Philadelphia, Pa., Feb 17, 2020 / 16:45 pm
Archbishop Charles Chaput has been a diocesan bishop for 31 years. For most of that time, his people have known where to find him on Sunday afternoon or evening: hearing confessions and offering Mass in his cathedral.
Chaput celebrated this weekend his last Sunday Mass as a diocesan bishop.
At the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Chaput told his parishioners he is grateful to them, and pointed following Jesus Christ as the pathway to truth and happiness.
"I'll still be around, I'm not dying, I'm just retiring," Chaput said Feb. 16, just days before the Tuesday installation of his successor, Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez.
In a homily that stayed tied to the Mass readings, characteristic of Chaput's preaching style, the archbishop cited the second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, saying it captures his experience of ministry to the Church in Philadelphia.
"What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and what has not entered the human heart: what God has prepared for those who love him," St. Paul wrote. "This, God has revealed to us, through the Spirit."
Chaput thanked the congregation for "the gift of your presence in my life."
"God bless you," he concluded.
The archbishop described his successor Perez, until recently the Bishop of Cleveland, as "a very good man" who "will serve you well as archbishop."
"I am very grateful to those who have supported me at this Mass," he said, thanking the choir, cathedral rector Father Gerald Gill, and the cathedral community.
"Some of you are regular Mass attenders at this Sunday night Mass," he said. "I'm very grateful for your presence. It really is the highlight of my week."
"It's hard for you to believe, isn't it? Looking at you is the highlight of my week. I must have a very bad week," he joked, before turning serious. "It's been a very important part of my life, I'm very grateful to you."
In his homily, Chaput reflected on divine law and God's revelation.
"One of the problems with the commandments is we think of them as laws or rules. What they really are is a pattern of life," Chaput said. "They're not there to test us to see if we're good, because we know we're not, right? The commandments are there to show us how to be good."
"God is telling us if you want to be happy, then don't steal. If you want to be successful, you won't bear false witness. If you want to have successful marriages, you won't commit adultery," the archbishop explained.
"We have freedom to choose whether or not to be good," he said. At the same time, he emphasized that Christians can't keep the commandments on their own, but must depend on God's grace. Some struggle and sin again and again, "sometimes because we depend on ourselves rather than God."
"Think about the most difficult (sins) for you: gossip, adultery, not to kill, not to anger," Chaput said, stressing the importance of the commandments.
"What's at stake here is our salvation, our eternal life, or our eternal damnation," he added. stressing the importance of the commandments. "You and I determine our future by what we choose: life--following the commandments-or death. Good or evil."
On Sunday's gospel, the archbishop warned of the "danger of scandal."
"One of the biggest sins that you and I can commit is leading someone else into sin," he said. "It's bad enough we lead ourselves into sin. But it's much worse if we lead ourselves into sin, and through that lead someone else into sin."
Chaput said he couldn't state it any clearer than Jesus himself in the Gospel of Matthew: "Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Archbishop Chaput asked the congregation: "When's the last time you led somebody into sin by your sin?"