9.4.22 23rd S.: Go Play.

Today’s homily is for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 4, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.

When we were kids we used to always hear from our parents—usually when we were the most upset and confused, “Just do what you’re told. You’ll understand someday. Now go play.” And while I admit that it didn’t sit with me very well, I knew it was the final answer. And the truth is, over forty years later, what did not make sense to me then, now, as a parent, makes perfect sense to me. I thought for sure that my mom didn’t let me have my way because she didn’t love me, but in truth, I didn’t get my way because she did love me…and so it is with God. 

The book of Wisdom asks us, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends?” How often, like my mother’s child, I find myself angry and confused by what I don’t know or what I cannot control. I didn’t get the job I wanted or the promotion I thought was mine. I struggle to make ends meet or seem never to have enough time. I’m too short, too bald, too chubby, or too handsome. It seems that there is no end to the list of things that if I were in charge would certainly be different. “You just wait and see! When I grow up…” I want to know it all, understand it all, control it all, and mostly I just want what I want.

I don’t think I’m alone in this, I’m afraid. Too often we try to control what is not ours to control. We are angry or frustrated, scared, or anxious. The book of Wisdom has much to say to us, doesn’t it? There is only one way to have peace in this life–and that, quite simply, is to let go of the wheel and allow God to be the Lord of our Life. It was easy to understand when we were a child–mom and dad got the last word, but as adults we too often forget the important lesson we had learned time and time again as a child; we’re not in charge. Our parents love us and want what’s best for us. We may not see it, but that’s just the way it is–now go out and play. 

The Catechism #314 teaches, “the ways of God’s providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face,’ will we fully know the ways by which God has guided his creation.” Even as adults, we’re not in charge. God loves us very much and wants what’s best for us. And many of us need to stop kicking rocks and shaking our fist and just go out and play. Life is short–we need to stop grinding our teeth, be generous, and love one another. 

Jesus tells those following him, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” The possession most difficult for us to let go of is our will. I have such a hard time letting go of what I want, what I think is best, or the way I want things done—and it robs me of my joy and keeps me from loving like I should. It keeps me from being his disciple of love, joy, and peace in the world. Jesus isn’t saying he won’t let us follow him if we don’t renounce our possessions, he says if you’re now willing to let go, you just cannot follow me. 

Many times throughout my life God calls me to his service. He says, “Are you coming or not?” If we are willing to ride along with the Lord, we must recognize that we are not behind the wheel, but are in the passenger seat—or maybe even in the back seat. And while the passenger seat offers little to no control over the direction we are heading, if we could just relax and come to terms with it, we might even look out the window and see a wonderful, beautiful world. We might even have an uplift in attitude. We might even spend some more time with God in prayer and thanksgiving and reach out to family and friends long forgotten. 

St. Cyprian of Carthage said, “For since God possesses all things, those who possess God will lack nothing if they do not lack God Himself.” So, for now we should pray and be okay with doing what we’re told. Someday we’ll understand. Go out and play.

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.