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Bishop David Zubik: The Challenge God Gives Us As Pilgrims in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, June 16 — During Mass celebrated for the National Eucharistic PIlgrimage on the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik gave a homily focused on walking by faith and not by sight.

He preached the homily seated in his Cathedra to a crowded Cathedral.

Here is a transcript of his homily.


While I had the opportunity to recognize our [National Eucharistic] Pilgrims at the beginning of this Mass, I'd like all 15 of you please to stand so that we can recognize you. Maybe you could face our congregation so that we can see what you look like.


I stand in awe. We all stand in awe of the witness that you give in walking that great distance [from New Haven to Indianapolis], because as you do so, you teach all of us what it really means to be pilgrims of the Lord.


And, you know, in a very particular way, we're mighty proud of our seminarian Christoph Bernas who is sitting in the back there [with the servers]. I can't even begin to tell you what a thrill it was for me to see that when the procession began in New Haven, he was carrying the processional Cross of Christ. And so, Christoph, thanks for representing all of us. God bless you for sure.


And I'm going say a special thanks to Bishop Waltersheid. When we began this initiative through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops three years ago, I asked Bishop Waltersheid if he would be the one to watch over the plan and make sure that it was very active in our diocese, on the parish level, at the diocesan level, and with the procession on the national level coming to Indianapolis. Bishop, you have been so faithful to that charge and you really have made a great difference, I think, in our diocese in helping to raise people's attention to the beauty of the Eucharist, something you do so with such great passion. So let's show our appreciation to Bishop Waltersheid.


The night before last, I returned back to Pittsburgh from Louisville, Kentucky. All this past week, the bishops of the United States met for our annual spring meeting in Louisville. It's my first time to that city. There are two times every year that all the bishops of the country come together once in the spring and then once in the fall. We usually meet between five and seven days. We begin usually begins with committee meetings and then we begin in earnest as a group together.


One of the things that I so deeply appreciate is that on the first day when all of us are convened together, we have a full morning of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. One of the beautiful traditions that morning is that there are a number of priests who come into the place where we're meeting for the Sacrament of Penance. It’s really a moving sight to see how many of my brothers go to relish the presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of Penance.


When I went to confession to the wonderful priest who heard my sins, I shared with him my frustration that after having spent 40 days on retreat at the beginning of this year, how hard the devil is working to undo the graces of that retreat. My confessor was ever so wise. He went to the great teacher Augustine and he said, “I'm thinking about something that Augustine said: You can't stay on the mountain forever. You have to come down the mountain. You have to hit the bricks, the hard knocks of life.” He said, “Bishop don't forget when you come down from the mountain, you bring someone who you met up there, Christ Jesus Himself. And you know that when you get into battle with the devil, you know who's going win. It's not going to be the evil one. It's going to be Jesus himself!”  


I've been thinking about those words that Augustine spoke so beautifully through the confessor. When we crack open the Scriptures, the image of a mountain, either figuratively or in reality, speaks to connecting with God. It was on Mount Sinai that God gave Moses the 10 commandments. Jesus invited Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor at the time of his Transfiguration. Jesus gave the inaugural address contained in the Gospel of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus spells out what in fact he hopes for from his followers.


So you and I today come to this place, figuratively a mountain. This is where you and I meet God in the most intimate way possible. And the peak of this mountain experience happens on that altar when we receive the Sacred Eucharist, Jesus’ Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.


When Ezekiel was prophet, he spoke the image that we heard of today, how the remnant of the tree was planted on the mountain. God wanted to let the Hebrew people know that they would always be His people, that they would need to carry his love with them on their pilgrimage to the promised land and beyond.


When we hear Jesus words in today's Gospel, he speaks in parables about meeting God who has given to us the gift of faith. When we move away from the mountain experiences in our lives, when you and I walk outside the doors of this Cathedral today, from this mountain, we're going to hit the bricks of life and we cannot leave behind us God or the effects of our connection with him.


No wonder that St. Paul would write those words of wisdom to the people of Corinth: we walk by faith and not by sight. In reality, Paul was very worried about his people. We are very much like them. They were so much caught up in the “wisdom of the world” that they were beginning to forget about who it was that was a part of their journey. They were so hungry for power and prestige and popularity that Jesus was put on the back burner. And Paul wanted to say to them, “Hey, folks, stop walking by sight, but walk by faith.”


It's one of the powerful images that we have in this Eucharistic pilgrimage moving toward the Eucharistic Congress in our country. St. Paul’s words remind us that we are on a pilgrimage journey and we best not go it alone or forget the power that is given to us in the Holy Eucharist.


Two weeks ago today we gathered here for the feast of Corpus Christi. We went out on the streets here in Oakland. Those of us who were part of that procession know how many people stopped to took a look at what we were doing. They could not not put their eyes on Jesus carried in procession. It seems to be, my sisters and brothers, that we do those things visually. This richest part of our traditions, especially processions, are meant to remind us that every single step that we take, we take not alone, but with the power that Christ gives us in the Eucharist.


Returning to the wise advice that that confessor gave me in Louisville this past week, we have to come down for the mountain because that's what God wants us to do. But he wants us to come down the mountain embracing him in our hearts, so that God becomes evident in all that we do, in our words and our deeds.


That, my sisters or brothers, was the challenge that St. Paul gave to the community in Corinth and that's the challenge that God through Paul gives us as pilgrims in Pittsburgh.


Let's think about those words of St. Paul, and especially if the experience in your life and mind is that we’re walking by sight and not by faith, may God's grace transform that sentence in your life and mine as we are called for sure to come down from the mountain, not alone but with Christ, because we are called to walk by faith and not by sight.


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