9.25.22 26th S. Homily: A Great Separation

Today’s homily is for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 25, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

I often hear people say, “If God wants me to believe in him, why doesn’t he just reveal himself? Why doesn’t he just appear to us?” My answer, “He did. It’s called Christmas. He was killed and rose from the dead. It’s called Easter.” But still they don’t believe. In our skeptical day and age, it seems that in order to believe, people want to see it for themselves. But Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who do not see and still believe.” No wonder that our Creed starts with “I Believe.” We stand and profess our faith in truths that have been revealed by God, but that I have not personally witnessed. 

I believe in God. I believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I believe in the catholic church, baptism, forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life. Blessed are those who believe–is it us? If we do, the quality with which we live our lives should be distinct from those who do not believe–who are not believers. Believers have a different outlook, a certain optimism. We have a different attitude, a certain way of life that is different from those who do not believe in life everlasting. We should be visibly distinct in our generosity towards others and our love for others–even those with whom we disagree. We should have a concern for the poor, a heart for the lost souls who have gone far astray. We should want them to meet the healer, the reconciler, the redeemer, Jesus. Or are we complacent?

That’s what today’s readings are all about. The prophet Amos says, “Woe to the complacent!” He says you’re living comfortably, dining sumptuously, and have forgotten your God!” There’s going to be problems, Amos warns them! And conversely, St. Paul’s advice to Timothy, the man of God, is to, “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called.” And therein lies the difference between the rich man in today’s Gospel and Lazarus, and why one was suffering torment in the flames and the other was with Abraham in heaven. The rich man had so many opportunities to love, and to show gentleness, mercy, and compassion–but he did not. 

It wasn’t the rich man’s wealth and comfort that was the problem, it was his total disregard for the suffering of others. He had wealth and daily opportunities to bring comfort and ease the pain of those around him–but he did not. In life the rich man saw a great divide between himself and others. He made distinctions between who he was and what he had and was entirely unconcerned about poor Lazarus. And the divide that he saw in life between him and others, became an eternal reality. He created the separation that landed him in the fires of hell, by his attitude toward others on earth. God did not create the chasm that separated him–he did.

Even in death his attitude had not changed. He still wants to boss Lazarus around. He says, “Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” and “send him to my father’s house to warn my brothers.” Lazarus was not a person to the rich man–he was nothing more than a slave. Someone to do his bidding. 

I see this problem lived out when people come into our school office and treat our office secretaries and school nurse like trash. I see it at restaurants and stores when customers disrespect and are rude and entitled when speaking to wait staff. I see it in the disrespect that is shown by students toward their teachers, and by parents who do the same. I see officers of the law abusing their power and I see a population that does not respect its officers. ‘Round and round we go until all of us are judging, pointing the finger, caring only for ourselves, looking out for number one without regard for others. Today’s gospel is a warning. We’re creating a divide. Someone did rise from the dead. Are we listening to what he has to teach us today? Will we repent while there’s still time?

9.18.22 25th S. Homily: Legislate Morality

Today’s homily is for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 18, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

St. Paul’s wish to Timothy is that, “in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.” He asks for supplications and prayers for everyone, kings and those in authority–so that they may lead a quiet and tranquil life.” And that is a very good thing to be sure. The early Christians counted for nothing, were needlessly slaughtered, and all they wanted to do is live their life in peace with God. That’s not too much to ask, right? I think most of us can get behind a cause that just lets people live their life. Mostly nowadays we say, “Look, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, do what you want!” I can get behind that. We live in a country, and in a state, that is incredibly diverse–lots of different people, experiences, and views–and the truth is, “Hey, whatever floats your boat.” But are there limits? 

What do we do when what floats someone’s boat actually harms others? How do we feel when we hear about drunk drivers who kill a family on their way home? When robbers shoot and kill, or some rapes another, or when a child is beaten by a parent? We cry out “injustice!” and want something done! We’re upset! In times like that it’s kinda hard to live without anger or argument–because something must be done! This is not okay. Good people say, “No sir! Not if I have any say about it!” We want laws passed to prosecute and stop those who place no value in other people’s lives–and they may not see the value in the life they’re harming, but we do, and we pass laws to protect vulnerable life at all times and in all places–the elderly, the average Joe, the innocent. 

I do not understand a statement like, “I would never get an abortion, but it’s not right for me to tell someone else what to do.” That’s like saying, “I would never rob and kill someone, but if someone else wants to that’s okay by me.” Or “I would never drink and drive, but if someone else wants to, who am I to say it’s wrong for them?” It sounds ridiculous? But people say it all the time when it comes to abortion. And how about this, “I believe abortion is morally wrong, but I can’t impose my moral views on others.” Yes, you can! California has hundreds of thousands of laws that tell other people what to do! Stop at red lights, drive on the right side of the road, don’t abuse your spouse, don’t steal, don’t drink and drive, don’t park in a handicap spot, don’t speed in a school zone. We say children’s lives are valuable, don’t speed in a school zone, but we can’t say children’s lives are valuable don’t kill the one inside of you? Every law on the books imposes someone’s moral view!

In the name of freedom of choice, we are allowing people to kill other people–at various stages of development. Infanticide was legal in the Roman Empire. Up to a year old a mother had the right to simply put her infant outside and let it die–it was called, “exposure.” The baby died from exposure–no, the baby died because you put it outside, because you failed to protect it, and especially because the law allowed for it. It was barbaric and legal until Christianity became the religion of the empire, and put a stop to it in the fourth century, under Constantine and Valentinian I. Holy men and women prayed, lifted up Holy hands, and out of righteous anger, produced good arguments to change the law.

And so can we. Good people need to again rise up in our state and put a stop to the barbaric act of killing innocent life. We need to say, “Not on our watch.” We are good people, and we have the right to vote our good conscience. We have the right to legislate our morality…that’s what voting is! And if we do not pass laws to protect life, then people will pass laws to violate it. Laws will be passed, make no mistake, the question is only whose morality will they reflect. 

From the prophet Amos, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! The LORD has sworn: Never will I forget a thing they have done!” Now is the time. Vote NO on proposition 1.

9.11.22 Homily: Would You?

Today’s homily is for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 11, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

In the Gospel today, our Lord asks the men who had gather around him, “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost?” And our Lord asks the women, “Or what woman, having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?” And then afterward throw an elaborate party? The answer, of course, was obvious to everyone then, and should be obvious to everyone now…no one. No one called to protect a flock of a hundred would risk the safety of ninety-nine to find only one that was lost. And no one finding a coin would throw a rager for friends that would cost ten times the amount of the coin lost in the first place. That’s just absurd. Jesus’ audience would have laughed out loud at just the thought of such blatant irresponsibility and folly. 

But Jesus holds up these examples to the religious do-gooders of his day–the Pharisees and Scribes. They saw Jesus surrounded by Jerusalem’s undesirables–tax collectors and sinners. Jesus didn’t look down his nose at sinners. He didn’t judge them harshly and keep his distance from them. No, he loved them, and all throughout his ministry he showed us that God loves them too. How is it possible to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and not have a desire to change the lives and outlook of those who have drifted the furthest away from God’s loving embrace? 

Today’s Gospel challenges us to ask the question, is he really my Lord? Is he truly my teacher and guide? Is Jesus truly the one I seek to imitate? And if so, what are the obstacles keeping me from having the same concern for the nobodies, those who counted for nothing, that Jesus had? Jesus’ attitude was not political, it was national–it was thoroughly religious–he was trying to teach them the way God see every person that exists: the rich, the poor, the prideful, the sinful, those hopeless and lost causes of the world. The woman pushing the shopping cart that carries everything she owns, and the man on the corner asking for change. God loves them too–and they may be that sheep that went astray, or coin lost.

A gold coin in the palm of my hand might be worth around $2,000, but if it is lost, if it slips through my fingers, it holds no value at all to me. It doesn’t itself lose a single penny of worth, it’s just worth nothing to me. The only way for it to have value to me, is if it is in my possession. And so it is with God, and that’s what Jesus was trying to teach the Scribes and the Pharisees, namely, that a person never loses value in themselves whether sinner or saint–we never lose our value. But when we slip through the father’s hand, when we are far from him, we lose our sense of worth. We may begin to believe that we are worth-less. Jesus knows that each of us is a beautiful coin. Many know their value as they rest in the father’s hand, but some have forgotten their great worth–to God and to the community. The way to discover their dignity is not to leave them lost, but to instead help them to find their way back to the father’s hand. That’s what Jesus was about. And it should be what we are about as well. 

This is what Saint Paul wants Timothy to understand in our second reading, and it’s what we must understand as his followers today. He says, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated…Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant… This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That’s it. That’s our message; our business. 

“There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” The work of the Church is to create joy in heaven, and be the cause of rejoicing among the angels of God over repentant sinners. Would you leave the ninety-nine for that one? Jesus would. So should we.