September 11, 2022
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most of us have heard the saying “To err is human; to forgive, divine”. This bit of profound truth comes to us from a poem written in 1711 by the English poet Alexander Pope. A son of a wealthy Catholic linen merchant, Pope explains while we all make mistakes we should aspire to do as God does and show mercy and forgiveness to others.
This proverb is precisely what we’re taught in today’s Scripture passages regarding God’s great mercy. In today’s first reading we hear about how God sees his chosen people enslaved in miserable bondage to the mightiest nation on earth. He champions their cause, smashes the armies of Pharaoh and rescues them. But it didn’t take long for them to forget the source of their liberation for while God is giving Moses the 10 Commandments they decide to worship a pagan idol.
Well that’s the result of the human condition corrupted by original sin. They like us forgot what God did for them. But Moses interceded and God forgave them.
Today’s responsorial psalm recounts King David’s lament over his sins and his plea for God’s mercy and forgiveness. He doesn’t hesitate to turn to the Lord and pour out his heart exclaiming: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense”.
Similarly we hear from St. Paul “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated.” Paul experienced the mercy of Jesus and it changed his life.
The Prodigal Son is born into a prosperous family and receives good things from his father. But in an ill-timed demand for his inheritance he thumbs his nose up at his father, takes his money and runs away from home. He wastes it all on partying, pursuing the very same idols the Israelites did in the desert. Nevertheless, his father forgave him and restores his lost sonship by giving him a robe which stands for honor; a ring for authority in the house and sandals for his place as a member of the family; servants went barefoot. If that wasn’t enough the forgiving father throws a grand celebration killing the fatted calf reserved for the Passover feast so that all may rejoice at his prodigal son’s return.
Our God has always been and always will be a God of patience and mercy. Today’s readings invite us to believe we have not a cruel, judging, punishing God but a loving, patient, merciful, forgiving Heavenly Father.
With that in mind let’s take a closer look at the older son and his actions. We get the impression the older son was the model of a perfect son all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy so he’s right in recounting the sins of his immoral younger brother’s behavior. But lacking compassion he wants his father to punish him insisting he doesn’t deserve such benevolent treatment and he sulks outside the house refusing to go in to celebrate the safe return of his mischievous brother. The Father doesn’t disagree, the prodigal son deserves to be punished. But God, the compassionate Father, looks past the sin to focus on the sinner. The older brother wants punishment, the Father, thank God, insists on mercy.
Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy is an act of charity. One of the beautiful ways God demonstrates his love for us is in the sacrament of Confession wherein admitting we are sinners we receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. Once again I encourage you to receive this gift of God’s love and mercy by going to Confession often, at least once a month.
In receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness we in turn are to be forgivers. As Christians we are to love our neighbor as ourself as well as our enemies. Forgiveness is an act of love so when we fail to forgive we commit a sin of omission for failing to love our neighbor.
Now I realize this isn’t always easy. People hurt our feelings, upset us, disappoint us by failing to do what we want them to do and sometimes hurt us terribly. It’s hard to forgive especially when the wound is deep, inflicted by someone close to us or in matters we hold dear although many times little things can affect us just as much as bigger things.
No matter who has hurt us and for whatever reason we must forgive them. They deserve and expect from us the same compassion, kindness and forgiveness we receive from our merciful Father. As forgiven prodigals we must become forgivers as Jesus taught us in the Our Father, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words forgive, or you won’t be forgiven. Being unforgiving is not an option.
A good place to start is with ourselves. I’ve heard many say I can never forgive myself for doing such a foolish or terrible thing. But because we haven’t forgiven ourselves, we feel bitter and angry with ourselves, with others, with the world and even with God. But when we forgive and are forgiven a great healing takes place within our soul.
To err is human, to forgive divine implies true forgiveness is a supernatural act which means it takes God’s grace, divine life infused into our souls in order to love as we should and to overcome our natural desire to harbor resentment and unforgiveness.
So I propose this thought to ponder. Is the reason one cannot forgive someone because we fail to ask God’s forgiveness of our sins and faults in the sacrament of Confession depriving our souls of this essential grace needed? Let’s not cheat our souls of this powerful grace.
I know it’s not always easy to confess your sins to a priest. Sometimes it’s hard for me to confess my sins to a brother priest. But as you see and hear a priest it’s really Jesus who’s waiting for you in the confessional and it’s his mercy you will receive in this sacrament of healing from albeit the hands of an ordained priest.
Brothers and sisters let’s ask God for his grace every day to know and to do his will; to do good and avoid evil. Before going to bed each night let’s examine our conscience and express our sorrow to God for our failures of the day, asking His pardon and forgiveness of our venial sins, recite an Act of Contrition and pray for God to enlighten us on how to better to serve him, his church and our neighbor. Let’s resolve to avail ourselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly especially if we’ve fallen into mortal sin and before we receive Jesus in Holy Communion.
May we be ever mindful of just as we have been hurt so have we hurt others and to appreciate the truth of that proverb to err is human; to forgive, divine.
September 4, 2022
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
We hear in our first reading today from the OT book of Wisdom “who can counsel God and conceive what God intends for the deliberations of mortals are unsure. Scarcely do we rightly guess the things of earth and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty.”
This passage describes the limited intellect of human beings and because of that we humans are prone to make errors in our thinking and judgments. One of the many things we humans ought to marvel about God our creator is that he created the entire universe out of nothing and without any help probably because no one else was around. As man continues to make great advances in science it’s quite obvious man in his finite limited intellect has only scratched the surface of discovering the depth and brilliance of the infinite limitless divine intellect. As I heard one priest say God is really smart!
This infinite divine intellect which created the universe is known as the eternal law. The Catholic Church defines the eternal law as the creative wisdom of God which directs the order of the universe. So just as a builder or craftsman has a model or blueprints in mind for making something so does God’s wisdom has plans and laws which govern the order of the universe. This model or blueprint is the eternal law.
Being infinite God is also omniscient meaning all-knowing and omnipotent meaning all-powerful and since God is both omniscient and omnipotent he essentially is perfect and perfection inherently entails being unchangeable. Therefore, coming from the omniscient and omnipotent God the eternal law is therefore perfect and unchangeable.
Stemming from the eternal law is the natural law. St. Thomas Aquinas defines the natural law as man’s participation in the eternal law. The natural law is a fundamental part of every human being and thus common to all men. It is engraved in every person’s mind and heart; hard coded to borrow a computer programming term or like standard equipment on an automobile.
God is a God of order, not disorder so just as the eternal law perfectly governs the order of the universe so does the natural law governs nature in a constant and uniform manner. Since it is natural to man the natural law can be understood by the human intellect using reason and is not necessarily directed by any religious belief or decree.
Using the eternal law and natural law as a foundation one can assess the proper nature and order of things in our world. For example, whether one believes the creation account in Genesis or not human reason clearly tells us using the natural law it takes a man and woman to procreate and carry on the human race. Supplementing the natural law with the Genesis account one can see the eternal law attribute the right order of relationships for procreation and stability of family life being the divine institution of marriage between those who by nature can procreate, namely the complementarity of a male and a female. So from our knowledge of the eternal law and the natural law the notion of the validity of homosexual marriage is discredited because it lacks that complementarity of the sexes needed for procreation. Granted this is a concise explanation but I don’t have but about 15 minutes at the most to preach before yall get really antsy so for now let’s agree for now to accept this as a “natural” fact.
Now let’s also use the lens of the eternal law and the natural law to examine another controversial topic in our society today – transgenderism. Without trying to be provocative this issue which involves what is known as “gender theory” needs to be addressed and in so doing explain the moral and social ramifications one may not be aware of. To do this I’ll be referring to Sacred Scripture, the Catechism and two Popes.
Genesis states God created man male and female and no other way. He didn’t create a third alternative. That’s not to say there aren’t aberrations of the natural law wherein due to environmental factors not natural factors there are cases where a person biologically has characteristics of both genders. But although those who go through gender realignment surgery may exhibit physical characteristics of the other gender biologically they’re still the same male or female they were before the procedure because their DNA doesn’t change; it remains the same. Sorry Bruce/Caitlin Jenner you’re still a man!
Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment calls for men and women to acknowledge their bodies as a gift from God which must be respected and not be manipulated at will.
Addressing the Roman Curia Pope Benedict warned man has established a new philosophy of sexuality which claims gender is no longer a God-given element of nature man, either as male or female, accepts and personally makes sense of and whose role is assigned by society. Rather gender theorists falsely claim there’s no such thing as a masculine nature or a feminine nature given at conception as a part of one’s essence. One’s gender role as either male or female is not something provided by society but has been imposed upon man from society. Gender is now something one may freely choose and make for oneself. Pope Benedict predicted this over 5 years ago so the notion that popes are oblivious to what’s going on in the world is utterly false.
Pope Benedict laments the scriptural account of male and female he created them as complementary versions of what it means to be human is being disputed. Gender theorists repudiate God by in effect saying God made a mistake making me male, I should be a female or I renounce my maleness, I want to be female. They claim it wasn’t God who created them as male and female, society made them that way and now ironically man who supposedly deplores the manipulation of nature and the environment in his pride now wants to decide his gender and how he lives out its social role for himself.
This is a key point because truth and reality are now no longer centered on man’s nature but on man’s choosing. With that mindset man can decide the traditional family unit no longer is a reality established by creation either and can redefine it any way he wants – 2 women, 3 men or whatever. With this viewpoint children will then be subject to losing their dignity as a gift from God to traditional heterosexual parents and be transformed into an object to which people have a right to obtain. Man is continuing down the slippery slope of the culture of death deciding when life begins and when it ends and now who may have a right to a human being.
Man did not create himself and when the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then inevitably God is denied and ultimately man is also stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears and this is where gender theory is headed.
Pope Francis adds “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking we enjoy absolute power over creation”. This is the primordial sin of Adam and Eve – pride. I, man, will decide what is true and good and what is evil. This is what happens when man tinkers with the model and blueprint of the eternal law and natural law; when the perfect order of creation is disrupted it causes chaos, confusion and disorder.
Let’s return to the sacred words from Wisdom “who can counsel God and conceive what God intends for the deliberations of mortals are unsure. Scarcely do we rightly guess the things of earth and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty.” See how important having a firm foundation in the faith and knowing how to use our faith is in assessing issues in our world today. And you thought the transgender issue was simply and innocently about unisex bathrooms.
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The famous American inventor Samuel Morse was once asked if he ever encountered situations when he was confused and just didn’t know what to do. Morse responded yes more than once and whenever he couldn’t figure something out he would kneel down and pray to God for insight. Morse received many honors from his early 20th century invention of the telegraph and humbly admitted “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.”
Our readings this Sunday are about the virtue of humility. Our first reading from the OT Wisdom book of Sirach which is not included in the protestant bible was written by the sage Ben Sira who lived about 200 years before Jesus. He warns against seeking things beyond our reach and encourages to humble yourself the more the greater you are and you will find favor with God.
In today’s gospel Jesus teaches the one who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted and he offers a parable, as he often does, to illustrate his point. In this parable Jesus isn’t playing Miss Manners. He’s not giving lessons in proper etiquette. He’s teaching us the proper way to view ourselves and others. He’s teaching us about honor, respect and particularly about humility.
The reason why Jesus was invited to this Sabbath dinner by a prominent Pharisee wasn’t because he wanted to learn from a humble rabbi but because of his miracles Jesus was being touted as a sort of celebrity which Jesus had no interest in. Without putting on an air of superiority he used the occasion to teach a lesson about humility being the essential condition for God’s invitation to His Heavenly banquet. Based on a gross breach of social etiquette Jesus taught those religious leaders what genuine humility was and what the dangers of pride were. “Go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, `My friend, move up to a higher position.’” In other words, Jesus wisely teaches to always situate ourselves so that the only way we can go is up.
To illustrate this there’s a story of a deacon having lunch at a meeting of diocesan employees. He was the last in line and when he got his plate most of the seats were taken. There was an empty seat next to the bishop as well as an unoccupied table in the corner. Thinking of this parable the deacon sat down at the empty table.
Well perhaps His Excellency had the same parable in mind as he called the deacon over to sit next to him. It had to feel pretty darn nice to be recognized and welcomed by the bishop like that. Had he presumed to take the seat next to him he wouldn’t have known his bishop’s graciousness and wondered if he had taken the rightful seat of another.
Although the deacon acted honorably getting warm fuzzy feelings when someone recognizes us isn’t the purpose. If so it’s actually a form of pride.
True humility is not having a low opinion of one’s self or thinking one is inferior to others. Rather true humility accepts the truth all of us have been created in the image and likeness of God which gives us a dignity we didn’t earn or deserve and which can never be taken away. Humility is based on knowing everything we are and everything we have are gifts from God and so we have no reason to boast or elevate our self above others. On the contrary, we must use these God-given gifts to help others. Our value as human beings isn’t based on those God-given gifts, but because we, born and unborn, are loved by God as His adopted children and are redeemed by the precious blood of His son Jesus.
The Catechism defines humility as “the virtue by which a Christian acknowledges God is the author of all good.” So humility is less about recognizing how lowly we are than about recognizing how great God is.
Humility is all about living in truth. It’s about recognizing who we are before God. He is the Creator, we are creatures. He is infinite, we are finite. He is the teacher, we are the pupils. He is the source of all goodness, we are the recipients.
C.S. Lewis, the Irish-born scholar and novelist said humility is “not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” True humility enables us to see ourselves in the same way God sees us and made us. The humble person is in touch with reality and is not under any illusion or pretense to be something or someone he or she is not nor meant to be. Humility neither overestimates nor underestimates one’s true value and worth. This actually frees one from taking one self too seriously, of exaggerating one’s importance and having to always be in control, whereas a low self-opinion often tends ironically to make one focus more attention on themselves rather than others.
The humble are strong and secure and thus have nothing to prove. The humble are docile, whereas the prideful are unable to lower themselves to learn anything new. The humble admit yes we’re sinners, we don’t know everything and we don’t always act honorably. As such the humble realize they are not God and when their creaturely limitations cause them to fail, they’re neither surprised nor depressed. When they sin the humble immediately go to Confession to ask God for forgiveness and then thank him for his mercy. True humility frees one to be the person God created and intended them to be and are not swayed by any lofty worldly ambitions.
Humility recognizes one’s lowliness before God and one’s need for salvation. The most impressive example of this lowliness, of living a life of true humility is of course our Blessed Mother. The Church teaches Mary is the greatest of creatures yet she was the most humble of persons. When the Archangel Gabriel announced she was to be the mother of God Mary didn’t put herself down and tell Gabriel she wasn’t good enough and to go find someone else. She wasn’t in the least bit reluctant to acknowledge God who is mighty has done great things for me and that all generations will call me blessed. This wasn’t meant to call attention to herself and away from God. It was simply an acknowledgement of the truth which by the way is an act of humility seeing that God is able to work great things through man.
Mary is an example to us of how one is to give one’s self to something greater than one’s self. Her lowliness and humility helps us to appreciate every accomplishment of ours comes to us not as a result of our own human merits alone but as an undeserved gift that has been graced by God. Let us pray for Mary’s intercession for the grace to be humble like her, like Samuel Morse and like that honorable deacon taking the lowest place and humbling ourselves so that we will find favor with God.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 8/21/22
I think I’ve mentioned on a couple of occasions I played baseball in high school and junior college. But I also played basketball in grade school and my freshman and sophomore years in high school. I remember before we ever touched a basketball my high school coach would run us almost to death the first couple weeks of practice. St. Joe high school in Jackson had a large outdoor campus so we would run several miles outside and then come into the gym and run what we called “lines” meaning we would sprint from one base line to the first free-throw line and back to the base line and then to center court and back and then to the second free-throw line and back and then to the other base line at the other end of the court and back. It was exhausting and if you finished first you could quit and this would go on until no one was left or the rest of us were so tuckered out we couldn’t run anymore. I never finished first and although I had a pretty good base line shot I was too short to play forward and I couldn’t dribble well enough to play guard. So needless to say sticking to just playing baseball was a good idea.
Athletics involves a great deal of hard work, discipline and sacrifice. Athletes put in an enormous amount of hours practicing and training, eating special diets in order to get into tip-top condition to compete. There are several times when they sacrificed what they may have wanted to do but instead ran those extra laps, dove those extra dives and lifted extra weight on barbells to strengthen their bodies. Why? To win an Olympic gold medal, or to win the World Series and be world champions.
Whether any athlete wins their coveted prize or not one can admire and appreciate all the effort they put into their training, how well they sharpen their athletic abilities and yes how well they strengthen and develop their physical bodies. Whether one is an athlete or not all are obliged to care for our bodies as best we can.
But God created man as enfleshed spirits, fully integrated body/soul composites. Now most of us may not care for our bodies as well as an Olympic athlete, but we all have an obligation to care for our soul. When we were baptized the Holy Spirit became a guest in our soul, the invisible component of our personhood. The care of the soul like the care of the body takes discipline, hard work and sacrifice. Actually the care of the soul is much more important since the body will one day die and decay, but the soul will live forever.
Today’s second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks about spiritual discipline. The author tells us not to disdain this discipline of the soul since it’s a sign of God’s love. So just as a coach disciplines an athlete so does a good father out of paternal love disciplines his sons. Granted exercising discipline is no fun for a father. Many times he has to play the bad guy and say to his son no you can’t go that party or to his daughter no you can’t go out with that bum, I mean that punk, I mean that nice young man because he knows what’s best for them. I can relate as a spiritual father I have to do the same thing and it’s not easy for me to exercise tough love and pastoral authority when necessary. The author also admits discipline is not fun; it’s painful. However, as one struggles and endures trials in the end discipline will strengthen the soul.
Jesus also speaks about discipline in today’s gospel. When asked how many will be saved he doesn’t give a number. Instead he urges the crowd to strive to enter through the narrow gate and warns many will not be strong enough to enter. God may truly have a colossal size heart but as today’s gospel points out the gate to heaven is actually pretty narrow disproving the notion everyone goes to heaven although we hope all do.
The original Greek word used here for strive can also be translated as agonize. Putting it in the context of athletic competition one is to strain every spiritual muscle and nerve, to put everything one has into getting the soul through that narrow gate.
Athletes play to win and unfortunately many want to win so badly they ingest certain compounds into their bodies to enhance their performance some of which actually may be poisonous. It’s ironic they would sacrifice so much to get their bodies in the best competitive shape possible but then introduce something toxic into them.
The spiritual correlation to this is sin is toxic to the soul. Just as we wouldn’t drink cyanide because it poisons the body and could cause it grave harm, even death so should we not want to endanger the spiritual health of our eternal soul by willfully committing sin. There will be many times when we’re going to have to sacrifice what we may want to do because it’s sinful and with the help of God’s grace say no; no to gossip, no to carnal desires, no to watching that video, no to I don’t feel like going to Mass, no to I’m tired to pray the rosary, no to I don’t have time for spiritual reading.
The good news is every time we say no to a temptation to sin we discipline our souls and grow “spiritual muscles”, muscles we’ll need the next time a temptation comes along and wants to poison our soul. This is another reason to avail ourselves to the sacramental grace of confession which not only forgives our sins but also strengthens the soul against future temptations. It’s a heck of a deal!
No athlete no matter how good he or she is thinks all they have to do is show up and win. Not even Michael Phelps the most decorated swimmer who has won more gold medals than any athlete in Olympic history thought that. Although top notch athletes had won several world-class competitions they knew they had to actually compete to win.
In today’s gospel Jesus is addressing Jews who think just because they’re members of God’s chosen people their passport has been validated for easy entry into their heavenly destination. It’s the same for Catholics. Relying strictly on our Catholic pedigree, wearing a crucifix or scapular will not guarantee first-class accommodations on the express elevator ride up to the penthouse suite of heaven when we die.
So the question remains, who will be saved? The answer Jesus gives us is those strong enough to enter through the narrow gate, those who lived disciplined lives and grew those spiritual muscles. Spiritual strength comes from a life of daily prayer especially when we’re tempted to sin, availing ourselves to sacramental grace by attending Mass at least every Sunday and receiving Holy Communion, food for the soul, going to confession often (at least once a month), asking for the grace to truly love God and neighbor and straining every muscle and nerve to live not according to the standards of the world but giving everything one has to learn and live authentic Catholicism.
Jesus knows how difficult it is to live a holy life. He lived here on earth and was tempted by the devil to his face. God’s grace is sufficient and it’s always available to help us to discipline ourselves and get properly trained, to grow those spiritual muscles so that we’re strong enough and tough enough to enter through the narrow gate and to ascend not a platform to receive an Olympic medal or a World Series trophy but to get to heaven and as today’s gospel states to recline at table in the kingdom of God forever.
20th Sunday in OT #120 STFXLHT 8/14/22
Aaron Lustiger was born a Jew in 1926 to a Polish family living in Paris. His family considered any Jew who converted to Catholicism an abomination and a disgrace to the family. Although there was a lot of anti-Semitism at this time Aaron was well aware most Christians were not anti-Semites. In fact his best friend in school was a Catholic.
When war between France and Germany was threatening during World War II, his parents decided for his safety to send him to a Catholic family in Orléans south of Paris. The Catholic family hosting him didn’t try to convert him but their example inspired him as did the beautiful churches in Orléans which at first he visited merely out of curiosity. When he read a Catholic Bible he was very impressed by how the Old Testament continued into the New Testament and how the suffering of Israel and the Jews seemed to connect to Jesus as the suffering Messiah.
On Holy Thursday he visited the Cathedral in Orléans but didn’t understand what was being celebrated there. He returned the next day, Good Friday when the Cathedral was empty and he experienced that same emptiness in his soul. There and then he decided he wanted to be baptized.
Just before the German invasion of France in 1940, he told his parents he wanted to be baptized a Catholic which proved to be an unbearably painful scene for him. He tried to explain he wasn’t abandoning being a Jew but discovering its full meaning. His parents didn’t understand and he suffered greatly from their pain. He wanted to convert to Catholicism because he felt it was absolutely necessary for the salvation of his soul. Finally his parents, after having brought him to a rabbi to whom he explained why he thought Jesus was the Messiah, consented not only for Aaron but also for his sister who wanted to follow her brother into the Catholic faith and they were both baptized.
The Lustiger family is an example of a family being divided because of Jesus. This is precisely what Jesus meant in today’s Gospel when he said he came not to bring peace but division. This division bore tremendous spiritual fruit in that Aaron was later ordained a priest in 1954, appointed Bishop of Orléans in 1979, archbishop of Paris in 1981 and was named a cardinal in 1983.
While we are joyful at Cardinal Lustiger’s conversion and his tremendous contribution to the Catholic Church we also lament how some of our family members who were born and raised Catholic have left causing a rift in the family. I’ve heard from so many about the pain this division has caused their families. I’m of the opinion Catholics who leave don’t know and appreciate what they’re leaving, they haven’t been taught the rich beauty of our Catholic faith, they don’t understand it really is Jesus we consume in the Eucharist and if they really believed it they would never opt for a feel good counterfeit assembly.
No one wants or likes division. We would all prefer the Rodney King approach of can’t we all just get along? While that may be a noble goal society’s current philosophy of secular relativism of I’ll think what I think and you think what you think and we’ll all peacefully coexist. Well that appears reasonable in theory but in reality it’s completely impractical. Why? Because we’re created by God as social beings, we don’t all live in a cocoon by ourselves in our own little worlds. We have to interact with others which unfortunately will result in disagreements, with division.
Examples include Muslims disagree with Christians, protestants disagree with Catholics, priests disagree with bishops, parishioners disagree with pastors, Democrats disagree with Republicans, socialists and communists disagree with capitalists, teachers disagree with parents, women disagree with men.
It’s basically the age old maxim of confrontation stemming from politics and religion. Politics and religion are divisive because they involve deeply held convictions and if you challenge these convictions, you can bet there will be conflict and division.
One prime example of this today is pro-choice vs. pro-life which has been brought to the forefront recently by the Dobbs Supreme Court decision. Have you noticed the media only shows pro-choicers and how angry they are? I’ve seen signs held up by them saying “keep your theology out of my biology, keep you rosaries away from my ovaries, I choose freedom from your religion and the scariest is god is myth, women are real”. That’s a far cry from the truth of the pro-life motto of “it’s a baby not a choice”.
Pro-choice advocates claim it’s my body, my choice. Secular relativism asserts everyone is entitled to their own opinion so pro-choicers construe the embryo in utero is just a collection of dividing cells, that it’s not a person at conception but “it” is only a person when “it” is actually born. Some radicals even say “it’s” not a person until “it” can actually think and function on its own. All this is scary but it’s what they believe.
Ok so let’s counter with an analogy. When a tomato seed is planted in the ground and it begins to germinate and sprout out of the ground a rational person doesn’t call the stem and leaves before it bears fruit simply a collection of chlorophyll and cellulose. Instead a rational person says it’s a growing tomato plant for goodness sakes!
Opinions don’t change facts so when truth is disregarded, conflict ensues and division is inevitable. So Father if this is how people will respond why bother to rock the boat? Why stick your neck out and confront them? Because people have a right to the truth whether they heed the truth or not. Our responsibility as intentional disciples is to compassionately speak God’s truth contained in Sacred Scripture and Catholic doctrine as clearly and convincingly as possible with the understanding we can’t control what people will think or do. Mother Teresa was fond of saying God doesn’t require us to be successful, but faithful. If our goal is not to offend anybody, to just get along and peacefully coexist we’re going to have a tough time being disciples faithful to the gospel.
At first glance Jeremiah didn’t have much success. His listeners totally ignored him and the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Jerusalem and Israel was taken into exile. On Good Friday it didn’t look like Jesus was successful either. But 300 years later the Romans who crucified him were now worshiping him and now there are approximatly1.3 billion Catholics in the world today.
What God commands us to share is sometimes comforting, sometimes disturbing. Sometimes we may have to say things people just don’t want to hear. Think of how Jesus and Jeremiah stood up to opposition. They were real men who didn’t back down. So as intentional disciples we must ask for the grace to get over our fear of challenging and offending people and love them enough to tell them the truth. I have to do that all the time although people no longer respect authority and don’t want to be told what to do anymore but I still have the responsibility to tell them the truth.
It’s been said all that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Brothers and sisters as we continue down the slippery slope of as Pope St. John Paul II called the culture of death, kicking God out of society resulting in the prideful exaltation of man over God, our Church and our country are suffering terribly and it’s time for us to ask for God’s grace to stand up and push back, to go on offense not defense. People need to see exactly what takes place in an abortion which is much more violent than ripping a tomato plant up out of the ground. Now more than ever it’s time to stand up against the evils of our secular society, to stand up and defend what is true and good and beautiful even if as with the Lustiger family it causes division.
July 31, 2022
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
There’s a story of a retired business tycoon who admitted he had allowed his entire life to revolve around making money. He was intelligent, industrious and having a keen business acumen made him an extremely successful entrepreneur. He lived in a massive mansion with every room elegantly decorated. He fashioned himself in the finest clothes from Milan, had servants caring for his mansion, chefs cooking him scrumptious meals, gardeners manicuring his landscaped estate. He traveled the world in his private jet, was couriered by limousine and chauffer. You can say he had anything and everything he could possibly want.
One day he asked to meet with his pastor for spiritual counseling and there he admitted: “Father, I am so empty! I’ve killed myself all my life for what I have, and it’s never been enough. I’ve wasted all my time and energy on the things of this world. Honestly, I wish I could give all this stuff back and relive my life without being so consumed by all of these worldly things and spend more time with God and family.
Unfortunately, this business tycoon fell into the trap of how success is defined in our society today. If you have a high profile job or career, are loaded with money and possessions, are popular and famous then you’re considered successful and your quest for so called “greatness” has be realized. You’ve made yourself “somebody”! But does this actually satisfy our supernatural desire for greatness?
Our scripture passages this week ask us to consider our priorities in life. Today’s first reading comes from Ecclesiastes which is the only time we hear from this OT book in the three-year cycle of Sunday readings. Ecclesiastes is one of the wisdom books of the OT which includes Proverbs, Psalms, Job, Wisdom and Sirach.
Old Testament Wisdom books aim at teaching lessons about life and knowing what’s important in life. They attempt to impress upon the reader how vital serious reflection on life issues are and how wisdom helps one to properly identify and assess a critical situation in life and how to act and behave in an appropriate and ethical manner.
Qoheleth is a philosopher who is on a quest for the meaning of life. He has accomplished much in life. He has wisdom and he has wealth. He’s enjoyed pleasure and prosperity. He’s successful in the eyes of this world yet he declares all things are vanity. Biblical scholars posit vanity here may mean transitory or fleeting so Qoheleth is rightly saying all things of this world are temporal and will one day end.
But Qoheleth doesn’t spurn the search for wisdom or the pursuit of success and prosperity nor does he disparage ingenuity and hard work. Likewise, Jesus in today’s gospel doesn’t fault the rich man for his ingenuity and hard work either in acquiring his wealth. Rather they both criticize those who judge the worth of a person based on one’s accomplishments and making “human success” – prosperity, prominence, prestige and power the primary or exclusive goal in life none of which can guarantee fulfillment and happiness, this quest for supernatural greatness. Their teaching is about having proper priorities in life; of being as I often say, eternity minded.
It’s important to note the Church teaches personal wealth is morally neutral; it’s not evil in and of itself, but is to be understood like all good things as a gift from God. It’s the immoderate attachment to riches as St. Paul tells us in today’s epistle that’s evil and can lead to idolatry.
Most of you know I was a CPA for over 25 years in my prior life and I’m convinced capitalism is truly the best economic system in the world. Capitalism encourages innovation through the profit incentive. Capitalism and freedom are by far the primary reasons there’s so much technical advancement in our lives today. Conversely, socialism and communism may sound fair in theory but they fail terribly in reality and CCC2425 teaches the Church has rejected their totalitarian and atheistic ideologies.
Contrary to many political and media pundits capitalism is not the reason greed exists in our world today. Greed has been around for millennia well before capitalism was ever thought of. Greed exists in all economic systems including socialism and communism. Greed exists in the corporate world as well as in government.
So one may ask what does this have to do with me, I don’t rub elbows with the rich and famous? Well marketing companies and the various forms of media in all economic systems today try to induce us more is better, you need this or that and if you don’t have “it”, this latest gadget they tell you you have to have, you’re depriving yourself and you’re even frowned upon for not getting one. I have an I-phone 7 and some have commented you know Father there’s the I-phone 13 now hinting at hey you’re behind the times. But it works fine and does all I want it to do and many things I don’t care about at all.
Now of course we have to provide for our families, our children’s future and for our retirement, but any of us can get caught up in making money and having things; we confuse wants with needs. The question is: is this desire for the latest trend, like getting a tattoo, or the latest gadget, this I-phone 27 whenever it comes out, a stepping stone on the road to God and everlasting life or a detrimental distraction? Is it a want or a need?
The Church’s social doctrine teaches we are to live a “reasonable” lifestyle which is albeit subjective and to use all our excess resources to help the world’s poor and needy and to financially support the Church in her mission of salvation.
In this regard let Qoheleth analyze Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel for us. He might say all the prosperity the rich man encountered in his bountiful harvest was a good made possible by he who is goodness itself. But rather than look to God and thank God for his bounty he becomes covetous whereas he should have shared his good fortune with those less fortunate and had he shared his surplus with them he would have experienced something far greater than fleeting worldly prosperity and all it provides. Instead he would have had an experience of God who is infinitely generous. The rich man chased after what is transitory and fleeting which ultimately as the rich business tycoon understood too late, cannot satisfy. You can just hear Qoheleth saying vanity of vanities; all things are vanity.
So the question remains; should I get that body ornament, that latest trendy gadget although the one I’m using works perfectly fine or do I put a little extra in the collection basket, add to my CSA contribution, buy extra groceries and give them to the local food pantry or adopt a poor child or adult through the Catholic run organization, Unbound?
I think Qoheleth would have appreciated knowing about St. Francis of Assisi who recognized wealth, social position and all his worldly possessions made it impossible for him to imitate Jesus. The renouncing of his family’s inheritance and the stripping off of his elegant clothing were signs of his detaching himself of worldly attachments. His radical act was aimed at helping to set proper priorities and to recognize the entanglements of what the world calls success. He realized success in the context of eternity is how well we conform our lives to the life lived and taught by Jesus Christ. [repeat] If we do we may not have everything we want like that business magnate but we’ll be an eternal success and considered truly great, we’ll be “somebody” after the heart of Jesus. We’ll be rich in what matters to God.
July 24, 2022
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C
In my homily a couple of weeks ago I mentioned how the lgbtq agenda has been forced upon us by the very powerful media in our society today. No matter where you look there’s some promotion and endorsement of their immoral agenda and if you dare to pose a differing view watch out you will be attacked, ridiculed and disparaged.
Well in today’s first reading from Genesis we hear: In those days, the Lord said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grave. What is this grave sin God is referring to?
The sin is sodomy which derives from the name Sodom and this is what I’ll preach on today. Now I realize homosexuality is not just a controversial topic, but one that’s very difficult to discretely preach about in a Sunday homily. Nevertheless, based on polls taken the majority of Americans have accepted its legitimacy and therefore it’s a topic that must be addressed. It’s so controversial that when I preached on it several years ago when same-sex marriage was being considered by the Supreme Court some in the congregation ran out of the church before I even got started. Although my comments today are discrete I do understand if you have young children you may want to step out, but if you do I ask you to read the homily on the parish’s website, stsfxstl.org.
Before I begin here’s a short quote from the Letter to the Hebrews13:7-9 Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.
There’s no doubt our society has been flooded with strange teaching regarding this issue. So my purpose today is to simply state from Sacred Scripture and the Catechism what the Catholic Church teaches with the understanding this is not in any way meant to demean anyone who has a same-sex attraction. Again it’s about the sinful act committed not the person. As the Catholic adage goes, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.
Here now are a few quotes from Sacred Scripture:  Genesis 19:4-7 The townsmen of Sodom, both young and old—all the people to the last man—surrounded the house. They called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to your house tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have [sexual] relations with them.” Lot went out to meet them at the entrance. When he had shut the door behind him, he said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not do this evil thing!
 Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death.
 Romans 1:26-28 God delivered them up to shameful affections. Females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind and to their sinful conduct.
 1 Cor. 6:9–10 Do you not know the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor sodomites, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. Wow that should scare all of us! The same is said in 1Tim. 1:8–10 as well.
Jude 7 Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
And now the teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. 2359 [ Like all human beings] Homosexual persons are called to chastity.
The same holds true for so-called same-sex marriage. Attempts to justify and legitimize same-sex relationships or unions or to give them matrimonial status including whatever judicial or legislative actions man undertakes contradicts God’s plan as revealed from the beginning both in nature and in Sacred Scripture.
Again we hear from Sacred Scripture: Genesis2:18, 21-24 “The Lord God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I shall make a helper suited to him. When he brought her to the man, the man said: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called ‘woman,’ for out of man this one has been taken.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.
This scripture passage establishes the natural marital partner for a man is a woman and vice versa. Marriage is a divine institution having its basis in both Sacred Scripture and the natural law. It’s not of human origin and thus cannot change.
Let’s face it our society has made a god out of human sexuality, any time with anyone. The Church teaches conjugal relations are moral only in the context of marriage and that’s why it’s call the “marital act”. Any other expression of sexual intimacy outside of marriage as prescribed by God is against the divine and natural law and thus immoral.
Jews, Christians and most other world religions have always taught the same about homosexual behavior. Everyone, heterosexual and homosexual alike are to overcome the temptation of lust and St. Paul comforts us saying, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it”. (1 Cor. 10:13).
You know the Church has been criticized for pushing her morality on people but politics and various forms of media do that very thing only worse. Actually politics and the media are giant bullies; politics by using the heavy hand of making and enforcing laws and the media constantly promotes the homosexual and transgender agenda and if you disagree they attack you saying you’re a homophobe meaning you hate them.
Really? Ok so if I disagree with you on any issue that means I hate you? That’s totally illogical and the ultimate aim of that type of rhetoric is to keep you from speaking out. But as intentional disciples we must speak out, but do so with empathy and compassion. Our discourse is to be done with fraternal love and is never meant to denigrate anyone.
Ok although a bit painful I hope this was helpful. The Church’s teachings on this issue are clear and simple but for many and trust me I get it difficult to follow. While I wish I could convince everyone of the value and goodness of these teachings and have them all live by them all I can do is relay them to you and hope you will take them to heart.
Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching.
July 17, 2022
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Two old friends were catching up over drinks at a sidewalk cafe. One friend asks the other, you know you’re a great and handsome guy so I cannot for the life of me understand why you haven’t gotten married yet? His friend replied, well to be perfectly honest I’ve spent years traveling the world looking for the perfect woman. In Milan I met a very beautiful and extremely intelligent woman. As is the case many times initially I thought I had found the ideal spouse, but soon I discovered she was terribly vain and conceited and was heavily in debt. Then in Buenos Aries I met a woman who was outgoing and generous and I thought here’s the perfect woman. But again early on I discovered she was flighty, extremely emotional and irresponsible and had tattoos.
I had just about given up on ever meeting the perfect woman until one day in Dallas I met her. She was incredible! She was a beautiful, cosmopolitan, intelligent woman, caring, kind, generous, had a wonderful sense of humor and to my greatest excitement she was a practicing Catholic who took her faith seriously. She had it all; she really was perfect. His friend quickly asked then why didn’t you marry her? Grabbing his wine glass and lifting it to his mouth he replied somberly, because she was looking for the perfect man. She obviously had never met me in my prior life haha!
There’s been much debate about who was the more “perfect” disciple, Martha or Mary. But first a little background. Martha and Mary along with their brother Lazarus lived in Bethany just 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. Most likely it was the place where Jesus stayed when he came to Jerusalem for solemn feasts because it would be packed with pilgrims making available lodgings very scarce. In staying with them a close bond developed and it’s quite likely Jesus would teach them as he lodged with them and enjoyed their hospitality and friendship. They came to recognize the privilege of having Jesus, the Messiah, in their home. However, Martha and Mary had different views of what hospitality entailed.
Martha is all about service, the hospitality of serving delicious world-class refreshments to her guests and this was good. I sure enjoy it when parishioners invite me over to eat, hint, hint and I truly appreciate those who do. Just as in today’s first reading God visited Abraham in the form of a trinity of travelers, he and Sarah pull out all the stops when it came to food and drink and their generosity was rewarded. Mary on the other hand thought the supreme compliment she could pay to her divine guest was to simply give him her full and undivided attention.
So here’s the dilemma; is it service or is it school that takes precedent? Well it’s not either or but both and; both are necessary. The Martha and Mary episode teaches us the need for balance between service and prayer; between action and contemplation; between doing good deeds and the need for simply spending time with the Lord, learning from Him and recharging our spiritual batteries. So the right answer is not to separate the work of Martha and the prayers of Mary but to combine them. It’s the Benedictine maxim ora et labora, pray and work! We need listening Marthas and serving Marys.
Martha has become a symbol of action-oriented, responsible people who get the job done. Our world, our homes need such dynamic and generous men and women, boys and girls. We need them in our parishes to teach religious education and work with the youth, to sing in the choir, to help clean and maintain parish facilities and all the various needs of the parish, to visit the sick and the shut-ins and to serve in all other ministries of the parish community. The Church can’t run well without them. We need Marthas.
But there’s also the enormous need for prayer and meditation. All of us need on a daily basis to recharge our spiritual batteries. We need to put aside the work of the world and concentrate more on not doing but being; to spend more time and effort on being the child of God we are and to grow in our relationship with Him, to be as I often say more eternity minded. We need Marys.
The question now is how to become more eternity minded, how to be more like Mary? How do we focus more of our attention on our existence after we die? How do we sit at the feet of Jesus realizing life after death will be not only the continuation but the expansion of what we already experience here on earth?
We live in the most distracted, hectic society of all time. We’ve become so active and busy with living our lives centered on the things of this world that we fail to stop to realize how important it is to think about the hereafter, to slow down and spend some time with God talking to Him but more importantly listening to Him, of being aware of God the Holy Spirit’s presence in our souls.
If we want to spend more time with Jesus we have to create space in our day for Him. None of us should be content with just squeezing Jesus into our day. So the first suggestion is to periodically during each day to leave Martha’s kitchen, to get rid of or at least limit whatever is keeping us so busy and make room in our day to spend some quality time with Jesus. This may mean turning off the TV, putting the phone down, getting off the internet, not being a work-a-holic, stop playing video games and being so consumed with social media outlets.
To be with the Lord we also need silence. God speaks to us in silence. Our world is so noisy and there’s an acute need to be quiet and still in order to not just hear God speak to us but also for us to listen to him. Mary made space to sit quietly at Jesus’ feet, to simply be with him and to listen to him apart from “doing” things.
This is where coming to adoration as the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in the monstrance is so powerful. One is there to engage not in a monologue but in a heartfelt dialogue in the actual presence of almighty God. Visits to the church to pray in front of the tabernacle are also powerful times to be with the Lord. While there you could imagine yourself sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him and conversing with him just as Mary did in today’s gospel. A few short, hurried prayers in the morning and at night and grace before and after meals just aren’t enough. It’s a good start but we need to do more.
If I were to ask who wants to go to heaven I hope all of you would raise your hand and shout out I do, I do. Well spending eternity in heaven means being with Jesus forever and if we don’t know Jesus and have a relationship with him how can we want to spend eternity with him? Heaven is not just a picnic with family and friends that never ends.
Another way of getting to know Jesus better other than prayer and spending time with him in the Blessed Sacrament is to read passages from Sacred Scripture, especially from the gospels. Mother Angelica recommended as one reads from the Bible to pray what one reads and imagine ourselves in the bible story.
The 3rd Commandment we know is to keep holy the Sabbath and the Church has always emphasized every Sunday to be a day of rest, recreation and worship of God, to commune with the God we hope to live with in heaven forever. I read in a commentary the other day the Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for eternal life. The commentator noted in heaven there will be no jobs and there will be no work to do; we’ll just be with God forever. So you know what? I think we need to start practicing our dress rehearsals for eternity right now, starting today!
However, while we’re here on earth we have work to do; the work of spreading the gospel so we are to be like Martha. But to do it well we need to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him like Mary. My dear children it’s not either or it’s both and; both are necessary for us to be a more “perfect” disciple of Jesus Christ.
July 3, 2022
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
There’s a story of an army chaplain who was serving on the battlefield and came across a young soldier who was seriously wounded. He asked him “Would you like me to read something from the Bible?” The soldier replied, “I’m really thirsty, I’d rather have a drink of water.” Hurrying away the chaplain quickly brought him the water. Then the wounded man asked, “Could you put something under my head?” The chaplain took off his overcoat, rolled it up and gently placed it under his head as a pillow. “I’m cold, is there something you can put over me.” The chaplain immediately removed his jacket and put it over him to keep him warm. Then the soldier looked the chaplain straight in the eye and said, “If there’s anything in that book that makes a man do for another all you’ve done for me please read it to me. I’d love to hear it.”
Continuing last week’s call to discipleship today’s gospel is about announcing the Good News. That short story reminds us announcing the Good News of the Kingdom is done not just with words but by deeds, our acts of charity extended to our neighbor.
Today Jesus appoints another 72 to help him on his missionary journey. It’s the same today with the Pope who needs bishops and bishops who need priests and priests who need lay disciples to go out into the world to spread the gospel everywhere carrying out Jesus’ commission to baptize all nations.
What’s the significance of Jesus appointing 72 disciples? In the Book of Numbers (11) Moses is told to gather 70 elders who will be given a share of the Spirit to help Moses care for God’s people. Two men, Eldad and Medad must not have gotten the memo and were absent but they also received a share of the Spirit, making it 72. Jesus likewise sent out 72 disciples giving them all a share of his Spirit.
These 72 were to bring the Good News to those they encounter. They were to bring the message, Jesus came to transform the world; that evil was being defeated by acts of charity, curing the sick and expelling demons. When they returned wild with joy they exclaimed Lord, even the demons were subject to us. Can you imagine how excited Jesus must have been? and He joined right in their enthusiasm, I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
But He warns them not to take joy in their successes for it was God working through them. Rather they were to rejoice because your names are written in heaven. The spreading of the gospel is not to be a matter of spiritual pride, of getting praise and rewards here on earth but of extending Christian love to others and again as I’ve said before making deposits in the celestial bank.
So who were these 72? It’s fitting we really don’t know, they aren’t named. But the significance for us today is we the baptized are the 72! We as disciples are commissioned to go out into the world to spread the gospel. Jesus has given each one of us a mission to carry out to further the kingdom of God here on earth and as faithful Catholics we’re to attract others to the faith by the example of our lives.
The world needs the witness of Christians who are honest and generous, who live lives of integrity, of spouses who love, respect and are faithful to each other, who raise their children in the faith to be good moral citizens, who lovingly discipline them when necessary and teach them by example to pray, love and help others by sharing their blessings. We need for people to once again ask if we are Catholic? if I am Catholic? if you are Catholic? and hear their reaction – I could tell!
Affirming this a recent survey asked the question why do adults still join the Catholic Church in spite of the scandals publicized in the media and having beliefs on controversial issue such as pro-life and lgbtq that are so countercultural?
The result found 75% of new adult converts to the Catholic Church replied they were attracted by a personal invitation from a Catholic who had a lively relationship with Jesus and his Church. That survey indicates most people are more often caught rather than taught. So we’ll attract others to the Catholic Church more so by how we live rather than by what we say. It’s living the gospel that will speak volumes; it’s walking the talk.
Now nobody said this would be easy. I bet it wasn’t easy for the 72 Jesus appointed. Actually it’s never been easy. Yes it may be difficult to speak up and defend the Church’s teachings on today’s controversial issues but Jesus told us many times to be not afraid; the Holy Spirit and our Guardian Angel will be there to help us.
To illustrate this there’s a story of a man who was to speak to a group of teenagers at a public high school where his nephew attended. They were having motivational speakers talk about how they overcame the obstacles and difficulties in their lives. He was previously un-churched and experienced multiple tragedies in his life. Through the love and concern of some faithful Catholic friends he opened his heart to God and embraced Catholicism. Nervous about the talk he asked his pastor to pray for him because he intended to tell his story complete with his conversion. His pastor of course assured him of his prayers and asked him to let him know how it went because he was a little concerned about sharing one’s Catholic faith in a public school forum.
Later he came to the rectory to report the young people loved his talk! They thought it was so good they voted him the best speaker of the year and asked him to return in the fall to tell his story to the entire school! This illustrates the natural deep hunger every person has for God and how our young people who remain idealistic will respond to authentic, sincere Christian witness.
Jesus says today the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few. I don’t think he’s just referring to a shortage of priests. He’s referring to the paucity of zealous intentional disciples. As successors of the 72 we’re called to have the courage to risk being “moral martyrs” who, although never physically shedding our blood for our faith, but are willing to face ridicule and rejection from family members, friends and co-workers.
Many may think oh Father what can I, one person, do? I’ve said many times the world is converted one soul at a time and here’s yet another story, this one of St. Philip Neri as an example of the missionary zeal and courage demanded by today’s gospel.
Philip came to Rome in the early 1500s from Florence and when he arrived he was horrified by the physical and moral devastation of the city. The Gospel was neither being preached nor lived as many of the clergy were living in open defiance of the Church’s moral teachings. This disturbed Philip and he prayed asking God what he should do.
He had read the letters of St. Francis Xavier who was converting tens of thousands in India. This excited Philip and he consulted his spiritual director who told him to focus his attention on re-evangelizing those around him, declaring, “Rome is to be your India!” This was an intimidating task for one man to say the least. But Philip, relying on God’s help, started first as a layman, then as a priest to convert Rome, one person at a time. He would cheerfully go to street corners and say, “Friends, when are we going to start to do good?” He developed various social and religious activities to give people, especially the young, better moral alternatives to those offered by the depraved culture around them. Well his impact was enormous and when he died in 1595, much of Rome had been reconverted earning him the title “Apostle of Rome”.
Brothers and sisters as we celebrate the birthday of our great nation we must acknowledge our society, our country and our Church are wounded and in need of spiritual healing. Our society has shoved the grossly immoral lgbtq agenda down our throats and basically labeled anyone who speak against their agenda and who want to reclaim the rainbow as the sign of God’s promise, not of sinful pride as homophobic. The federal government is way too strong and intrusive usurping much of our freedoms in violation of our founding fathers and Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church has always spoken out against a strong national government. Faithful orthodox priests have had their faculties removed for preaching the truth about these very same issues.
As I said last weekend it’s time for us to stand up and put on our game faces. We are the 72 of today and the same God who spoke to St. Philip over 400 years ago challenges each one of us today. Jesus came into the world to testify to the truth and to defeat the evil one. Let’s remember as his disciples we’ve been given spiritual authority and power for overcoming the works of darkness and evil in our world.
May we as that army chaplain did as well as the 72 in today’s gospel achieve the mission entrusted to each one of us and wild with joy exclaim when we meet Jesus “Lord, even the demons were subject to us” and then to hear Jesus join right in our enthusiasm, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky. ” May we all strive to be good and faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and after a job well done rejoice because our names are written in heaven.