Homily of Cardinal Kurt Koch
of the Thanksgiving Holy Mass for the Beatification of Alphonse Marie Eppinger
in the Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Campo Santo Teutonico in the Vatican,
on October 29, 2018
To be blessed, because we are loved by God
Today’s reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians contains only two verses, and in its brevity it is unsurpassed. However, its significance cannot be underestimated at all. These two verses determine the spiritual autobiography, which St. Paul explains to his readers and leads them to be the witnesses of conversion, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:19b-20a). These words explain the essence of becoming and being a Christian: this “I”, which wants to be an autonomous and self-confident person, must die, it must be changed into a new person and be re-admitted to the wider “I”. Who allows this conversion to be done in his heart, become believer, as St. Paul notices further, Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who had loved me and given himself up for me.” (Gal 2:20b).
St. Paul, after the revolutionary experience of his conversion, he understood himself in this way and lived as a new person. Into his followers can be incorporated the new Blessed, who contemplating the Cross of Jesus Christ, understood what it meant to give herself. Because Blessed Alphonse Marie Eppinger felt that she was loved by God, she became an instrument of His love, especially to the poor, elderly, and the sick. As the one who fell in love with God, she became a relentless distributor of God’s love. She put spreading of God’s mercy in the center of her life and work. She saw in it also the task of the community she founded, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer, as Cardinal Angelo Becciu underlined during the homily in the Strasburg Cathedral on September 9, on the occasion of her beatification, “Her charism is aimed on God’s mercy: go to the homes of the poor and respond their physical and spiritual needs by practicing the works of mercy.”
Beatification of Elizabeth Eppinger, by the religious name Alphonse Marie, which she chose out of respect of St. Alphonsus Liguori, shows us an exemplary way what it means to be defined as blessed and what it means to be blessed. It means to take Jesus Christ as a measure for everything, allowing Him to be named blessed and live in extraordinary closeness with Him, as it is shown in His Beatitudes. From the Beatitudes, radiate intimate mystery of Jesus Christ. They are, according to the words of Pope Benedict XVI in the book of Jesus the Nazorean, “the hidden inner biography of Jesus, a portrait of His figure”. Similarly, St. Augustine expressed his opinion that only Jesus truly and fully fulfilled the Sermon on the Mount, in the midst of which are the Beatitudes.
Only in this Christological perspective, the Beatitudes show the role in following Jesus. In the Gospel of today, we heard about the carrying of the cross. It reminds us that Jesus’ career was different as it is among us, the people. He did not desire to make a rising career. He knew only a descending career, towards a cross. It is a career to which we are also called by Jesus, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25) This basic attitude cannot be understood without turning to Jesus Christ. Turning to Jesus Christ, it is expected that we will depart from the worldly way of life that tends to beatify those who are successful, popular, and prosper. But Jesus does not think this way. He calls blessed, those who has no means, and are poor. Even to the persecuted and the oppressed for His sake addresses a message of blessedness. Also, should the one who said, you are blessed, giving His life to the cross and predicting to his disciples a fate as was His own, behave differently?
Jesus’ life and death uniquely point to the meaning of how to live according to the spirit of the Beatitudes and become blessed. Here is the basic characteristic of the person who is beatified. A blessed looks for the same career as Jesus accepted; it is a descending career. Blessed Alphonse Marie also looked for this career, especially through her service to the poor and the sick, in whom she met God. Really, she was convinced that in her neighbor she could see God. So, she fully took care of those who were most frail, because she owned the Spirit of Jesus, which basically rested in humility and poverty. Poverty represents the main pillar of all beatitudes. Poverty, after all, is synonymous with creativity and shows what consists of Christian life: to be accepted and to live in gratitude, to be hungry for God and to thirst for His love. Being poor before God means to be grateful for life, it means to see our lives as an undeserved gift which we have to return to God as an answer to the gift of life which was given us from our Creator and as an answer to the gift of life which was offered to us by the Redeemer.
Here is appearing the real mystery of the life of Blessed Alphonse Marie Eppinger. She felt that she was loved by God. She experienced it through contemplation on Jesus’ cross. The cross is in fact the most expressive sign that Jesus was not satisfied with the proclamation of love for people by words. He paid dearly for this love, because on the cross, out of love, He shed the blood of His heart for us. By doing so, He has taken us irrevocably for Himself. Blessed Alphonse Marie deeply understood the meaning of Redemption by contemplating the cross. She understood that we, humans can be redeemed only through love, so redemption lays in that, that we are loved.
Thus, we can have an even deeper understand why Blessed Alphonse Marie founded the Order consecrated to the Divine Redeemer, “Congregatio sororum a Divino Redemptore”. As Blessed, she lives now in the presence of her Redeemer and thus she certainly can help us to deepen and proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer by words and by deeds. Therefore, there is no better way to express our joy from the Beatification of Alphonse Marie Eppinger than to express our gratitude to Jesus Christ, who infinitely loves everyone and who does not consider a person as the result of blind fate. He loves us with a special love and invites us to share this love to all the people.
This love we can convincingly pass on, only if we let Christ live in us and confess the same faith which St. Paul expressed by words, ´I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me´. This personal transmission is a deep experience especially during the Eucharistic celebration which transforms us to the men and women of the Eucharist. It also transforms our whole life to the Eucharistic prayer. All of this we can see in the life and death of Blessed Alphonse Marie Eppinger. The words of St. Paul, ´Insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me´, are perfectly reflected on her. Amen.