Eight Sunday In Ordinary Time
March 3, 2019
Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
The Gospel of Luke 6:39-45
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
It is really tough being Catholic in today’s world isn’t it? We just do not catch a break. I am not saying that we deserve a break. In fact, when we do wrong we should not just be called out about it but we should also act to correct it. Jesus and the 12 original Apostles didn’t get a break either. Most of them died a gruesome death after being captured, imprisoned and tortured. Hopefully we are past those days. Catholics today often feel like we are being tortured even if not dying that gruesome death. The good that our Church does is rarely talked about but we hear plenty about the bad that plagues us. We are challenged about our wrongs but also on those matters where we are following God’s law. We reject matters that are contrary to God’s law. Divine law always supersedes man’s law. Can we be like the original twelve Apostles, and those that followed them, and stand up, right our wrongs, proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and defend our faith and God’s law? Yes we can.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.” I believe that. I also know it will not be easy. We must fight just like the Apostles did. Remember for 50 days after the resurrection of Christ from the tomb the Apostles were in hiding in the upper room. They were terrified and afraid for their lives even though they knew Jesus was risen and had not abandoned them. The Holy Spirit descended upon them filling them with His spirit and graces. They were no longer terrified. They went out and spread the good news of Jesus to the world. We are the recipients of those words and we hear them every week with a lesson in each. I was with a group of men from this parish the other night and one of them told me that he had been reading that it is the job of the homilist to apply the teachings in readings to situations we face today. We try.
Today’s reading from Sirach tells us of trials and tribulations and how we can bring them upon ourselves. We are told not to praise someone before they speak. We need to listen closely to what others say. We need to show humility by letting others speak first. We need to be humble in our words by being careful in what, and how, we say things. We test ourselves in the words we choose to use. Sirach tells us the words we use expose our faults and biases and can hurt others. He compares us to a fruit tree. If the tree is well cared for it will produce good fruit but if a tree is neglected it will not produce fruit or it will produce poor fruit. We are the recipients of good fruit through the teachings of Jesus Christ handed down to us by the Church for over 2000 years. We have the foundation to produce more good fruit by living according to those teachings.
The reading from St. Paul tells us to persevere in following in the footsteps of Christ because we know that is the right way. St Paul tells us to change corruptible into incorruptible, mortal into immortal and by doing that we obtain victory over death. We will die in the earthly world but by conforming our ways to God’s we will defeat evil and achieve victory by obtaining eternal life with God in heaven. He says to thank God for sending us Jesus Christ because it was through His sacrifice that our goal of eternal life was made possible. If we persevere and follow the ways of the Lord then our efforts will not be in vain.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of St. Luke Jesus tells us that we have to have our eyes open so that we know, and the people we lead know, where we are going. Those eyes are also our ears. What we hear helps us lead others. We are not better than those who teach us but we can be as good as them if we see, listen and learn from them. Those are the same talents we use to succeed with in this life. We are told that we have to fix ourselves first if we are going to be able to fix others. We often notice what is wrong with others but do we notice what is wrong with us? If we look at ourselves and see what is wrong with us and fix that then we are in the right state to help others. How can we try to tell others how to live if we are not willing to live the same way? Wouldn’t that make us hypocrites? That is the golden rule- do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The way we live our lives sets an example to others and will influence them.
The Catholic Church today is besieged by external and internal forces. We have to face and exorcise our problems, keep our faith and beliefs and speak as Christ would. That is all of us- not just the religious, deacons, Priests, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals and the Pope. We must all be like the Apostles, opening our hearts and souls to the Holy Spirit, cast away our fears and go forth. It is our turn to preserve our church for future generations. We must persevere.
The readings all led me to think of one word. Character. My college dictionary (I had to blow the dust off of it because it is an old book and not a computer) has numerous definitions for the word ‘character’. Notable amongst them are 1/ The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group or thing from another; 2/ the combined moral or ethical structure of a person or group; 3/ moral or ethical strength; integrity; fortitude and 4/ reputation. They are all important and challenging. Today’s college curriculums often have courses that teach morals and ethics. I struggle with that not because I disagree with learning but because I believe those are intangible virtues that are governed by our conscience and thus God. It is God that gives us the ability- through our conscience- to know the difference between right and wrong and He gives us the freedom to make a choice. It takes character to make the correct choice and, just as importantly, to make a stand against the wrong choice. That takes character in all its definitions and today’s readings show that it is as important today as it was 2000 and more years ago. In order to effect change and bring people closer to Christ we must have character.
Our character is defined by our conscience. Philosopher Peter Kreeft writes “Conscience has absolute, exceptionless, binding moral authority over us, demanding unqualified obedience. But only a perfectly good, righteous divine will has this authority and a right to absolute, exceptionless obedience. Therefore conscience is the voice of the will of God.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “conscience is a judgment of reason by which the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act”.
It is our conscience that guides our actions. Today our Church faces the tragedy of abuses by some members of the clergy. We have to stand up against that problem, face it and eradicate it. There is no choice. We must support the Church in rooting out this evil and at the same time call on our leaders to be transparent in the due process. They must involve laity with legal, medical and psychological training on all abuse review boards. The same type of investigators need to be involved investigating the episcopacy. Those Bishops and Priests who failed their duty to protect God’s children need to be dealt with. Most importantly everything the Church does needs to be open and transparent. We must show that we are righting a wrong regardless of the status of the people involved or any repercussions on the Church. A clean and truthful church is a stronger Church.
Our church also needs to stand up against the pro-abortion advocates that are influencing our society under the guise of being pro-choice. We have to do more than just talk and verbally condemn but we cannot sink to violence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. It also states that ‘formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense’ and The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. The Church does not have to excommunicate anybody. The perpetrators excommunicate themselves through their actions. The Church does not turn their back on these people or women who had an abortion. The Church welcomes them to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be restored into full communion with The Church. Our lesson from Jesus is the same one He told the prostitute who He saved from being stoned to death by the crowd. First, Jesus told the crowd that ‘he who is without sin’ should throw the first stone. No one did. Then Jesus told the prostitute “your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.” One action that the Church might consider to get the attention of legislators who claim Catholicism as their faith is for their Bishops to tell them that they have placed their souls in mortal danger and that until they repent they are not in communion with the Church and thus cannot be allowed to receive Holy Communion. That is a non-violent statement that strikes to the heart of our faith. We are the Church that celebrates with the real body and blood of Jesus Christ at every Mass. It is why we are Catholic.
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of the Easter season. It commemorates Jesus’ forty days in the desert. During this period we are called to repentance and sacrifice. I want to ask you to do something extra this Lent. Starting on Monday March 11 and for every Monday through Easter our parish has committed to going to Planned Parenthood on Poplar from 6 am to 6 pm. We will pray for the women and their babies who go in there. It is something extra you can do. If you cannot go there then please pray an extra Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet or any other prayer that is meaningful to you. Pray to God and the Virgin Mary that we can find a way to overcome the stain of sin in our Church caused by the clergy scandal and the stain of abortion on our country. Pray that our Church leaders will find ways to resolve both of these situations. Babies, fetuses, embryos- whatever you call it- are real people and it is our job to protect them and fight for them. They cannot do it themselves. God bless you.