Called to Be Guardians of Blessed Cebula’s Memory

General Administration

Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

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As the anniversary of the beatification of Blessed Joseph Cebula was celebrated, the Superior General delivered a homily urging reflection on how this gift has been received. He posed critical questions: How have we received this gift from God? Have we learned enough from the life and martyrdom of Joseph Cebula? Do we seek his intercession?

The Superior General emphasized, “Today, God asks us, the Oblates, and all who are part of this family, to be guardians of Blessed Cebula’s memory, keeping it alive and helping it grow.” He elaborated that being guardians involves being deeply rooted in Christ’s love, as Blessed Cebula was. Despite persecution and suffering, Cebula remained united with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments. Guardianship also requires embodying humility and service, mirroring Cebula’s humble yet courageous acts in the face of persecution.

Finally, it entails nourishing hope, as Cebula did, by maintaining faith in God’s justice amid suffering. Reiterating this message, the Superior General further explained that being guardians challenges us to serve the Church humbly, assist others in discovering the sacraments, and sow hope in the world.

He concluded, “Let us ask Blessed Joseph Cebula to pray for us so that we may become holy, humble, and hopeful missionaries, embodying the qualities the Church and the world need today.”

Below is the complete homily of the Superior General:

Homily for Blessed Joseph Cebula
June 16, 2024
Luis Ignacio ROIS ALONSO OMI, Superior General

 We have just heard in the first reading: “These who are dressed in white robes, who are they, and where have they come from? These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Through the beatification of Joseph Cebula, the Church confirms that he is among this group of martyrs. Today, we thank God for the anniversary of his beatification, which has been and continues to be a gift from God to us, the Church, and the world. As we joyfully celebrate this anniversary, I ask myself: how have we received this gift from God? Have we learned enough from the life and martyrdom of Joseph Cebula? Do we seek his intercession?

Moreover, I believe that today, God asks us, the Oblates and those who feel part of this family, to be guardians of Blessed Cebula’s memory, to keep it alive, and to make it grow and spread ever more. What does it mean to be guardians of the memory of Blessed Cebula?

  1. First and foremost, it means being rooted in the love of Christ.

We heard in the second reading, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Nakedness? Peril? Sword? … in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” By contemplating the life and death of Blessed Cebula, we discover a man deeply rooted in the love of Christ. A love that transformed him to the point of being able to experience in his own flesh the same sufferings of Christ in His Passion. Neither persecution, torture, forced labor, insults, nor death could separate Blessed Cebula from the love of Christ. His companions in the concentration camp said that despite so many humiliations and his physical weakness, Blessed Cebula maintained a certain dignity as if inhabited by a certain mystery. We know that this mystery was the presence of Jesus amid the cruelty of the concentration camp. How did he reach such a degree of unity with Jesus?

Blessed Cebula was a man of prayer who cherished and frequently participated in the sacraments. Indeed, the reason for his arrest was distributing the sacraments clandestinely. This shows us his great faith in the transformative presence of God in the sacraments and prayer. As guardians of his memory, we are called to live this same love of Christ in prayer and the sacraments. We may not suffer the repression that Blessed Cebula suffered, but many times, we fail to pray in community or family or to attend the sacraments due to social pressure. As guardians of the memory of Blessed Cebula, we should also help others to discover and live the beauty of the sacraments, inviting them to participate and preparing them to do so actively. We ask Joseph Cebula to teach us to pray and live the sacraments, being consistent in our Christian life without giving in to social pressure. Let us learn from him to allow ourselves to be transformed by God, to be holy, and always to place Jesus at the center.

  1. Being guardians through humility and service.

Those who knew Blessed Cebula agree that he was a very humble man. It was a humility not closed in on itself but put at the service of others. He did so by obeying what his superiors asked of him in the service of forming future missionaries. Recognizing his own limitations, he asked not to be considered for the position of Provincial. But that humility was not cowardly. He showed heroic bravery, risking his life to bring the sacraments to people despite being watched and persecuted. He knew the words of Jesus that we heard in the Gospel: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too; … they will do all this to you because of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” Trusting in his Master, he did not stay home lamenting difficulties but went out into the street and risked his life to bring the sacraments to the sick and others in need.

His humility was expressed amid humiliations, not responding to the provocations and insults of his jailers. He lived his moments of passion with meekness like Jesus. As a humble servant, he bore witness to his Lord by living the moments of his passion, taking up his cross to fulfill the Father’s will. The memory of Blessed Cebula challenges our comfortable Christian life, which only seeks recognition or being served rather than serving. If we want to be guardians of the memory of the Blessed, we must ask ourselves how we can serve the Church as humble servants. We must also ask ourselves whether or not we serve our brothers and sisters with problems or the poor, or do we prefer to look the other way. Additionally, in difficult situations or when faced with misunderstandings or insults from those who mock our Christian testimony, we are invited to respond with meekness.

Being guardians of the memory of Blessed Cebula means asking ourselves about charity transformed into humble service as religious, priests, and laity. Being guardians of his memory calls us to be witnesses of Christ by generously serving those in material or spiritual need. Let us ask Blessed Cebula to help us be humble and courageous servants and give testimony of Jesus in our world through charity.

  1. Being guardians by nourishing hope.

Hope begins when there is no longer any reason to hope. Listening to the account of Blessed Cebula’s martyrdom, we can see that in a moment when everyone else would have despaired, he maintained hope valiantly. Indeed, all the tortures were intended to dehumanize Father Cebula. Physical, moral, and spiritual torture to make him renounce what had given meaning to his life: his religious and priestly vocation. Suffering so much led the Blessed to say that he never could have imagined a man could be so cruel. Knowing his last moment was approaching, he did not despair. Even his response to his jailers, saying that the one in charge of everything is God and not them, shows the degree of hope he had in divine justice. He hoped when nothing invited hope. Like Jesus, he placed his life and death in God’s hands.

Being guardians of the memory of Blessed Cebula invites us to live with hope; it invites us to hope in the Lord in any situation, no matter how desperate it may seem. Being guardians also means being sowers of hope among those who are losing hope. The Constitutions and Rules of the Oblates tell us that “growing in faith, hope, and love, we commit ourselves to be leaven of the beatitudes in the heart of the world.” It is a beautiful proposal to do what Blessed Cebula did, who, with his martyrdom, living the beatitudes, sowed the hope that today flourishes in celebrating the anniversary of his beatification. Like him, we are also called to sow the hope that is Christ in our world today.

Dear brothers and sisters, the mission of being guardians commits us to know and make known the testimony of Blessed Cebula more intimately, to walk with him in our lives. It also invites us to learn from his example to be humble and courageous witnesses of our Lord Jesus Christ. It invites us to pray with him, asking for his intercession before God so we can manifest His love and definitive justice. Blessed Joseph Cebula, pray for us so that we may be guardians of your memory, becoming the holy, humble, and hopeful missionaries the Church and the world need today. Amen.