Homily by Cardinal Blase Cupich from the episcopal ordination Mass of Bishop Tylka
EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the full text of the homily given by Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, at the July 23 Mass of Ordination for Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
While our good friend Bishop Jenky sadly could not be present today, I want to thank him and his collaborators for the kind welcome they have offered us in this beautiful cathedral dedicated to Our Lady. Admittedly, our gathering is smaller than normal circumstances allow, but I know that many others are joining us virtually. Nonetheless, we are blessed to have Bishop Tylka’s father, who I am told is the real “father Lou,” along with his sisters Linda, Brenda, Tisa and Patty and their families. We remember in a special way today, Bishop Tylka’s sister, Mary Lou, who recently passed away and, of course, his dear mother, Norma.
Bishop Tylka, you have chosen the Great Commission as your motto, which is reflected in the Gospel just proclaimed. Yet, notice that before Christ charges those first disciples to “Go, make disciples of all nations,” he first draws them back to Galilee. Why Galilee? Why is Galilee the point of reference for the new mission they are to undertake? Two things come to mind.
First, it was along the shores of Lake Galilee that they encountered Jesus to the point that their entire lives changed. It was in Galilee where they first experienced, as Pope Francis describes in “The Joy of the Gospel,” the joy of being “set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.” The message is clear: for them to be sustained in this new mission, they will need to return often to the joy of their life, that early and transformative encounter with Jesus that signaled his call to them.
You are being called to serve as a bishop in some very challenging times for society and the Church. Even as you realize that you have 25 years before you reach retirement age, remain undaunted! Return often to your Galilee moment, when you first encountered the Lord as you thought about your future, and he asked you: “what are you looking for?”
Bishop Tylka, the same is true for you. You are being called to serve as a bishop in some very challenging times for society and the Church. Even as you realize that you have 25 years before you reach retirement age, remain undaunted! Return often to your Galilee moment, when you first encountered the Lord as you thought about your future, and he asked you: “what are you looking for?” Return often to that youthful day when you became a priest and you heard the Lord say, as he did to young Jeremiah, “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.” The joy of these moments will not only shield you from discouragement and sustain you when you become weary, but will keep your proclamation of the Gospel fresh and appealing, to the point that others will be drawn to Christ as they witness your joy. Let your Galilee moment be a point of reference, a wellspring of joy to refresh and sustain your ministry.
And secondly, by summoning the disciples to Galilee, where he proclaimed: “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,” Jesus makes clear that the mission he gives to the disciples is the very one he received from the Father. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” he told them. He used the three short years of his public ministry to teach them what it means to be sent, how disciples are made and the importance of including all nations.
To be sent by the Father means remaining free to move ahead, free from any compromise or coercion to proclaim the truth of salvation. So, too, the mission you are undertaking, Bishop Tylka, must always be marked by the freedom of being sent.
You must go forward freely, not relying on the approval or applause of others, and not because your freedom has been granted by another agency or secured by alignments with those who happen to be in power. You are free because you have been sent. And yet, knowing that you have been sent, also frees you to approach those in power with cordiality and civility.
It was also in Galilee that Jesus began to teach them to make disciples. He accompanies those he calls with respect, alerting them that that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world and was within them, that God’s grace was already actively calling them step by step, gradually to receive his mercy. He taught them that discipleship is a journey that unfolds and not a destination that we can claim as our own achievement.
A few years ago, Pope Francis admonished a group of missionaries to be respectful of the people they were going to serve in a far-off land: “Remember the Holy Spirit was there before you arrived,” he urged. The Holy Father also has warned against imposing our own time lines on God’s grace, telling us to respect the divine pedagogy, lest we demand that grace comes all at once to make people superhuman, with no flaws or need of ongoing conversion. Like those gathered in Galilee, Bishop Tylka, your own experience of the Lord patiently leading you on the journey of discipleship will be your guide for making disciples.
Finally, Jesus’ mission to the whole world, to all nations, demands that we tear down all barriers of exclusion. Surely this means allowing your ministry in this beautiful Diocese of Peoria to reach out to those marginalized, forgotten, and dismissed by prejudice and judgmentalism. But, all nations must also be taken literally, for as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, each bishop shares responsibility for the Universal Church in union sub umbra Petri, under the shadow of Peter. This task takes on even greater significance in our day marked by a global pandemic, threats to the environment, violations of human dignity and a world war fought in piecemeal. It is for this reason that your bond with Peter, our Holy Father, must always remain unbroken, unquestioned and never called into doubt. At the core of your identity as a bishop is your union with him in the common mission to all the nations.
The last words of our Lord to those gathered in Galilee, are “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” You know, Bishop Tylka, that the Lord’s words are true, for he has been with you in every age of your life. Always return to Galilee to strengthen your trust in his promise.