Sunday, October 01, 2006

'Go Overboard' (Sunday homily)

You’ve heard the expression:
“Don’t go overboard.”

That first reading shows us folks
getting doused in the Holy Spirit,
“and they prophesied.”
If 70 of you jumped up
and started prophesying at Mass…
I think folks would say,
“you went overboard.”

Even so…
I’ve been to college
and high school football games;
I’ve prayed with the football team beforehand.
The intensity the guys bring to the game
is impressive—and it can be a little scary!

Nothing wrong with that!
They need that intensity to play well and win!

There’s an election coming up—
we may be intense about that.

But if can “go overboard” for a football game—
even from our Lazyboys!—or for an election,
then shouldn’t we have that kind of intensity
in our relationship to Jesus Christ?

It’s not about whether we “go overboard,”
but what we’ll go overboard, for.
We heard about the Holy Spirit poured out
on the 70 elders in the first reading;
you realize, that happens to each of us
in baptism and confirmation!

Moses said: would that everyone
received that Spirit!
That is fulfilled in our Catholic Church.
Jesus promised his Spirit would guide
the teaching of his Church.

So as we prepare for that election,
we do so guided by the Church’s teaching.

That expression—“Don’t go overboard”—
literally means, don’t fall out of the boat!
You and I don’t want
to get so invested in a cause,
or our own, personal issues,
that we fall out of the boat of Peter—the Church.

As we have that election in mind,
the Apostle James, in the second reading,
gives us some things to think about.

In his time, rich and poor
were much more fixed categories.
So he was saying to the rich—
you have to help the poor,
because if you won’t, who will?

That’s still true, but in a different way, today.
Today, the question is,
how do we provide opportunities
for people to escape poverty,
as well as helping those in poverty.

Some say, “pass a law raising the minimum wage.”
Others say, “that’s the wrong way to do it—
better is to create more jobs.”
We will disagree on the method;
But St. James warns us, woe to us if we
think it’s not our problem!

Woe to us if we think
the fate of the weakest members
of our human family aren’t our problem:
St. James says, you live in luxury and pleasure,
while the innocent are murdered.

It is a scandal that our society,
the wealthiest in history,
says it has no room:
* for the unborn…
* for immigrants…
* for children and adults with disabilities…
* for the elderly all those who need medical care.

You’ve heard about “embryonic stem-cell research”—
and everyone is for more “research”
that might find cures for disease.

Everyone is for more research, more discovery.

The question is, how do you do it?

Should newly conceived, unborn children die
as the price of that research?

That’s what all the controversy is about.

It’s not, research v. no-research;
it’s one method, in which children die,
vs. research where no one has to die.

Did you know that we can do—and are doing—
“stem-cell” research that harms no one?
It’s already happening, and showing results.

Did you know that?

The Church endorses this form of “stem-cell” research;
but we oppose any research
that destroys a tiny, embryonic human being!

That point isn’t made clear in the media, is it?

You see, the same teaching that says,
“everyone counts, no matter how poor,”
also says, “everyone counts, no matter how small.”
And human lives count,
even when they commit terrible crimes.

When the terrorists struck on 9/11,
I was angry—as you were.
I wanted those men to go to hell!
But I was wrong; and I repented of that.

No question, some crimes are so terrible
that they deserve death.
Church teaching still holds that the death penalty
can be used, in extreme circumstances.

But a different question is,
do we want to be a society
that resorts to a death penalty?

Our late holy father, Pope John Paul II,
said that for modern, western societies,
the circumstances justifying the death penalty
are virtually non-existent.

I think the pope’s point
was for us to ask ourselves,
not—do they deserve to die?—but rather,
do we really want to be people who kill?

In a world where life is already so cheap,
does this, on balance, really help?

Most of us get intense about something.
About that special someone we love;
About sports, or our careers,
about music, hobbies, or politics.

And that’s fine.

But what excuse can we have
for not feeling strongly about
the rights of every person, rich or poor,
American or foreign, young or old,
able-bodied or disabled, born or unborn.

Because when someone has fallen out,
or been pushed out, and they’re about to go under…

That’s when you and I need to go overboard.


Anonymous said...

One of your best yet!


Father Martin Fox said...

Thanks; but why? (What did you think was so good?)

Anonymous said...

Good evening (or early morning, as the case may be), Father. I just popped online after a busy day & saw your posting.
Your homily was good for many reasons, but especially because of the last two lines.
Something about when someone has fallen out or been pushed out and is about to go under, that's when you and I need to go overboard.
That kind of says it all. It is right at the core of what I believe being a Christian is all about.

Deacon Jim said...

I loved the theme - going overboard - what a great insight into the readings - even the Gospel about cutting off your hand/foot, plucking out an eye. What do we go overboard for.

I think the middle part, starting with the election stuff, basically the examples, we're a bit much. Each is a heavy issue and each is an example of going overboard in wrong. Maybe I would have streamlined the examples, narrowed and focused on going overboard for good vs. evil.

What is the right Christian response - being prophetic and steadfast?

Just a thought.

frival said...

Father, I think I would travel a hundred miles if I could hear inspired homilies like that every Sunday. Why was it so good? It was counter-cultural, it was based in the readings, it took to task those who had closed their minds to issues by delving into them and bringing out the truth and centrality of the Catholic teaching on them.

It's often said the one reason people don't volunteer for something is because they aren't asked, or at least, not asked in a way that shows what they could provide would be useful. As you said and anonymous agreed, an overriding Christian duty is to go overboard to get those who are about to go down. A Christian challenge is not, "can you do this" but "will you do this" and that is precisely how you framed it. Bravo. Perhaps I should go to confession for endangering your ego towards pride. :)

Mike L said...