Sunday, September 04, 2005

Not to condemn, but to save (Sunday homily)

Sometimes, the wake-up call can be pretty rude.

In the first reading Ezekiel says,
“O, wicked ones, you shall surely die!”
That’s pretty rude!
How about if I greet you that way, every Sunday?
That’d solve our parking problems, wouldn’t it?

Why did God send Ezekiel to do that?
Because he’s mean? No: he wants them to escape!

You might think people would listen—
but we know they don’t.

Look at the hurricane:
a lot of people listened; but many others did not,
especially those in leadership,
who were supposed to be the watchmen for others!

I recall one night, in the seminary, I was sound asleep.
All of a sudden, on the door of my room,
Bang! Bang! Bang! “GET UP! WAKE UP!”

It was Eric Bowman, now Father Bowman,
My first reaction was . . .
well, I'd rather not repeat it here!

So I came to door, not too happy!
Erick was just hounding people down the hall.
No discussion. No “please,” no niceties!
Turns out a tornado was on the way.

Should he have been “more pastoral,” more “sensitive”?
No. I’d say, at 4 in the morning, with a tornado,
he got it exactly right.
(And--by the way--the tornado missed us.)

Ezekiel was blunt; my fellow seminarian was blunt;
today’s Gospel is blunt. Sometimes the Church is blunt,
sometimes you and I have to be blunt,
for the same reason: To wake people up.

Today’s Gospel is where
“excommunication” comes from.
First, try to win that person over; but if you can’t,
the Church may say, you can’t receive the Eucharist;
You can’t receive the sacraments, until there’s a change.

Except for the real “hardliners,” no one likes this idea.
But the Gospel is clear: Jesus raised this point.
Bottom line, the purpose is conversion:
not to condemn, but to save.

Now, what’s our responsibility in all this?
Well, you and I are often the ones hearing the warning:
but we also might be the ones sent to warn someone else.

Usually not easy! But back to the hurricane:
How much suffering could have been avoided?

Now, as far as the Church: some of the message is hard;
and the Church’s credibility has taken some hits!
So, saying, that’s Christ speaking; yes, that’s hard.

But let’s acknowledge, the human element,
the flaws in the messenger, is only part of the reason;
The other part is the message itself, which is tough.

But if it were always clear-cut, we wouldn’t call it Faith!

Having said that, it is not blind faith that is asked of us.
Faith is informed by reason.

Let me offer an example. I am sorry it’s controversial,
but it is very timely: the question of what marriage is.

This isn’t something that politicians,
or even voters, decide. And, this may surprise you, but—
we can answer this question apart from
the Bible or what the Church says!

Just look at nature, at universal human experience:
whether you believe in Evolution or Creation,
it’s crystal-clear: a man and a woman.
This is how we’re made; this is what works.

Yes, some people don’t fit this pattern.
Likewise, some people’s eyes don’t see:
does that mean we don’t know what the eye is for?
Of course, we do know; and likewise,
we know that marriage is a man and a woman,
it’s life-long, its exclusive.
This is for the good of children and of society.

So, faith and reason go together.
Not a blind faith; we have help finding the right path.

God gives us the gift of reason, and the gift of faith;
His Voice speaks through his Church,
Sometimes reassuring; but sometimes warning.

And God, in his mercy, gives us,
not just one chance, but many! We can always start over!

But we can take that generosity for granted.

And that’s when the prophet comes and says,
“Wake up! Move! Change! You could die!”

Yes: sometimes the wake-up call can be pretty rude.
But the purpose isn’t to condemn; but to save

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