I. Homily – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Where did we go wrong?
II. At first glance, it would seem that our Lord defends the underdog in all of our scripture readings today.
A. We hear:
1. “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds…”
2. “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
3. Saint Paul tells Timothy that although all abandoned him, “the Lord saved him from the lion’s mouth.”
4. And, it is the tax collector who goes away justified.
5. However, this is not the lesson of these readings. The point here is not that God likes an underdog…if it were, the White Sox would be playing in the World Series this year.
6. No. There is another lesson here:
B. For we also hear:
1. “The one who serves God willingly is heard.”
2. “The Lord redeems the lives of his servants.”
3. Saint Paul tells Timothy: “From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.”
4. And, the tax collector prayed, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.”
III. Saint Athanasius wrote, “The lord is always near those who sincerely invoke him, that is, those who have recourse to him with upright faith, firm home, and perfect charity…what you stand in need of even before you ask him for it; he is always ready to meet the need of those who serve him faithfully.”
A. The poor are not simply those who have nothing…for, in the end, poverty is the only thing any of us possesses.
1. We came into this world with nothing and we will exit it with nothing.
2. The poor person in the New Testament is the one who recognizes this poverty and the real purpose of their lives here on earth.
3. Hence, the scripture passages today and our liturgy every day is not our Lord exalting the underdog. This is far too mundane for the King of Love.
4. What the scripture tells us is who God is and how we are like him. The scripture teaches us that our treasure lies not in this world but in the Almighty Father in whose image we were created. Our goal here on earth is not to seek our own fulfillment but to empty ourselves so that we might be filled.
B. My friends, what was Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve in the garden?
1. What did he say to them to get them to betray God?
2. Satan asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?”
a) Now, Eve clarifies that God told them they should not eat of only one tree.
b) Already, there is a change, Satan has caused Eve to begin thinking not of what she has, but what she does not have.
c) God has allotted her and Adam an abundance of luscious fruit. They are permitted to eat of hundreds and thousands of trees all over the world and, yet, Satan manages to turn her attention…to the one she does not have.
d) Have you ever wondered why there is an apple with a bite out of it on the back of an iPhone. Why you must have the latest and greatest model…if you have the iPhone 5, you are socially deficient.
e) Well…all this for another time…
3. Then, we are told that the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! (If you eat of the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden.) God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.”
a) What was the lie?
b) The lie the snake told to Eve was that they would become like gods…and this was a lie, because they already were like gods, they had been created in the image and likeness of God. They were like God.
c) For God, in his poverty, withholds no gift from those who love him…who serve him. He even gives us free will risking rejection from us…and, yet, knowing that love must always be free.
C. My friends, the problem today is that we consider ourselves poor if all we have is the Lord and the debacle of the 2016 general election is not that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are our only choices.
D. Contemporary society has lied to us and we have believed the lie.
1. The snake did not lie once to Adam and Eve, but then begin telling the truth as we advance economically and technologically.
2. The lie is that our divinity lies in the fame, fortune and power of this world and that we must remain quiet or, at least, not too principled about matters of faith.
3. Did God really tell you that you would die if you ate of the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden? What is the tree at the center of the garden today?
4. Interestingly, it is the same thing it was when the snake spoke to Eve: our pride to think that obtaining some created object will make us like-gods…our pride.
5. The truth is that we already have a share in the divine nature in whose likeness God created us…the other truth is that image and likeness has been scarred by our sins…by our pride, selfishness and lack of faith…lack of seeking and living the divine life God desires to give us.
6. The lie of our society is that we are not like-gods.
IV. My friends, the 2016 election is one of those rare moments when the repellent nature of both presidential candidates allows the rest of us to see our nation’s pastoral terrain as it really is. And the view is unpleasant.
A. The Archbishop of Philadelphia, whose family roots in America run far deeper than any of us, recently quote G.K. Chesterton who said “America is a nation that thinks it’s a church” and the Archbishop further explained: “Catholics came to this country to build a new life. They did exceptionally well here. They’ve done so well that by now many of us Catholics are largely assimilated to, and digested by, a culture that bleaches out strong religious convictions in the name of liberal tolerance and dulls our longings for the supernatural with a river of practical atheism in the form of consumer goods.”
B. The price that many Catholics in leadership have paid, and willingly paid, “has been the transfer of our real loyalties and convictions from the old Church of our baptism to the new ‘Church’ of our ambitions and appetites.”
C. My friends, if you look at the business and political environment not to mention the educational system in our country, you know this is true. Further, we have not only bought into the principle that one’s Catholic faith should play no role in these spheres but we have bought into the premise that religion of any sort should never impinge not only public policy but even my personal views of public policy.
D. My friends, if our system is one of, for and by the people, then why is it asking her people to set aside who they are?…and, further, why have we, the people, assented to set this aside?
V. The bishops, priests, myself included, have certainly had plenty of people exhorting us to tell people how to vote in the upcoming election.
A. Some think that this has to do with the Church being concerned with losing her tax-exempt status…and, yet, this is not it.
B. If, right now, I were to tell you for whom to vote…this is all you would remember. Fr. Milota said vote for so and so.
1. If I, right now, were to tell you to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the real issue would be missed.
2. It is 100% certain that the moral, economic and societal issues that confront our nation will not be solved by either of these two candidates…because the issue does not lie with them and the issue is what freedom really is.
3. This is not to say that this or any election is not important…nor is it to say that every citizen has an obligation to vote and vote according to the principles of their faith, logic and right judgment.
4. My point is this: the poor choices we have on November 8th are born not of two candidates divorced from the society we live in…they are born of a society in which all of us have played a role in building.
5. What do I mean when I say that the issue has to do with what we believe freedom to be?
VI. The Archbishop of Philadelphia, the city where the Constitutions of the United States was signed, also made this observation:
A. “What Christians mean by ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ is very different from the secular content of those words. For the believer, freedom is more than a menu of choices or the absence of oppression. Christian freedom is the liberty, the knowledge and the character to do what’s morally right. And the Christian meaning of ‘equality’ is much more robust than the moral equivalent of a math equation. It involves the kind of love a mother feels for each of her children, which really isn’t equality at all. A good mother loves her children infinitely and uniquely — not ‘equally,’ because that would be impossible. Rather, she loves them profoundly in the sense that all of her children are flesh of her flesh and have a permanent, unlimited claim on her heart.
B. “So it is with our Catholic understanding of God. Every human life, no matter how seemingly worthless, has infinite dignity in his eyes. Every human life is loved without limits by the God who made us. Our weaknesses are not signs of unworthiness or failure. They are invitations to depend on each other and become more than ourselves by giving away our strengths in the service of others…”
C. Should this not inform every aspect of our lives including our business, political and personal decisions?
VII. The point of these remarks is not to discourage but enliven…so the next question is: what do we do?
A. First, although each one of us has a responsibility to be involved and take responsibility for our civic duties, we must not do so in a manner in which our heart and soul is divorced from the process.
1. Increasingly, the mortal sin of our society and nation, embraced not only by the political elites but also by the common wisdom, is that religion, the natural moral law and work for the authentic common good should be divorced from the public sphere.
2. Reject this premise. We must do all we can to keep ourselves and our families out of the trap that divorces from the public discussion the principles, values and virtues which traditionally made this country great…beliefs and truths which temper the secular democratic view which ultimately leads our own government to oppose and push to the fringe the heart of old America which is people of faith.
B. Second, live our lives of faith with Joy.
1. Pope Francis’ first encyclical was entitled, Joy of the Gospel, and this is where Pope Francis can help us:
2. Every human person was created in the image and likeness of God and although this image has been scarred, it is still present and capable of being restored.
3. Let’s not become bitter at the state of affairs in our world and in our nation and even in our church.
4. Let’s marvel and rejoice in the Grace and power of Christ which is invincible.
5. “Serenity of heart comes from consciously trying to live on a daily basis the things we claim to believe. Acting on our faith increases our faith. And it serves as a magnet for other people.”
6. “To reclaim the Church for the Catholic imagination, we should start by renewing in ourselves and in our families a sense that eternity is real, that together we have a mission the world depends on, and that our lives have consequences that transcend time.”
C. Third, allow our faith to take hold of our very being….our identity, our actions and our words.
1. Once again the Archbishop of Philadelphia exhorts us: “If men and women are really made for heroism and glory, made to stand in the presence of the living God, they can never be satisfied with bourgeois, mediocre, feel-good religion. They’ll never be fed by ugly worship and shallow moralizing.”
2. We need to be serious about our faith, allow it to reform our lives so our lives are the life of Christ. Our God is beautiful and so our faith is beautiful. This beauty should live in every aspect of our lives.
D. Third, humility is essential to faith. We have been created in the image and likeness of God but we have also marred this image by our sins. True faith is characterized by the humble knowledge that God must be a part of every aspect of our lives and we need Him.
E. Fourth, our faith should never be something of which we are ashamed. An authentic, humble faith in the source of all love cannot diminish love and so we must not fear others knowing the depth of our belief either personally or publicly.
1. We must not fear being different from the secular world around us for a true Christian will be different by the mere fact of our identity.
VIII. My friends, the reason God loves us is not that we are the underdog. God loves us because we are like Him and He and we are poor…for He is our only possession. He made us and, in the end, He will be all we have left.