8.28.22 22nd S.: Humility

Today’s homily is for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 28, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

The Tenth Commandment forbids what we call covetousness behavior. “You shall not covet anything that is your neighbors…You shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Greed; greed creates a desire in me to have more than what is mine, or what is due to me. Greed causes me to want what is rightfully anothers, and even to plot how I might have it. It was king David’s sin when he first took Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and then had Uriah killed in battle. Greed makes me want what is not mine to take, and do what should not be done. 

Who do we think we are? What do we think we deserve? The book of Sirach teaches us that if we want to find favor with God we must conduct our affairs with humility. The more humble we are, the greater we are–and that is the way to find favor with God. That was the lesson Jesus was trying to teach the leading Pharisees of his day. Oh, they were quite important—always striving for places of honor and for the respect of others. “Be careful,” Jesus warns them, “you’ll have better luck if you would humble yourself and take the lowest spot,”  and that’s humility.

The virtue of humility is the antidote to greed, envy, and lust. The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2539 teaches that envy, itself a capital sin, refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it desires to give harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin.” Listen, envy is sadness at the sight of another’s goods, and a desire to take what is not mine to take. Isn’t that what abortion is? Abortion takes the very life of another person. Abortion isn’t just a violation of the 10th commandment, it is a violation of the 5th commandment not to kill, and the 7th, which forbids stealing, and the 4th to honor our father and mother, and the 1st which commands us to love the God of Life before all else. 

In our country we seek to uphold our individual rights, social rights, speech rights, reproductive rights, but we go too far. You see, my rights as an individual stop at the doorstep of another person’s rights. That’s why we ended slavery in this country, because my rights to own property stopped at another human’s right to freedom. And so those who wished to own human’s said, “Well, they’re not human then. They are animals–just property.” If we want to impound the rights of others, we have to dehumanize them–and that’s exactly what proponents of abortion have done for years. It’s not a person. It’s not a human life. It’s a fetus, an embryo, a mass of cells–no! It is a human life at various stages of development, and every stage valuable and good and human with rights!

Abortion is rooted in envy and a selfish desire to take what does not belong to me–a child’s life. Abortion is stealing someone’s life. Abortion is stripping a child from his father’s and grandparent’s arms. Abortion is pride and arrogance in thinking that I can control the future and its outcomes. King David thought he had it all figured out, but he did not, and he condemned himself a sinner in the presence of God and the Prophet Nathan. Abortion is rooted in fear and a desire to undo what has been done; to keep secret the sin that created life, and humility is the answer.

It’s no wonder that St. Augustine said, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue.” Humility is the cure for our country and for California. Humility is the virtue Jesus was trying to teach the Pharisees. He said, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” If we have any hope of heaven, we must give God his seat, humbly recognize the rights of all humans, no matter how small, and seek only to love and serve those entrusted to our care.

8.21.22 21st S.: Discipline

Today’s homily is for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 21, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

While in college, I wrote an unpopular essay titled, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” That saying comes from the Book of Proverbs 13:25, “Whoever spares the rod hates the child, but whoever loves will apply discipline.” Parents and children would do well to read the Book of Proverbs daily–there are some real gems in there. Gems that our parents and grandparents were well-acquainted with, but, sadly, have been lost on our generation–the effects of which are nowadays quite visible.

As you know I went to Humboldt State University, and there, what was elevated above discipline, obedience, and long suffering was personal freedom, pursuit of one’s own interests, and hedonism—the pursuit of pleasure and self indulgence above all else. Of course, hedonism can be found well outside of Humboldt as well. When our God is pleasure; when our desire is for the easy path, and a comfortable life, we live dangerously close to present day failures and eternal death. Author and speaker, Jim Rohn, said, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” He says, “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”

Said in a different way, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it,” and that is from our reading today from the Letter to the Hebrews. Our culture has made discipline equal to abuse, which, of course, we must avoid. But discipline is not the same as abuse. Discipline is that which helps us transcend our natural human inclination to slothfulness and gluttony. Discipline is what makes us get out of bed early to work out, or sit in silence and pray, to read a book or go to work before the sun breaks the horizon. As a Marine we used to say that the mission of the Marines is to instill the discipline necessary to cause a man to stand and fight when every natural instinct would tell him to turn and run. We are free today because courageous men and women had the discipline to rise before dawn, suffer greatly, stand, and fight. And if we wish to remain free—to accomplish any great thing in our life, we need discipline. As Jose Eduardo dos Santos, president of Angola, said, “There is no magic wand that can resolve our problems. The solution rests with our work and discipline.”

Is it any wonder that so few people will be saved? Jesus tells his disciples, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Will we be among those strong enough to enter through the narrow gate, whose feet seek the more difficult narrow path that leads to salvation? Broad and easy is the road to failed hopes and dreams–far more difficult the path to life–and that’s why discipline matters. Hebrews admonishes us to “strengthen our drooping hands and our weak knees…for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” 

We would do well to remember that diamonds are born out of heat and pressure, gold is purified by fire, and steel is transformed into the sword through the forgers hammer and fire–and we too must be purified, molded, and transformed. We must submit to the discomfort of transformation, and be willing to submit to both internal and external discipline if we are to find value, passion, and purpose in this life and for life eternal. One of my favorite quotes about the fall of the Roman empire is from Edward Gibbon, “In the end, more than freedom, the Athenians wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.” Discipline does not equal abuse, discipline equals freedom. I think we could all use more discipline in our life–let’s not wait.

8.14.22 20th S.: Take Your Stand

Today’s homily is for the twentieth Sunday in ordinary time, August 14, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be seen by clicking here.

I am a Christian today because I like Jesus. I like how he loved people and had a tender heart toward them. I like how he healed people whether he knew them or not. I like how he fed people who were hungry, and I like how he spoke courageously to anyone–religious leader or Roman leader. He didn’t care if you were rich or poor, gentile or Jew, slave or king. He said what was true because, well, it was true. The earthly Jesus was just a good man, a courageous man, he was not afraid of anything or anyone– and I think that’s a pretty good way to live our life, don’t you? I try to live like Jesus. I’m not there yet, but I do try. 

The first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah teaches us that what we do has consequences. Jeremiah called people to repentance, to change their life, to change the way they were living because it was not God’s way. His courageousness got him thrown into a cistern. Why? Because haters are gonna hate! And people who live in darkness do not want to be exposed by the light, by the truth–but Jeremiah was fearless and he did God’s will no matter the cost, and that cost was his life when he was tossed into the cistern to die.

But God rescued Jeremiah. The court official, Ebed-melech, boldly went to the king to tell him the truth about what was going on. He said Jeremiah was innocent and it was these others who were at fault, and Jeremiah was rescued because a good man took action, and was courageous enough to speak to power against what he knew was wrong. Are we? The readings today challenge us to take a side. There’s no middle ground with God; there’s no “good enough.” With Jesus there’s no room for compromise. God wants to know, “Hey, are you with me or not?” Are we who claim to follow him, actually following him, his life, his example?

Jesus wants us to take a stand–and Jesus teaches that when we stand with him, it means that we’re going to stand against what is opposed to him. We cannot live in the light of Christ, and at the same time live in darkness and sin. Light casts out darkness. We’re either with Jesus or not. Jesus is in fact the prince of peace, but he says quite clearly today, that division will occur. He says we need to figure out whose side we’re on, because there’s only two sides–with him or against him.

Households will be divided. Some will choose Christ and some will not. I know that you know people–maybe your own siblings, maybe your own children that are divided. I see it all the time and I experience it in my own family, but other people’s decision to follow or not follow Jesus is on them. I have to decide which side I’m on. Each of us must take a stand. We love all people, but we don’t have to agree with the decisions they make. Either our actions are consistent with life and love and goodness and truth or they’re not. And like Jeremiah, our decisions and our life has consequences. And like Jesus, sometimes the truth doesn’t want to be heard by others, but we say it because it’s true. And sometimes people don’t want us being generous and kind to others because they don’t look like us, or think like us, and act like us, but we do because that’s what Jesus did. 

There’s no promise of good times ahead for us in this life. Jeremiah knew it and was rescued…and that was good, and maybe sometimes we might get rescued too. But sometimes doing what’s right will get us onto the cross and to an early grave, and that’s the way it could go. But we know that Jesus conquered the grave. And we know that those who love to the end have an eternal reward. So let’s live courageously. Let’s love greatly. Let’s boldly speak to what’s true and never fear the darkness of sin. In other words, we need to take our stand. Right here. Right now.