this cup of illness or this cup of a job slipping through my fingers, a relationship breaking down, an anger that I can’t let go of, let this cup pass me by?” he asked. “And once again, in our short-sightedness, we can have the idea that the Father isn’t listening, that mercy isn’t ours.”
Yet as Christ himself did in the Garden, the bishop said, we must remember “the long story,” must try to see with “the sight that is the Father’s” and try to understand God’s plan. “We must say, as we will pray again in a few minutes in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘thy will be done.’
“And what is the Father’s will? That we know his everlasting life. And in that context, his apparent denial of his Son’s request opens for all time the gates of mercy, allowing us to know our destiny, and giving us over and over again the opportunity not to be short-sighted but to have the vision that a young man of Nazareth had.”
Throughout his homily, Bishop Strickland held his crozier, which is not his usual habit yet which he said was deliberate.
The crozier is one symbol of a bishop’s authority, the shepherd’s staff. In his homily, however, Bishop Strickland likened the crozier to the rudder of a ship. “I have been called (as bishop) to take the helm of the Church of Tyler,” he said, asking those present to “pray for me.”
But, he added, “we need to pray for each other. Yes, I’m called to take the helm, to hold the rudder. But all of us must cooperate and be those ministers of mercy we’re called to be from our baptism. So we pray for vocations. We live out our vocations with joy. We show up for holy days of obligation. Because our world needs mercy. And all of us here will be stronger ministers of mercy because we are here at this liturgy, at the beginning of the holy Year of Mercy. We are reminded that seeking the will of the Father is ultimately what mercy is.
“We will hear much about mercy in the coming months, but let us always return to that truth, that real mercy is strong, real mercy is powerful, real mercy is Christ at work in our lives.”
Pope Francis said the Holy Year is a time to experience “the sweet and gentle touch” of God’s forgiveness and his presence in difficult times.
Bishop Strickland urged those at the Mass opening the Jubilee Year to avail themselves of that touch.
“I encourage you, and the burdens you carry in your heart right now, to pray for the Lord’s mercy during this liturgy, believing and knowing that his consolation and his strength do come to us, as they did to Christ in the garden,” he said. “The Father strengthened him to do his will, and to ultimately allow that mercy to touch all our lives.
“As we begin this year of mercy, let us rejoice in the opportunity to embrace the Lord of Mercy, to be inspired over and over again by the Virgin Mary.” It is Mary, Bishop Strickland said, “who models for us what real mercy is about: seeking the will of the Father and rejoicing in magnifying the Lord, that his will might be fulfilled in everlasting life beyond our imagining.”
He again turned to the window behind the altar, and to the moment it captures.
“I encourage you to call to mind the image of Christ, God’s own son, pleading for mercy,” the bishop said. “And let us remind ourselves that, in the long-sighted will of the Father, that mercy is ultimately granted, for his Son and for the world. Keep the image of the crozier (in mind), because, in a very real sense, you all assist me and the Holy Father and all who are called to guide the church. We cannot guide the church without your faith, without your strength.
“So let us pray for and celebrate mercy together,” Bishop Strickland urged. “And let this be a year of great blessing.”
For more on the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Tyler, visit www.dioceseoftyler.org/mercy.
Joseph Edward Strickland
By the Grace of God and the Apostolic See
Bishop of Tyler
TO THE CLERGY, RELIGIOUS & CATHOLIC FAITHFUL OF THE DIOCESE OF TYLER,
HEALTH AND BENEDICTION
Jesus Christ, True Mercy
This Sunday we begin the holy season of Advent and with it our solemn preparations for Christmas when we welcome our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnation and true face of the Father’s mercy. We also make ourselves ready to enter the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, a time in the life of the Church declared by Pope Francis to encourage us to contemplate the mystery of mercy as a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. The Holy Year will begin on December 8, 2015 and conclude on November 20, 2016. Bearing in mind these two events, I would like to take a moment to share this reflection on mercy and how it is incorporated into our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ, and specifically as Catholics.
We live in the Age of Mercy because we live in the world after the saving work, the Paschal Mystery, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this context I believe we can say that the Catholic Church, founded by Christ Himself, exists as an instrument of mercy, a house of mercy, and a place from which the mercy of God should always flow. We see the foundation of mercy in the oft quoted and beautiful Gospel verse of John 3:16: the Father’s preeminent act of mercy was to share with humanity His only begotten Son. Embedded in this profoundly loving act of the Father is an acknowledgment that humanity was broken and deeply in need of a savior, deeply in need of mercy. The mercy which Jesus Christ offers to the world through His Church is hard-won, not only through his passion, death and resurrection, but truly through every moment of his time on earth as the God-Man. I believe placing mercy in this context is essential if we desire to pursue true mercy in the way we live.
True mercy always flows from God’s love and directs us toward God’s will for us – that we share His gift of everlasting life. This focus regarding mercy is essential because we are so easily tempted to move toward a superficial understanding and application of mercy that is actually not mercy at all.
In our modern culture, mercy is too often equated with “being nice” or “being soft.” Rather, if we return to the foundation of true mercy mentioned above, the mercy rooted in God’s will, which is love and mercy itself, we find that mercy is actually anything but soft. Real mercy is strong and powerful because it does not shy away from our broken existence, but instead it stands face to face with the ugly and the broken and calls us to turn away from those things by bringing the healing balm of truth and genuine freedom to bear. True mercy is transformational! Ultimately mercy is bound up with facing the truth and being challenged to move from brokenness to wholeness. The denial of this is possibly at the very heart of our modern dilemma. Too often mercy is interpreted as removing the challenge, being tolerant of the transgression and passing over the consequences of our broken reality, rather than facing it head on and being freed by that very confrontation.
Once again I cannot resist returning to the model of mercy that is the life of Jesus Christ. In the ultimate act of mercy, He embraces the cross in order to open the floodgates of mercy. In the same way, any authentic mercy demands that we hold the cross close as well. If we ignore the only authentic model of mercy we are at risk of promoting a false mercy which leads us away from life and ultimately abandons us to death. The mercy that Christ shows the world through every act of His life here on earth, and especially in His crucifixion, is a mercy that faces down the power of sin by allowing the power of love to overcome the darkness. In this way, the grace of God not only covers our sins, but it transforms us in Christ’s image.
Through the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I pray that this Jubilee Year may have a profound effect on the human family by allowing us to live more deeply in the Gospel message of the author and face of mercy, Jesus Christ.
Given at the Diocesan Chancery on November 21, 2015,
the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Joseph Edward Strickland
Por la Gracia de Dios y la Sede Apostólica
Obispo de Tyler
AL CLERO, RELIGIOSOS Y FIELES CATOLICOS DE LA DIÓCESIS DE TYLER,
SALUD Y BENDICIÓN
Jesucristo, Verdadera Misericordia
Este domingo comenzamos con el santo tiempo de Adviento y con él, nuestras preparaciones solemnes para la Navidad cuando le damos la bienvenida a nuestro Señor Jesucristo, la encarnación y el verdadero rostro de la misericordia del Padre. También nos disponemos a entrar al Jubileo Extraordinario de la Misericordia, un tiempo en la vida de la Iglesia decretado por el Papa Francisco para animarnos a contemplar el misterio de la misericordia como también el manantial de gozo, serenidad y paz. El Año Santo comenzará el 8 de diciembre de 2015 y concluirá el 20 de noviembre de 2016. Teniendo en cuenta estos dos eventos, me gustaría tomar un momento para compartir esta reflexión acerca de la misericordia y como es incorporada en nuestras vidas como discípulos de Jesucristo y específicamente como católicos.
Vivimos en la Era de la Misericordia porque vivimos en el mundo después de la obra salvadora—el Misterio Pascual—de Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios. En este contexto creo que podemos decir que la Iglesia Católica, fundada por Cristo mismo, existe como un instrumento de misericordia, una casa de misericordia, y un lugar desde el cual la misericordia de Dios siempre debe fluir. Vemos el fundamento de la misericordia en el hermoso y frecuentemente citado versículo del Evangelio de Juan 3:16: el acto preeminente de la misericordia del Padre fue compartir con la humanidad su Hijo unigénito. Incrustado en este profundo acto de amor del Padre, está el reconocimiento de que la humanidad estaba quebrantada y en profunda necesidad de un salvador, en profunda necesidad de misericordia. La misericordia que Jesucristo ofrece al mundo a través de su Iglesia fue ganada a duras penas, no solo por su Pasión, Muerte y Resurrección, pero verdaderamente a través de cada momento de su tiempo en la tierra como el Dios-Hombre. Creo que colocar la misericordia en este contexto es esencial si deseamos seguir la senda de la verdadera misericordia en el modo en que vivimos.
La verdadera misericordia siempre fluye del amor de Dios y nos dirige hacia la voluntad de Dios para nosotros—que compartamos su regalo de vida eterna. Este enfoque acerca de la misericordia es esencial porque somos muy fácilmente tentados a aceptar un entendimiento y aplicación superficial de la misericordia que en verdad no es misericordia en absoluto.
En nuestra cultura moderna, la misericordia muy frecuentemente se iguala a ser amable (“nice”) o a ser blando. Pero si retornamos al fundamento de la verdadera misericordia mencionada arriba, la misericordia que está enraizada en la voluntad de Dios, que es amor y misericordia misma, nos damos cuenta que la misericordia es todo menos blanda. La verdadera misericordia es fuerte y poderosa porque no se acobarda de nuestra existencia quebrantada, más bien se para cara a cara con lo feo y lo quebrantado y nos llama a rechazar esas cosas trayendo el bálsamo sanador de la verdad y llevando la libertad genuina. ¡La verdadera misericordia es transformativa! A la larga, la misericordia no puede hacer otra cosa sino enfrentar la verdad y uno es desafiado a moverse del quebranto a la integridad. Posiblemente, la negación de esto posiblemente se encuentra en el corazón de nuestro dilema moderno. Con demasiada frecuencia la misericordia es interpretada como quitar los retos, ser tolerante de la transgresión e ignorar las consecuencias de nuestra realidad quebrantada, en vez de enfrentarla claramente y ser liberados por esa misma confrontación.
Nuevamente, no puedo evitar regresar al modelo de misericordia que es la vida misma de Jesucristo. En su último acto de misericordia, él abrazó la cruz con el propósito de abrir las compuertas de la misericordia. De igual modo, cualquier autentica misericordia exige que nos abracemos a la cruz también. Si ignoramos el único modelo auténtico de misericordia nos arriesgamos a promover una misericordia falsa que nos conduce lejos de la vida y al final nos abandona a la muerte. La misericordia que Cristo le muestra al mundo a través de cada acto de su vida aquí en la tierra, y especialmente su Crucifixión, es una misericordia que confronta el poder del pecado haciendo que el poder del amor venza la oscuridad. De este modo, la gracia de Dios no solo cubre nuestros pecados, sino que nos transforma a la imagen de Cristo.
Por la intercesión de la Madre de la Misericordia, ruego que este Año Jubilar tenga un profundo efecto en la familia humana permitiéndonos vivir más profundamente en el mensaje evangélico del autor y rostro de la misericordia, Jesucristo.
Dado en la Cancillería Diocesana el 21 de noviembre de 2015,
Memoria de la Presentación de la Bendita Virgen María.
TYLER – Bishop Joseph E. Strickland called the three newest priests of the Diocese of Tyler to listen to and care for the people of God “with great love, with great devotion, and with great strength in the Lord.”
Bishop Strickland presided over the ordinations of Deacons George Elliott, Nelson Muñoz and Joshua Neu to the priesthood June 27 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
More than 800 people packed into the cathedral, which seats around 500, to witness the ordination.
During the liturgy, Bishop Strickland called on the three men to stand up, turn around and look at the people filling nearly every space. He spoke of the words from the first reading (Numbers 11:11-24), when Moses, beset with and dispirited by the complaints from the people of Israel, asked God, “Why do you treat your servant so badly? Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with all this people?”
“You heard those words of Moses from the first reading,” Bishop Strickland said. “Embrace those words. This is a portion of the people you are burdened with.”
As the congregation laughed, Bishop Strickland added, “And what a glorious burden that is, to be a priest of Jesus Christ for the people of God. That is your call.”
The bishop also referenced the responsorial psalm sung during the liturgy, Psalm 89, and its refrain, “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.”
“Those are fairly simple words,” Bishop Strickland said. “And I can imagine some in the world would say, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ But as a priest of Jesus Christ you are called to a great opera of the most profound and sublime singing of the goodness of the Lord. It is so much more than ‘nice.’
“You are called to perform the office of praising God,” he said. “This is not easy work, as your brother priests can tell you. Day in and day out,” he again indicated the people crowded into the cathedral, “they can be a cantankerous crowd. But they are family. They are our blood. We are their life, and they are ours.”
Bishop Strickland said “we desperately need that office (of praising God) in the world today. It was true at the time of Moses, true at the time of Paul, true at the time the Son of God walked the earth. We desperately need those who, in the words of John’s Gospel, ‘sanctify them in the truth.’”
The bishop called the three new priests to the commission from 1 Peter to “tend to the flock of God in your midst. Right here, in the Piney Woods, whether in Paris, in Hemphill, or in Gun Barrel City.
“Don’t you love Gun Barrel City?” he asked, eliciting more laughter from the congregation. “I’m sorry, visiting (priests) and deacons. Who else has a Gun Barrel City in their diocese?
“It is this people you are called to serve,” he told the new priests. “Tend the flock of God in your midst, this people. Listen to them. Care for them. Bring the universal reaches of our Catholic faith to these people, with great love and great devotion and great strength in the Lord.”
Bishop Strickland also took a few moments to acknowledge the parents, both living and deceased, of the ordinands.
“Thank you,” he said, “for giving your sons, for cooperating with the Spirit in your life and allowing them to join the opera in singing the goodness of the Lord, in this place, in this time.”
The ordination coincided with the 34th wedding anniversary of Father Elliott’s parents.
“I don’t believe this was just happenstance,” Bishop Strickland said. “It’s yet another sign from God that we must celebrate God’s truth with marriage, with holy orders, with all the challenges and the glory that the Word of God brings us. We cannot abandon that truth, no matter what court speaks the falsehoods of the day.”
He said it is a great gift “to be reminded that we have the blessing of holy orders because of young men and older men formed in a family with a marriage. Your lives haven’t been perfect, but the Spirit has worked through your sacraments to bring a sacrament of service to the flock of the Lord. Thank you, and we celebrate you for the good parents you are.”
He reminded the three new priests of the great challenge they are undertaking.
“We hear in the Word of God of a ‘spotless victim,’” Bishop Strickland said. “We will hear it again in the Eucharistic Prayer. You are to embrace daily and ever more deeply the life of the spotless victim, our Lord Jesus Christ.”
That comes “through prayer,” he said, “through service to (Christ’s) people, through answering that phone in the rectory at 2 a.m., getting up for that early Mass and staying up for that late one. When someone asks, ‘Father, will you hear my confession?’ you are to say, without hesitation, ‘Yes!’
“That is priesthood,” he said, “that is serving the people. In so many ways it is an impossible task. I don’t live up to it, these men don’t live up to it, you certainly won’t live up to it. But with the grace of God and the goodness of the people, you will.
“Yes, they can be cantankerous,” the bishop said. “But there is goodness in them. Always remember that, always believe that. In every person you encounter, there is goodness. Call them to deepen that goodness and call them away from sin.”
Bishop Strickland then called upon the congregation to pray for the new priests that they might celebrate the sacraments of the church, “and that they might do so with abundant joy.”
Joseph Edward Strickland
By the Grace of God and the Apostolic See
Bishop of Tyler
TO THE PRIESTS, DEACONS, CONSECRATED RELIGIOUS AND CATHOLIC FAITHFUL OF THE DIOCESE OF TYLER, OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF OTHER FAITH TRADITIONS, AND ALL PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL IN THE THIRTY-THREE COUNTIES OF NORTHEAST TEXAS THAT MAKE UP THE DIOCESE OF TYLER:
On the morning of June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a 5-4 decision establishing the legal right of two individuals of the same sex to legally marry in all 50 states. By doing so, the Court has acted in contradiction to their duty to promote the common good, especially what is good for families. I join with the Bishops of the United States in calling this decision a “tragic error.”
Let me unambiguously state at the outset that this extremely unfortunate decision by our government is unjust and immoral, and it is our duty to clearly and emphatically oppose it. In spite of the decision by the Supreme Court, there are absolutely no grounds for considering unions between two persons of the same sex to be in any way similar to God’s plan for marriage and the family. Regardless of this decision, what God has revealed and what the Church therefore holds to be true about marriage has not changed and is unchangeable.
Marriage is not just a relationship between human beings that is based on emotions and feelings. Rather, our Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Traditions tell us that God established true marriage with its own special nature and purpose, namely the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.
While taking a strong stand for marriage is the duty of all who call themselves Christian, every type of unjust discrimination against those with homosexual tendencies should be avoided. We must treat these individuals with loving kindness and respect based on their dignity as human persons. Christ rejects no one, but he calls all of us to be converted from our sinful inclinations and follow the truth He has revealed to us. Nevertheless, our continued commitment to the pastoral care of homosexual persons cannot and will not lead in any way to the condoning of homosexual behavior or our acceptance of the legal recognition of same-sex unions.
While some of us may have family members who have same-sex attraction, and there are even some who are members of our local churches, this decision to require the legal recognition of so-called marriage between homosexual persons should in no way lead us to believe that the living out of this orientation or the solemnizing of relationships between two persons of the same sex is a morally acceptable option.
We know that unjust laws and other measures contrary to the moral order are not binding in conscience, thus we must now exercise our right to conscientious objection against this interpretation of our law which is contrary to the common good and the true understanding of marriage.
Given this and recognizing my responsibility and moral authority as the shepherd of this Church of Tyler, I will shortly issue a decree in this Diocese establishing, as particular law, that no member of the clergy or any person acting as employee of the Church may in any way participate in the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages, and that no Catholic facilities or properties, including churches, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health or charitable institutions, or any places dedicated or consecrated, or use for Catholic worship, may be used for the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages.
Finally, I call on the Catholic faithful of the Diocese to turn in prayer to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, asking their intercession for our nation that all of us may come to a greater understanding of the beauty, truth and goodness that is found in marriage as revealed to us by our Savior.
I instruct that this letter is to be publicly read by the priest-celebrant following the proclamation of the Gospel at all Masses of obligation in the parishes, missions and chapels of Diocese of Tyler on the weekend of July 4-5, 2015. *
Given at the Diocesan Chancery
On the 26th day of June
Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen
Most Reverend Joseph E. Strickland
Bishop of Tyler
Read this Letter in Spanish (Español) – Translation Revised 4 July 15
* Bishop Strickland has further instructed the clergy of the Diocese of Tyler that this letter is more suited for personal reflection and that printed copies should be made available to the faithful at all parishes of the diocese throughout the month of July, and that it is no longer required to be read publicly at Holy Masses on July 4-5.
Linking their journey as Scouts with the journey as Christian disciples to mature in the Gospel, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland presided at a Holy Mass and awards presentation for the Boy Scouts of the Diocese of Tyler on Saturday at the Chapel of Sts. Peter & Paul in Tyler.
Bishop Strickland encouraged the young men to recognize that the goal of scouting and the goal of disciples is the same, calling the group “to live as the men and women that God as created us to be, to live rightly, to live God’s plan for us.”
Pulling in a concept that the Scouts were familiar with, Bishop Strickland use the image of knots to illustrate how then can bring order to things.