Monday, July 22, 2013

Homily - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 21, 2013

As best I recall, this is what I preached at the 5 pm Mass on Sunday.  I may be condensing a bit from what I actually preached.  Although I didn't mention it in the homily, I chose to preach on this topic because of NFP Awareness Week this week, 7/21-28.

The obvious theme in today's readings is hospitality.  And these readings give us nice and clear examples of what the fruits of hospitality are meant to be. 

In his eagerness to serve the three strangers, Abraham first shows us gratitude.  As St. Paul says, "Name something you have that you have not received."  Everything we have comes to us a gift from God - our very life, our vocations, certainly all of our material possessions.  Abraham understands this.  And he understands that what we have received is meant not only for our own good, but also for the good of others.  And so he is quick to express gratitude to God for his prosperity, by offering food and water and shade to the strangers who come to his tent.

The second fruit of hospitality is fruitfulness.  In receiving the word of the coming birth of his son, NOW, after years of wanting and hoping for the fulfillment of this promise, Abraham receives a fruitful increase to his hospitality.  This is true for us as well, either materially or spiritually.  When we give, we are rewarded even more, in some way.

And Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus shows the third fruit of hospitality, which is contemplation.  Hospitality brings us, like Mary, to His feet, so that we can hear His voice and see His holy face in serving others.

All of us are called by our baptism to practice this kind of hospitality.   God wants us to be grateful for all the gifts He has given us, and to use all them, both for our own good and salvation, and for that of others. God wants us to be materially and spiritually fruitful, in our work and in our prayer, and in every part of our life.  And God really wants us to know Him and to love Him with our whole being. 

Now, contrast this, what the Bible says about hospitality, with what the world says about hospitality.  Everywhere in the world we look, every time we turn on the TV or the internet or the radio or open a magazine, the world tries to tell us how we must be.  And in particular, the world tells us that in place of hospitality, we must have contraception.

Contraception is the opposite of hospitality.  We can see that here, in these readings.  Point by point, contraception contradicts all of the fruits of hospitality.  In place of gratitude, contraception makes us selfish.  Practicing contraception leads us to demand what is meant to be given as the free gift of love.  Of course contraception is the opposite of fruitfulness; and this is just as true of spiritual fruitfulness as of bodily fruitfulness.  And contraception, being a serious sin, never leads us to contemplate the face or the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ in the one we love.

But we know that God is most merciful and forgiving.  He "desires not the death of the sinner."  And He calls us every day to turn away from sin in our life, and seek His forgiveness, and really change and become the holy people He wants us to be.  We know the means of this constant journey of conversion - daily prayer, and the grace of the sacraments, especially of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Every day, every moment, is an opportunity for each of us to hear and respond to His call, to love in a better way, as we follow the example of Jesus Christ and the saints. [I think I had a few more sentences rounding out this exhortation, but I can't remember exactly how I closed.]

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Encyclical, "Lumen Fidei"

Today the new encyclical on faith (completing the set with Pope Benedict's two on charity and one on hope) is released in English.  I'll put a link in the side-bar, as well.  Here's the clear theme:

4. There is an urgent need, then, to see once again that faith is a light, for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfilment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion. We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness. Dante, in the Divine Comedy, after professing his faith to Saint Peter, describes that light as a "spark, which then becomes a burning flame and like a heavenly star within me glimmers". It is this light of faith that I would now like to consider, so that it can grow and enlighten the present, becoming a star to brighten the horizon of our journey at a time when mankind is particularly in need of light. 

More on this encyclical when I can.

HHS Mandate news

A not insignificant group of religious leaders offered an "open letter" on Tuesday, on the danger of the HHS Mandate, still violating "free exercise of religion" and liberty of conscience in patently illegal and immoral ways.  For the record, the "Final Final Rule," announced last Friday, remains unchanged from any of its previous iterations.  All differences are cosmetic, merely trying to disguise the violation of law and conscience.

C-SPAN also has a Tuesday 7/2 press conference including comments by Archbishop Lori.

And, rather quietly, it was announced that not only would the deadline for the mandate be pushed back again to Jan 1, 2014, but also, another "grace period" would be offered to Jan 1, 2015.  This avoid a showdown in the 2014 elections, of course, but also tacitly admits that enforcement is problematic at best, impossible at worst. [Correction: the grace period to 1/1/15 is for the employer mandate, not the HHS mandate.]

The Beckett Fund has a good page about the details of the dozens of major lawsuits against the mandate.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Homily for Feast of St. Thomas, 3 July 2013

Today I preached mostly on the Gospel, St. John's account of "doubting Thomas." Here's what I said, as best I recall.  Pope Francis's homily can be found here.

When Pope St. Gregory the Great preached on today's Gospel, he made the distinction between knowledge and faith.  St. Thomas saw Jesus with the eyes of his body, and so he recognized Jesus as Risen and alive.  But in a separate act, he also saw Jesus with the eyes of his soul, and recognized who it was who was really standing before him: God, the Son of God. 

There are a great many people today who are able to see with the eyes of the body, but who refuse to see with the eyes of the soul.  I'm thinking for example of people who support abortion; they can see even with the eyes of the body what harm abortion does - taking the life of an innocent child, morally damaging a mother and often a father as well, and also other people - but yet they don't recognize the moral evil.  I'm also thinking of those who don't support the traditional meaning of marriage.  They can see how important marriage really is to children and to the common good, but yet they are willing to support many things that harm marriage.  And many other examples could be listed.

The evidence of God is there, in front even of the eyes of our bodies, but there are people who refuse to make the move St. Thomas made, to go from seeing physically to seeing with the eyes of the soul, to recognize who it is who confronts us and calls us every day.  They cannot see Jesus Christ with their soul, because they do not have faith, or they do not have hope, or they do not know joy.

This is what we have to offer them.  The responsorial psalm tells us, "Go out to all the world and tell the Good News."  We are called to share the Gospel, to share our faith and hope and joy, with everyone.  We have to give them a reason to believe!  The world can't do this.  The world gives us no reason to hope, or to love or know joy, or to have any kind of faith.  But we have what they truly want, what Jesus Christ has given us, if only they could recognize what they truly need.  We have to offer it to them.

The best way to do that is always the way of humility, as St. Gregory also loved to say.  The way of humility is the way of the Cross.  It means following Jesus all the way to the end.  Sometimes, humility can mean giving up a friendship because the price of keeping the friendship is losing the Faith.  Sometimes humility means being willing to be last or less, in our family or at work, because we don't seek the power the world prizes.  Sometimes it means being unpopular, because we don't seek the world's popularity as important.  Very often it means being willing to say No to something evil, even when the whole world, it seems, is trying to say Yes to it.

But always, humility means we don't hold ourselves up with pride about our faith, as if we're special because have something that "those poor slobs" don't have.  Rather, when we share the reasons for our faith, we share something as a gift.  We don't crush people with the Faith, we offer it with gentleness, with joy.  Someone is only going to recognize Jesus Christ in our faith if what we offer is not about us, convincing them or dominating them or "winning them over."

But when we offer faith and hope, with humility and joy, we have a chance of helping people to see with the eyes of the soul: to see good and evil, to see the presence of God, to respond to the love of God.  We have to give people reasons to have hope, to love Jesus Christ.  Only then will they be able to see, and say, "My Lord and my God!"