Reflecting on the Gospel of Luke when the adulation of Christ by his hometown, Nazareth, suddenly turns to a desire to throw Him off a cliff, Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schonborn said, “Sometimes I have the impression that what we are living now in Europe is exactly described in this scene. We are Nazareth.”
Cardinal Schonborn’s remarks came during a Jan. 31 homily St. Benedict’s Abbey Church on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. The Cardinal had been invited by Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph Naumann. While there, Cardinal Schonborn visited with a new foundation of the Little Sisters of the Lamb of which he is episcopal patron and gave a major lecture at Benedictine College. The executive editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church also received the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict from Benedictine College President Stephen D. Minnis. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)
While Cardinal Schonborn’s homily began with a dark vision of the state of faith in Europe, it ended citing signs of hope springing up there and in the New World, including Benedictine College where, he said, the Church is “blossoming again.”
We are Nazareth
“We have to listen to Jesus,” the cardinal said. “We have to meditate: every single gesture, every single word, his behavior, his attitude . . . And then ask the Holy Spirit” to help us understand.
“It’s not easy,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “Often I want to ask Jesus ‘Why? Why do you shock people instead of being kind to them?” Cardinal Schonborn said that what Jesus did in the synagogue in the day’s Gospel “is so contrary to all P.R. rules.”
The people of Nazareth “are fascinated by Him. They are amazed how gracious his words were,” he said. Yet Jesus “doesn’t use that enthusiasm. To the contrary, he hurts them and we must ask ourselves, ‘Why Jesus? Why do you hurt your own people . . . with whom you have lived for 30 years, worked with, prayed with?’”
Not only does Jesus perform no miracles in Nazareth, Cardinal Schonborn explained, but “Even more shocking . . . before they even ask for a miracle He says, ‘You will probably ask now for a miracle. Don’t expect a miracle from me.’”
After explaining how the people were hurt by Christ’s words and then rallied to kill Him, Cardinal Schonborn said, “What shocks me and what gives me to think about the abyss of human hearts – my heart, your heart – is how rapidly things can change from enthusiasm to hatred, from acclaim to rejection. It is so close.”
Cardinal Schonborn explained that Jesus performed no miracle in Nazareth, because He was “expecting faith, not adulation.” Christ did not want to be “a show man . . . the star of his village,” rather He “wanted their hearts, their faith.”
Recounting the Gospel, Cardinal Schonborn said that when the people tried to kill Him, “He passed through the midst of them and went away. And He never came back to Nazareth.”
“Sometimes I have the impression that what we are living now in Europe is exactly described in this scene,” the cardinal said. “We are Nazareth. . . We are tired of Him. With all our beautiful Cathedrals and monasteries . . . and the great witnesses of sanctity, we are tired of Him. We are looking for Buddhism, for all kinds of strange ideas, or simply secularism.”
Cardinal Schonborn said he is sometimes frightened by the vision of Christ going away from Europe. “Lord do not abandon us . . . Do not leave the Church in Europe,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “We have been so enthusiastic about you through all the great ages of Christianity in Europe, but then we have become tired about your words, about your requirements . . . We prefer the mainstream, the politically correct. . . We are tired of your Gospel.”
Cardinal Schonborn asked the congregation to pray that Christ would not “go away” from Europe, even while we want “that He reaches all countries of the world, all people of the world.”
The Cardinal then noted that the abbey church where he was celebrating Mass was built by monks from Bavaria and that the Holy Father was also from Bavaria. “So at least two good things come from Bavaria,” he joked, “And beer.” But he wondered whether the “great mission adventure” of Europe to the rest of the world had left Europe, itself, exhausted. Again, he asked the congregation to pray that “Europe will not become like Nazareth in the Gospel today.”
Signs of Hope
Jesus’ promise to “be with us always” is also “valid for Europe,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “There are real signs that the Lord is present . . . Signs of hope.” He cited the foundation of the Little Sisters of the Lamb in Paris and many other new communities founded precisely in places where the Church has seemed to go “down and down and down.” These communities arise as “a sign of life”.
Cardinal Schonborn said he was very pleased that the first home of the Little Sisters of the Lamb in the U.S. is Kansas. “I’ve heard that they say it’s in the middle of nowhere,” he joked. “It’s certainly not true.”
He also pointed to Benedictine College as an example of a place where the life of the Church is “blossoming again”.
“If there is true love for Jesus,” he said, “then there will be life.”
Another great sign of life is the vitality of the pro-life movement in the United States, the cardinal said. “I always hope that this vibrant commitment for life, for the beauty of life . . . will come also to Europe, that together we will commit ourselves to the love of life.”
The Cardinal ended praying that the U.S. and Europe “stay together,” not for political or economic reasons, but for faith. “We need each other,” he said. “Every time I come to this country, I return to Europe encouraged in faith.”
Following Mass and lunch, Cardinal Schonborn gave a lecture to a standing room only crowd at Benedictine College. His lecture focused on Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg lecture, which he said would one day be regarded as one of “the great texts.” Much of his lecture focused on how nominalism has shrunken both faith and reason. We’ll post on that later. Tom Hoopes has some good take-aways from the lecture over at National Catholic Register.
Beyond receiving the Cross of the Order of St. Benedict from Benedictine College, Cardinal Schonborn also received a belated (by one week) birthday cake and was sung Happy Birthday in both German and English.
UPDATE: Benedictine College has posted video, pictures newslinks and iTune downloads of Cardinal Schonborn's homily and lecture at their website.