Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sharing the Mystery of Faith with the Apostles (Peter & Paul homily)

We hear in the first reading how the Apostles
began to be martyred for Christ.
James is first. Then Peter is arrested.
But Peter’s turn hadn’t come yet—
it would come 20 years later, in about AD 65, in Rome.

The second reading describes Paul, 20 years later,
ready for that martyrdom.
Both died in Rome, about the same time,
as evidenced by their bones
both being in Rome, to this day.

Pope Benedict has asked that during the coming year,
we have a “Year of Saint Paul,”
so we can learn more from Paul.
The other priests and I will try to do that
with our homilies.
In a few weeks, the Wednesday evening Bible study
will start the Book of Acts;
after that, we’ll look at one of Paul’s letters.

In the meantime, you and I have
the successor of Saint Peter in our midst—the pope.
We Catholics may not fully realize what a blessing
it is even to have a pope; we can see it
when we notice what other Christians go through.

The Orthodox Churches believe essentially what we do.
But over the years,
Orthodox and Catholic have drifted apart.
In recent years, the popes have tried to bridge the gap;
but part of the problem is no one person
can bring all the Orthodox together.

The Anglican Church, or as we call it,
the Episcopal Church,
was once in union with the Church of Rome.

Until around 1970, there was great hope
that we would come back together.

Then the Anglican Church
started ordaining women as priests;
and in recent years, an actively gay bishop was ordained;
and parts of the Anglican Church
are moving toward so-called gay marriage.

Many urge the Catholic Church to go the same route.
But the Anglican Church is being ripped apart
by these things, not to mention the problem
that none of this has anything to do with
what the Apostles taught and died for!

In our Creed, we profess
“one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

It means we understand the Church
to built on the Apostles, to be faithful to their teaching,
and that our sacramental life has its origins
in the priesthood that began with them.

Their teaching comes from Christ,
with whom they lived and walked,
and for whom they readily died.

The Lord chose to make the Apostles—
Peter first of all—the foundation of his Church.
But consider, he could have done it otherwise;
he could have said, I’ll build my Church on the Bible,
or, even, “I will build my Church on myself.”

That tells us something important.
It tells us how the new life Christ came to give
would be shared.
It’s not a matter of ideas; it’s not like joining a club.
It’s not even a matter of a one-time conversion.

No, the Church—
including our branch, which began in Rome—
is people being changed by Christ,
not a one-time change, but a life-long change.
We become sharers of a new life,
and we share it as a community of believers.
We become citizens of a Kingdom
that transcends the limits of this world,
the Kingdom of Heaven.
That is how we Christians can dare
to suffer and die for Christ.

Notice, Saint Luke, the author of Acts, tells us,
“it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
That’s also Passover; that’s when the Lord was crucified.

So when James was killed and Peter was arrested,
the Apostles must have said,
“yes, it was at this time that it all happened…”

We think of the Eucharist; and it shows us
what it means to be a Christian, an Apostle, and a Martyr:
we share in the death and resurrection of the Lord.

This is what we call “the Mystery of Faith”—
we proclaim it together, right in the middle of Mass.

It’s what it means to be a Christian.
It’s why we come to Mass.
When we share the Eucharist, along with the Apostles,
all the saints and martyrs before us,
and all those facing martyrdom to this very day,
we embrace this Mystery of Faith:
to share his death and resurrection.

The Mass is our Feast of the Unleavened Bread:
the Body and Blood of Christ,
broken and poured out for us;
and we, like James, Peter and Paul,
are ready to share it to the full.

When you and I choose to take the Eucharist,
that’s what we say “Amen” to.
Peter was ready, so was Paul,
so are all the Lord’s followers…
and so are we.

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Promise 'em anything...'

The more McCain talks -- about wicked "speculators," about how he reveres ANWR as much as the Grand Canyon, about adjusting the planet's thermostat, etc. -- the more conservatives cling to judicial nominees as a reason for supporting him. But now another portion of his signature legislation has been repudiated by the court as an affront to the First Amendment, and again Roberts and Alito have joined the repudiation. Yet McCain promises to nominate jurists like them. Is that believable?

-- George Will in his column today.

Update ca. 5:30 pm, in the interest of fair play:

When it's time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renegotiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily. Why, the man even tossed his own grandmother overboard back in Philadelphia -- only to haul her back on deck now that her services are needed....By the time he's finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.*
--Charles Krauthammer in his column today.

* I might note that, for those most fearful about Obama, this emerging portrait ought to give you some consolation should he be elected. Yes, I know people gnashed their teeth over Clinton, yet he never governed as the leftie people feared, quite the opposite; and though people can't believe it, it happens to be true: during Clinton's years, prolifers and conservatives in general made a great deal of progress, in Congress and in state legislatures. It wasn't coincidental. Something to think about.

Pray for the Holy Father's Efforts toward Unity

Father Zuhlsdorf has issued the call for prayer, and I am adding my two cents' worth.

There are two noteworthy efforts the Church is making toward unity, either would be a great step forward.

On the one hand are the ongoing efforts to restore the unity that once existed between Catholic and Orthodox. This is a thorny subject, usually misunderstood; but the long and short of it is that East and West are very close to each other in what we believe, and yet because of a lot of history, and some fundamental differences, less in Faith per se, but in structure and culture, create excessive complications in restoring unity.

For one thing, because the various Orthodox Churches do not have their own pope, as it were--they do not have the same structure amongst themselves that the Church of the West has--it makes it very hard for "the Orthodox" to respond. Bishops and theologians can respond, tentatively, but the goal is not simply communion with this or that Orthodox theologian or prelate, but between sister Churches. If segments of Orthodoxy restore communion with Rome, while others don't, that only replicates what happened in centuries past, and creates new barriers to overcome.

At any rate, there are always hints and hopes. As has become common, the Patriarch of Constantinople (aka Istanbul), the preeminent Orthodox prelate, will join the Patriarch of Rome (yes, I know the pope doesn't use the title anymore, but that's still who he is) this Sunday for the Solemnity of Peter and Paul. You may recall the Holy Father journeyed to Istanbul last year and prayed with Bartholemew on a feast of importance to the East, but I have forgotten which it was, Saint Andrew I believe?

And then there is a wound in the unity of the Roman Church, involving those who especially identify with Catholic Tradition and the ancient liturgy. I mean the Society of Saint Pius X.

This is the group that is identified with the late Archbishop Lefebvre; and some may recall that when he ordained four bishops in 1988 without clear approbation of our late Holy Father, John Paul of happy memory, this created a wound that continues to this day.

Pope Benedict has made many efforts toward reconciliation, most prominent--but hardly the only one--was his move to make the older form of the Mass freely available, and to restore it as a vital part of our lived tradition. Recently, the pope--or someone acting for him--communicated to the current superior of the SSPX some expectations of mutual charity as a basis for further work together. Some are calling them "demands"--but when you see what was requested, it seems so elementary:

1. A commitment to a proportioned response to the generosity of the Pope.
2. A commitment to avoid any public speech which does not respect the person of the Holy Father and which can be negative for ecclesial charity.
3. A commitment to avoid the pretense of a Magisterium superior to the Holy Father and to not put forward the Fraternity [SSPX] in opposition to the Church.
4. A commitment to demonstrate the will to behave honestly in full ecclesial charity and in respect to the authority of the Vicar of Christ.
5. A commitment to respect the date – fixed at the end of the month of June – to respond positively. This will be a required and necessary condition for the immediate preparation for adhesion to have full communion.

Please note what was not specified--nothing about celebrating the newer form of the Mass or sacraments, nothing about Vatican II, nothing about any doctrinal questions whatsoever. Some will say, but aren't those important? Yes, of course they are, and they must be addressed in some fashion. But what is noteworthy is that the Holy Father is asking such basic things as a starting point.

(I might add that this gives us all a reminder for each of us--may everyone of us always "avoid any public speech which does not respect the person of the Holy Father and which can be negative for ecclesial charity" and not assume a "pretense of a Magisterium superior" to that of the Church.)

Father Z rightly observes that this may be a key moment, so pray, pray pray!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saint Boniface in Ordinary Time

Here's a picture of Saint Boniface's sanctuary, sorry it is so dark. This is how it looks right now, with a simple cloth on the altar:

I've had suggestions of buying a proper "antependium" which is pulled taut over a frame, and looks something like the second picture, below.

But I was also thinking of draping some orphreys such as the third picture, which is my other parish. Comments?

AA, NA & Gambling Resources

Here's what I provided for gambling, alcohol and drug addictions. I omitted, here, the info about specific meeting days and times.

Web Sites

Alcoholics Anonymous:
Al-Anon & Alateen:
For family members or friends affected.
Adult Children of Alcholics:
Compulsive Gambling Institute:
Gamblers Anonymous:
Miami Co. Recovery Council:
Narcotics Anonymous:
Nat’t Council on Problem Gambling:

To find an AA meeting: there are very many; contact:

Dayton Area Intergroup: Suite 211, Hulman Building, 120 W. 2nd St., Dayton, 45402, (937) 222-2211; TDD (937) 299-7587.

Lima: West Central Ohio Intergroup: 618 N. Main St. Lima, 45802, (419) 229-7484. Answering Service: (419) 229-7484.

Cincinnati Intergroup Office. 3040 Madison Rd. Rm 202. Cinti. OH 45209 (513) 351-0422.

Columbus: Central Ohio Intergroup. 1561 Old Leonard Ave. Columbus OH, 43219-2580. (614) 253-8501; TTY 614 253-5444.

Gambling Hotlines, call for meetings:
Problem Gambling Hotline: (800) 522-4700.
Dayton Gamblers Anonymous Hotline: (937) 449-9911
Cincinnati Gamblers Anonymous Hotline: (888) 746-4942

Chastity Resources

I posted last week about a handout I prepared, having resources to assist in pursuing chastity and dealing sex addiction.

Here is the content, although I left out what is purely local.

Obviously I can't vouch for everything on every web site.

Web Sites

Chastity resource for men:
(Catholic organization for homosexual persons)
Porn addiction:
Sex Addicts Anonymous:
Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous:
Sexaholics Anonymous:
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous:
Sexual Recovery Anonymous:

Book Titles

Easing the Ache: Gay Men Recovering from Compulsive Behaviors, by David Crawford, Guy Kettelhack.
Hope and Recovery: A Twelve Step Guide for Healing from Compulsive Sexual Behavior by Hazelden Publishing.
Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, by Patrick J. Carnes.
The Courage to be Chaste, by Benedict Groeschel.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why are we here? (Homily for St. Mary's Dedication Anniversary)

Whenever I hear this Gospel reading, I wonder…
"I hope the Lord doesn’t mind we sell SCRIP back there!"
It’s a reminder to us to keep our focus.

A lot of parishes choose not to mark the occasion we celebrate today:
the anniversary of when this parish was consecrated as a house of worship.
I have only been present one time for such a consecration:
last year, when Sacred Heart Parish in McCartyville built a new church.

It’s an impressive occasion.
The whole church is dark and locked up… the bishop leads everyone in,
and step-by-step the building is consecrated for use in worship.
The walls of the church are anointed with chrism, the same oil used for baptism,
confirmation and for anointing the hands of a priest.
The altar is also anointed, and incensed—
only then are cloths and candles put on the altar,
to be used in the Sacrifice.

It doesn’t happen very often, and it hasn’t happened here for awhile,
because this house of God has stood here for 165 years this year.

The first church of Saint Mary is still here, but it’s just this corner here.
In 1898, it was expanded and consecrated a second time—
you can read about that on the front of church, over the door.
Then, in 1979, the interior was changed significantly,
and it was dedicated a third time.

But as St. Paul described, you and I continue to add to what others built.
Not so many years ago, we improved our school building.
In recent years, you and Father Tom and I
have made further improvements.
Future generations will make their additions as well.

But Saint Paul reminds us, our foundation can only be Jesus Christ.

Everything we do, our time here in this building,
our schools, Piqua Catholic and Lehman,
our religious education and youth programs, our festival, our fundraisers…

Our outreach to the poor through Saint Vincent de Paul,
Bethany Center and the Piqua Compassion Network,
all our resources of time, talent and treasure…

If it isn’t all about bringing Jesus Christ to this community,
if it isn’t about being one Body of Christ, no matter who we are…
Then why are we here?

Recalling the solemn dedication of this church
reminds us how important the Mass is, even the least detail.

It isn’t just one of many things we do as the Body of Christ—
it is the foundation, because the Mass is what makes us the Body of Christ.

Whether we come here or not, we have physical life—
but what brings us here is to receive eternal life.

We come here for new life in baptism;
we come here for healing in confession,
for the power of confirmation;
and we come here, to this altar,
to behold the Glory of the Lord
in his death and resurrection, shared in the Eucharist.

When Jesus drove those folks from the temple,
it wasn’t because they were doing anything bad—
in fact, it was needed—people needed animals to sacrifice.
No, he drove them back because they were getting in the way.

When I give a talk about SCRIP, or an annual report,
I hesitate, I don’t want that to get in the way.

It can be enjoyable when a priest brings his personality into the Mass,
but as an outgoing person myself,
I fight that, so I won’t get in the way.

When we gather for Mass, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us keep our focus,
to keep this house a house of prayer.

And in this Mass, as we open up to the grace
God offers us here, especially in the Eucharist,
we might ask that God will do in our lives
what he long ago did in this building:
"This is where my throne shall be."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sharing the Gift of Salvation (Sunday homily)

In the second reading,
St. Paul teaches about sin and salvation:
“Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned”

This is what we mean by Original Sin—
And it’s why baptism is so important,
Because baptism gives the new life of Christ to a person,
Washing away the transgression
and healing what divides us from God.

The natural question of course is, then—
what about people who are never baptized?

For those who never have the opportunity,
we trust that Christ watches out for them.
Paul said: “the gift is not like the transgression”—
Salvation is a gift—one that Jesus Christ wants to give all of us.

Our late Holy Father John Paul spoke about babies that weren’t baptized,
And he said we trust the mercy of God to embrace them.

In the meantime, you and I make sure everyone has the opportunity.
Don’t wait to bring a child for baptism, don’t put it off;
and share the gift of salvation by telling people about the Lord.

Maybe you would like some ideas on how to share the gift?

One way is simply to bring people along.
We have youth activities all the time…bring someone along.
Vacation Bible School is coming…bring some neighborhood children along.
Bring people to the Bible Study I have every Wednesday.

Bring people to the festival, and show them around the church and the chapel.
Let them know there’s a place of refuge where they can come.

The Lord said, “don’t be afraid”...yet we often are—
we don’t know how to share our Faith.

Very soon, there will be a women’s weekend Cursillo—
“cursillo” means a short course in our Faith.
I made a weekend cursillo a couple of years ago
and found it very meaningful.
Many of our parishioners have done the same,
and it strengthened their Faith.
It helped them know their Faith
so they could be more confident in sharing the Faith.

If you’re interested in a women’s or men’s Cursillo,
call the office and we’ll get you connected.

In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah
talked about “rescuing the life of the poor”
—that is part of our mission.

We are rightly proud of our schoolchildren,
led by their principal and teachers and parents,
raised almost $12,000 to help people in Haiti.
A group of our folks, led by our Sisters of Charity,
went to Haiti and helped build a house for a family.

But we can simply go a few blocks to South Street, to the Bethany Center
and the Piqua Compassion Network.
Bethany needs volunteers, a few hours a week,
to serve food, sort clothing, to be a light of Christ to those who are beaten down.

The Piqua Compassion Network is a clearing-house
connecting people with many forms of help.
but we need someone to answer the phone when it rings.

A lot of folks are told they aren’t worth anything.
Someone has to tell them, “Do not be afraid;
you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The power to do these things only comes from the Lord.
Here at Mass is where Jesus pours out
the Gift of Salvation for the many.

What happened on the Cross happens here on the altar.
That power is what we receive in the Eucharist.
Power to overcome fear and to proclaim from the housetops that He is Lord!
Power to help him rescue the life of the poor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What I'm doing today

It's been a lighter day...when school is out, things calm down.

I've handled a lot of calls, normal for Tuesdays, and I've met with several staff members about various things.

I wrote my column for the bulletin, and also edited some handouts to provide to parishioners; one gives resources for anyone struggling with chastity issues--pornography, addiction, same-sex attraction or simply saving oneself for marriage, the other provides resources for alcoholism, drug- or gambling-addiction. We keep them in the confessional, both for those coming to confession or simply so people can duck in and get one if they want it.

That said, I'd like to create a handout on anger as well. I say this, because so many people tell me they struggle with anger, and I wonder what I can offer as practical help. Any suggestions, please include in comments.

In a bit, I'll walk back home--such a nice day, no reason to drive, it's only 3/4 of a mile--and have Mass, then dinner, and I have a meeting to drop in on.

A light day.

Where I stand: for Free Speech

You may not be aware of it, but as we speak, freedom of speech is in grave danger in many places normally thought of as "free countries."

In the UK: a couple of evangelists were preaching and passing out literature on a street corner. A police officer said they couldn't do that in a "Muslim area." They were hustled off to the police department, although no charges were filed. The two are challenging the action.

In France: Bridget Bardot has been fined several times for so-called "hate speech" because she disapproves of the Muslim practice of sacrificing animals, and said so publicly.

In Canada: provincial and national Human Rights Panels (named without a trace of irony) are increasingly being used as means to harass and punish people who express ideas that someone finds objectionable. A pastor who wrote a letter to the editor, finding fault with homosexuality has been fined and--incredible yet true--ordered never to speak disparagingly of homosexuals or those who went after him...ever (go here to read the order handed down by the so-called "Human Rights Panel")! A blogger, Ezra Levant, was hauled before one of these tribunals to answer for his decision to publish cartoons that held the prophet Muhammed up to ridicule. McLean's magazine--a major news publication--has been hauled in for publishing a piece by Mark Steyn that someone claimed was "anti-Muslim."

Here's where I stand:

I have no idea what those street evangelists said; I've seen some who were pretty obnoxious. Same with the pastor in Canada, cited for what he said about homosexual persons. I have no idea if what he said was mainstream or extreme, although my quick perusal of his site didn't turn up anything "extreme." I don't know what Levant's motives were for running the cartoons, although I've chosen not to do so. I've seen Steyn's comments online and on TV, but I didn't read the article that generated the complaint.

Whether they were polite or rude, what we deem "acceptable" or note, is beside the point!

This is what "free speech" means. Yes, there are boundaries--obscenity, slander, libel, indecency, incitement to riot--but under American law, the exceptions are few, and the law errs on the side of freedom. I agree it would be nonsensical to treat "free speech" as meaning anything, because then it means nothing.

That said, we can see the idea of free speech is under attack.

We might recall that in the U.S., it is frequently under attack on college campuses, with speech codes and enforced "diversity" and "sensitivity." And we might note that as we speak, the GOP is preparing to nominate, for the presidency, a U.S. Senator who is very proud of legislation curbing political free speech, the so-called McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. Many who pooh-poohed that legislation said, "don't worry, the courts will strike it down." The President--who during his campaign, pledged to veto it--signed it, almost certainly confident the Supreme Court would do his dirty work. Only the Supreme Court upheld it. The High Court may yet strike it down, but this, combined with other trends, is a cautionary tale.

I realize I'm not saying anything eloquent or profound here--honestly, I don't have time to frame some eloquent defense of free speech. But given what's happening, I think it's time for everyone who believes in freedom to speak up.

I'm for free speech.

Monday, June 16, 2008

For whom can I vote? (part 5)

One more thought, and maybe I'll stop worrying this bone...

After posting this, I found this article by Mickey Kaus, at Slate, linked by Instapundit:

McCain Wobbles?Alito and Scalia vs. Breyer and Ginsburg

Suckers! Part XVIII*: John McCain met privately with some Clinton supporters in the diehard group Party Unity My Ass, and tried to wobble his way into their hearts:

"He stayed for a good almost half hour afterwards shaking hands, listening to our concerns, talking to us," said PUMA founder Will Bower, who said he thought many of the people there would vote for McCain.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina stayed to mingle with the crowd, whose members also included Clinton backer Harriet Christian, made momentarily famous on YouTube for getting ejected from the Rules & Bylaws press area.

Bower said he'd liked McCain's answer on judges, in which he "pointed out that he supported Bill Clinton with both Ginsberg [sic] and Breyer." [E.A.]

...when deciding between a "more prolife" candidate and a less prolife candidate, what significance should a morally serious Catholic voter give to the credibility the "more prolife" candidate's promises? Just when does the morally serious Catholic voter get to say, "I don't believe you on prolife, anymore than I would if you said you were Napoleon IV."'s not permission to vote for Obama, but it seems to me a morally serious reason not to vote for McCain. Of course, others will decide the matter differently. But this business of the "you have to" already wearing thin--and it's June.

* Kaus has written a few posts about how McCain is already backing away from the promises that got him the nomination; this is the second that I've read.

For whom can I vote (part 4)

Folks would do well to acknowledge they get overheated about all this.

In a thread at "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" we got into this, talking about the misguided support Chicago priest Father Michael Pfleger has given Obama. I was ultimately accused of promoting "heterodoxy," and the one who so accused me ended up distorting my statements—I think out of being so overwrought about this issue—because I wouldn’t agree with his absolutist statements, also in reaction to the example I provided, when asked, of a situation where one might feel a real conflict. I should have simply stuck with Obama-McCain, but instead I offered this one: what if Sen. Larry Craig runs for re-election, maintaining his 100% opposition to abortion, but is opposed by a pro-abortion candidate?

Were I an Idaho voter, I’d probably vote for Craig (assuming I and others failed to knock him out in the primary), but I said, on that thread, I could understand why someone didn’t feel bound to vote for Craig given his other problems, and might vote for the other candidate, despite being pro-abortion. I’m not saying I agree with the reasoning, but I offer it as an example of where a person of good intentions on the abortion issue might well feel very conflicted, and I’d have a hard time condemning such a voter in that circumstance.

And one can think of even more egregious cases: Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham ended up going to jail for defrauding the taxpayers in his dealings with defense contractors—but he was prolife. Again, thankfully, prolife voters were spared such a choice.

In the end, my overwrought accuser almost seemed to back himself into the corner of saying one would be morally obliged to vote for someone like Craig, or McCain, because of the worse opponent—although I think that commenter would really not hold that, had he given the matter sufficient thought. I offer this an example of where one ends up if one misstates what actually is the moral imperative in these issues, and also gets too wrapped up in the "crisis" of the moment, forgetting the unfolding of Divine Providence.

There is a hazard in getting off balance when it comes to engagement with the political process versus remembering that the Kingdom will only come in fullness in the world to come. We are called to seek a more just world, to struggle in prayer and action very hard for it.

But we live in a world afflicted by Original Sin, and we are limited in what we can do, and what we can anticipate. Every election cycle, folks make it all about the outcome this year--well, no; whatever happens this fall, there will be other struggles after this, regardless of who wins. No matter how pure our intention, how good our methods, how skilled and hard-working we are, political action isn’t going to save the world. We have to remember that. I say that as someone who worked in politics, cares about politics, thinks political action is noble—but also as one who knows the subtle temptation to reach for "the ring of power" (to use Tolkien’s classic image).

When I reflect on Divine Providence and history, I end up speechless—why does God allow things to unfold as he does? A little nudge here or there would—seemingly—so dramatically affect the course of history for the better. So it is with the current state of our nation and our world as we Catholics do our best to make the world more just, including especially stopping the slaughter of the unborn.

For whom can I vote? (part 3)

At this point, it becomes a prudential decision—it has to.

Many who are very strident on this issue apply this very reasoning, and conclude they will vote for McCain over Obama. I will not condemn them, but note: they are, thereby, materially cooperating with the evil McCain endorses.

Ironically, some of the same people are arguing, absolutely, one may never, ever, under any circumstances, vote for a candidate who embraces something that is gravely evil (such as abortion)—they make that argument in relation to Obama, but then abandon that argument in relation to McCain.

After all, if you took that approach, you could not vote for Bush—because many fail to note that while Bush took a position against most abortions, he was in favor of allowing some of them—for rape and incest. While being against most is very good, being for any is gravely wrong.

But many prolifers decided that while they could not formally cooperate with Bush in this regard, they saw materially cooperating with him—by supporting him—to be justified as a way to prevent a worse evil—the election of someone who embraced abortion-on-demand. And they further reasoned that, under the circumstances, their cooperation with Bush in this matter was more remote, since we’re not faced with the immediate prospect of outlawing all abortions, with Bush the obstacle to saving those additional lives.

That’s acceptable reasoning, but again, it is prudential reasoning that justifies voting for a candidate who nonetheless is wrong on a non-negotiable. And it’s the same reasoning applied to voting for McCain, despite his support for baby-destroying research (which Bush supports, remember? He came out in favor of our tax dollars being used for it, with restrictions).

But given all that, this is why you cannot say, as some do: "you cannot, under any circumstances vote for a candidate who endorses ____ (insert a non-negotiable)."
The actual answer is, there are some circumstances where you may; but what you may not do is share the intention to do the evil—you may not support the candidate because of his or her embrace of something evil.

What are the circumstances? What does the Church say on this subject?

Rich Leonardi points to two sources for guidance—one, the observations of then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) in 2004, and the other, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, who oversaw the drafting of "Faithful Citizenship" while chairman of the USCCB's domestic policy committee:

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CNS) -- A "hierarchy of values" exists, which means not all political issues are of equal value, said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn. "Our faith must inform our political decisions," he said, and Catholic voters are obliged to distinguish "between moral evil," such as abortion, "and matters of prudential judgment," such as tuition tax credits. ... "In our own country, despite significant victories that extend protection to the unborn, this modern slaughter of the holy innocents continues because of the policies of unscrupulous politicians," he said.
"Only in circumstances that are extraordinarily hard to contemplate may a Catholic voter support a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil," the bishop said (Bolding of text added for emphasis).

I may be wrong, but I think the bishop’s comments here are directed to a situation in which the contrast between candidates is clear: one is for abortion, the other is against.

It seems to me the circumstances are not so "extraordinarily hard to contemplate": we might have faced a choice this year between Obama and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is only marginally less pro-abortion than Obama. Again, McCain’s position on embryonic stem-cell research makes him, in DiMarzio’s words, "a proponent of so great an intrinsic moral evil"—but on a lesser scale than Obama. The circumstances in which one may feel bound to vote for that proponent—McCain—are to avoid a worse proponent—Obama. Again, not so hard to contemplate.

For my part, barring some consideration I haven’t thought of at this point, I shall not vote for either. But it is precisely because of this sort of dilemma I cannot agree with the blanket statements many are making.

For whom can I vote? (part 2)

So let's get down to brass tacks. Who can I vote for this November?

The short answer is, I don't know.

A lot of folks want the Church, and her ministers, to spell it out as a simple matter of, "a Catholic cannot vote for ___" and some even go so far as to say, "a Catholic must vote for ____."

Sorry, that misses the mark, although in ways that may seem subtle.

Let’s start with what’s clear. One may not* formally cooperate with evil. So: one may never support a candidate with the intention of supporting the evil the candidate support.

However, the Church distinguishes between "formal" and "material" cooperation with evil; as well as distinguishing between levels of cooperation, from immediate to proximate to remote. If I hand you the gun and you immediately murdered someone, that’s pretty much "immediate"—and even if I didn’t "formally" cooperate—I didn’t actually share your desire to murder that person—my cooperation is sinful.

But lots of cooperation is more remote, and often cannot easily be dealt with. I drive you to work downtown, knowing you are going out for a date later, and I pretty much know what sins you plan to commit on that date. Am I culpable because I gave you a ride that morning? That would be an example of remote, material cooperation.

Well, these are the principles that apply directly with our political decisions. We are bound to consider the extent to which our political activism is cooperation with evil.

Thus, I think the best formulation has been from Pope Benedict—speaking before he became pope—about how certain issues disqualify a candidate from our support. Some issues are more grave evils than others, and we simply cannot cooperate with it.

But, the problem arises when all the candidates presented to you are disqualified. Then what do you do?

Some would argue, you cannot vote for any of them.

By that measure, then, I would argue we cannot vote for either Obama (because of many issues) or McCain (because of his support for embryonic stem-cell "research"). And, if the Libertarian Party candidate ends up being bad on so-called "gay marriage," then that would disqualify him as well.

But the Church does address this—if the choice of candidates is such that all are disqualified on some non-negotiable issue, then you may choose to vote for one of candidates, as a way to lessen the evil. Note: this means one is not formally cooperating with any of the evils intended by a candidate, but is materially cooperating, either proximately or remotely.

* updated 4:56 pm--sorry!

For whom can I vote? (part 1)

These four* posts have been a pain to write, because they touch on too big a topic. I can't really give these the attention they deserve, but I wanted to offer something. I'm sure someone will catch me with an inprecision or infelicity of expression, and those who are so caught up in the political situation will decide these posts are responsible for the impending downfall of civilization.

But, I'll plunge in nonetheless...

Lots of Catholics, including a lot surfing and chatting on the Internet, are getting into intense discussions of how to apply our Catholic Faith, and the moral absolutes that are part of it and flow from it, to the choices we make as voters, particularly this year.

I will warn you now--this post (or series of posts) will bother some of you, because I will address bigger questions—which is why it keeps getting unwieldy—and what I won’t do is make it easy by uttering variations on the simple platitudes some favor:

"No Catholic can vote for ____"

"Catholics are morally bound to vote for ____"

Sorry, it’s not that simple.

It’s also wrong to suggest, as some do, that all issues that have a moral dimension are somehow equivalent. This can be convenient, when the candidate one wants to vote for is problematic on a particular issue—like abortion. "Yeah, but what about the (Iraq) war?"

Well, we can argue about the morality of the war. Yes, the pope did disagree with Bush’s case for the Iraq War. But two things to note. First, the pope would say that there is some room for difference of opinion on the war, precisely because Just War teaching holds that "the competent authority" has to make certain decisions, and that means the competent authority has some leeway. Some. But that some makes a huge difference.

For that matter, sometimes war can be justified—the Church does not, for example, have a "Just Abortion" teaching, but she does have a "Just War" teaching.

(For those who want to know, I was against Bush’s decision to go to war, and preached about the subject when the decision was being made. But once in, in my judgment the question changes to how justly to prosecute and conclude the war. I do not consider simply leaving to be a very moral decision, and to the extent so many taking the "anti war" position keep advocating that, they lose the moral high ground on the war, in my opinion.)

Well, in my first draft of this, I wrote lots of fancy verbiage about the life issues, but the bottom line is that abortion is always wrong, period. Likewise all assaults on innocent human life, such as "research" that destroys embryonic human beings and euthanasia. Cloning is also always and everywhere evil, no exceptions.

The death penalty, however, is more like the question of the war. The Church has not condemned the death penalty as intrinsically evil, but rather has said the circumstances in which it can be justified are few, fewer all the time. And the Church’s argument against the death penalty in recent years has been more along the lines of, we would be better off without it—it doesn’t help us cherish life.

What government says and does regarding marriage is also non-negotiable. (This is the subtle point many miss; the Church is only getting involved in the public-policy issue here because that's where advocates of so-called "gay marriage" have taken their cause. When people sought to have their clergy give religious sanction to a same-sex union, the Church's response was limited to the theological.)

Then we have questions related to housing, health care, environment, the economy and so forth. All these have moral dimensions, no question. In each case, as Catholics, we are bound to apply Catholic teaching in these areas. But here the role of prudence is huge.

Example: the Church teaches workers have a right to a "just wage"—but she does not specify the means to attain that. Two Catholics can, in good conscience, disagree over how to do it—but not whether workers should have "just wages."

Now, if I had more time, I could give you an exhaustive examination of the subject, but I don’t have time. These are the main hot-button issues, quibble if you like about what I failed to say or say strongly enough.

* er, five as of 3:10 pm...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The 'Salvation Maintenance Plan' (Sunday homily)

We continue to learn from St. Paul,
from what he wrote in his letter to the Romans.

Listen to the language Paul uses:
“while we were still helpless”…
That makes me think of a baby…newborns are “helpless.”
It also recalls the people of Israel in Egypt—
they were slaves, and God “bore them up on eagle’s wings.”

In what way helpless? “Helpless” to save ourselves.
When it comes to sin, all of us are helpless,
all of us are slaves.
This is what we call “Original Sin.”

You can explain Original Sin many ways,
But one thing is clear, as G.K. Chesterton said,
this is one Christian doctrine that is very easily proved:
Every one of us enters this world prone to sin.

Somewhere in our past, our first parents fell into sin,
and the damage that did
to the human race is part of us, too.

So we are helpless to save ourselves—
but thank God, we don’t have to!
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”!

Saint Paul wants to teach us
that yes, we really do need Jesus Christ.
Without Jesus Christ, we would still be slaves—helpless.

But our life-experience tells us that
even with the new life Christ won for us on the cross—
which He pours into our lives in baptism—
you and I will still fall back into slavery,
if we do not claim the grace and power
that the Lord offers us through the sacraments—
especially confession and the Eucharist.

It’s like you have a new car, fresh off the lot—
not a scratch, and it has that “new car” smell.
You start it up and the engine purrs…
But don’t you still bring it for maintenance?

Confession and the Eucharist:
that’s our “Salvation Maintenance Plan.”

Today is Fathers Day, and it’s an opportunity
to talk about both natural fathers and spiritual fathers.

As great as it is to help God bring a new life into this world,

to be a father even more means bringing that new life to heaven.

The “Salvation Maintenance Plan” isn’t just for ourselves;

we share it with our families.
So, fathers and mothers, I want to say thank you:
many of you bring your children each week,
and I know it’s not always easy.
When I was a kid, I made it hard for my parents!
Remember, Original Sin?

But you persevere, and I thank you because—
not only are you making a difference in their lives—
teaching them the “Salvation Maintenance Plan”—
you make a difference in my life.
Your example encourages me!
It strengthens me, and it strengthens others.

I say the same to the _______s,
celebrating 50 years of marriage.
You gave yourselves to each other 50 years ago,
Knowing you couldn’t do it all on your own,
But rather, asking the Lord’s help.
And here you are, surrounded by the children and grandchildren
and the friends
who are the fruit of what God did in your lives.

Your witness encourages me, and all of us.

I would be remiss if I did not do as Jesus commanded.
He said, “ask the master of the harvestto send out laborers for his harvest.”

This is why I’ve asked you
to add to your grace over meals,
the following six-word prayer:
“Please send us more holy priests.”

This is why the Sisters of Charity are such a blessing—
they are examples of giving oneself radically to Christ.

This is why I invite anyone
who has a zeal for promoting vocations,
to please get in touch with me,
because we would love to build up a vocation committee.

The Harvest is underway—
the Lord began it with his death and resurrection,
and he continues it with our help.

After we share
in the death and resurrection of the Lord,
in holy communion, Mass ends—we are sent.

You and I, who have the great privilege
of being reconciled to God,
when we leave here,
we then have the great privilege
of sharing that with others.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How do I get the pics off the little thingy?

I borrowed a camera from the vicar back in April, before I went to D.C. for the Mass with the Holy Father...and I still have it on my desk. It's a digital camera, Olympus D-380. It has a little memory card that you pull out, plus a small, round port, where I'm guessing one can plug in a cable?

If you want to see pictures of me at the aforementioned Mass (note, I didn't say good pictures, what does it tell you I don't even own a camera?), maybe let me know what I do to get the info off the little thingy in the camera?

(This is what I do while I wait for an appointment due in a few I took some pictures of Saint Boniface, while I went over to make sure the A/C was working...)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some pictures of my two parish churches

Here are some pictures of my two parish churches. Those from Saint Mary are from Divine Mercy Sunday, sent along by a parishioner. The other picture is from Saint Boniface, from our recent Corpus Christi celebration. The third, tighter, shot shows our parochial vicar offering Mass.

For those who are very attentive to such details: these pictures do not show the altar cross I recently placed on the altar at Saint Mary. This is something that Pope Benedict has very much encouraged, along with having altar candles along the edge of the altar toward the people. His belief, which I share, is this can be very helpful in emphasizing that when the priest stands at the altar, facing the people, nonetheless his focus is not on the assembly, but on God. This is one of his concerns about the change, that came after Vatican II (yet was never mentioned in the documents of Vatican II), to have the option of the priest offer Mass versus populum--and option that has become all-but-universal.

The altar arrangement mentioned above--with candles and a crucifix--is recommended by Pope Benedict, and I have adopted it entirely at Saint Boniface--here's a picture (I think if you click on the picture, it will become large enough to see the altar with plenty of detail). Yes, the altar cross is not there, obviously because of Benediction--but it is usually about where you see the monstrance, although not as large.

This arrangement I have partially adopted at Saint Mary--i.e., with an altar cross, along with the placement of candles you can see. Saint Mary's altar is smaller, and we have altar candles that sit on the floor around the altar. You can see how I arranged them, with two additional candles on the altar. As I say, since this picture, I have added a small altar cross; perhaps in time, we'll try a different arrangement of candles.

You can see how how the tabernacle was recently refurbished, and how we dress the altar. I usually prefer a full-length altar cloth, both as a way to make use of color, but also to avoid over-emphasizing the altar as a "table" at the expense of it as an altar--i.e., of sacrifice. Recently I sought advice from some folks at the New Liturgical Movement, and many there suggested the altar cloth should be a traditional "antependium" that is usually a fine bit of cloth work, stretched taut over a frame, with simple designs--something like this:

Now, I happen to think this is very nice, but I also expect it to be very expensive. So you can see, above, how we do it now, what do you think?

The pictures of Saint Mary, above, taken as they were from the choir loft, skew your perspective--seen from the nave, the altar lines up more evenly with the place of repose for the tabernacle--the height of each is carefully aligned for that purpose, but you can't see that here.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

'The Love of Christ impels us!' (Homily for Saint Boniface)

Today we celebrate a feast just for our parish—our patron, Saint Boniface.
Saint Boniface was born in England, around AD 680.

Boniface felt a call to the religious life,
but as often happens today, his family and friends discouraged him.
His parents wanted prosperity and, “success” for him.

I can imagine Boniface telling his family
what St. Paul said: “the love of Christ impels me!”
How can we not see everything differently,
once we have been changed by the love of Christ,

made a new creation, made a citizen of heaven?

Eventually, his father gave in,
and Boniface entered a nearby monastery.

Boniface did well. He excelled in Scripture, history, poetry and oratory.

He was ordained a priest at 30.

Boniface was a Saxon, so he wanted to go back to his people in Germany.
If we wonder with whom we’re to share the Gospel,
we need look no further than our families and friends.

The love of Christ impels us!

In 719, arriving in Germany, Boniface found many Christians

who had fallen back into a mixture of Christianity and superstition—
just like the people described in the first reading.
It’s not so different today.
How many people filled the churches on 9-11,
then went back to business as usual?

After three years, Boniface returned to Rome to report his progress.
The pope liked what he heard and made him a bishop.
When Boniface went back, he decided to confront false worship directly.
He walked up to one of the idols, carved into an oak tree;

he took off his shirt, and hacked it down.
“How stands your mighty god now?" he asked.
The pagans waited for lightning that never came;
and they were won to the power of Christ.

Look around, you will find plenty of false gods:
“Love” on the Internet, “public opinion,” lottery machines, TV;
we build splendid temples to sports heroes and to entertain ourselves,
while more urgent needs go without.

Like Boniface, you and I must confront these for the false gods they are,
and recall people to the true God who dwells in our midst.

One of Boniface’s challenges
was to provide Catholic education.
I think he’d heartily approve of our sacrifices
for Piqua Catholic and Lehman High School.

The love of Christ impels us!

As Boniface reached his 70s, he might have rested;
but he had one more mission that proved to be his last.

Recall what his family said when he entered religious life—
oh no, we want you to be successful in life!
By one measure, they were surely right.

Boniface never made any money for himself.
There were surely times of loneliness and doubt,
And more hardships than there needed to be.

On the other hand, Boniface, cris-crossed Germany,

establishing parishes and monasteries,
baptizing, confirming and teaching from the Alps to the Baltic.
He recruited priests and religious, he ordained bishops.

He is rightly called the Apostle to Germany.

How’s that for “success”?

If you are thinking about a vocation
as a priest or deacon or religious—this can be you!
Where would you like to be an ambassador for Christ?

You can go anywhere:
to the people of Asia and Africa, where the Church is exploding;
to the slums of Haiti, where some of our fellow parishioners will be this week;
or simply to the exotic streets of Piqua.

The whole world is at your feet:
You can be a success like Saint Boniface!

When a son or daughter says, “I’m thinking about the religious life,”
parents think about the grandchildren they hope for.
Maybe Boniface’s parents thought about that.

Yet how many hundreds of millions of Christians
in the world today trace their roots to Germany?
Every one of them are Boniface’s “children” in Christ—

how’s that for grandchildren?

As I said, for his last mission,
Boniface set off to a corner of Germany,
near present-day Netherlands, to share the Gospel.

And it was on there, on June 5, AD 755,
that a group of non-believers set on him
and his companions, and they were all killed.
That was the day of his entrance into eternal life.

Boniface’s body is still honored in Fulda, in the heart of Germany.
But we need not go so far to venerate his body.
We have a relic of Boniface here.
We deem the bodies of the martyrs as precious
Because the Lord considers them precious.

At the end of Mass, I will bless you with the relic of our patron, Saint Boniface.

When the end of Boniface’s life on earth came,
what was his focus? Was he looking back,
considering the best days were behind him?

No—his gaze was on Christ
and on the miracles yet to come.

How about us, Church of Saint Boniface?
We’ve been here 153 years.

This parish survived a Civil War, two world wars,
a Great Depression, all kinds of trouble.
We have trouble now? We wonder about the future?
What’s new?

The Church Boniface built in Germany
has gone through a lot in 1300 years;
the last century was the darkest for Germany,
and many have lost the Faith.
Yet, as we speak, a son of Germany, the first ever,
is Bishop of Rome!

The Church that one generation builds,
the next must rebuild—so it always is.

The watchword, Church of Saint Boniface—
do you know what it is?
It’s the same in every age, until he comes;
it is our watchword: The love of Christ impels us!

Saint Boniface…pray for us!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Abraham our father in Faith (Sunday homily)

In the second reading,
from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans,
we hear about Abraham.
What does Abraham mean to us?

It helps to remember the story of Genesis.
God created a garden for humanity,
but our first parents walked out.

From that point on, they and their children

keep moving further and further away from God,
further and further away from life.

That’s why it’s significant
that Abram and Sarai can’t have a child—
it’s the first time it happens in the Bible.
So when God calls Abram,
he is calling humanity back to life.

Abraham stands for us. He is our “father in faith.”
His “yes” to God is a model for us.

We might note three things God promised Abraham:
He would lead him to a new life;
he would give him a son,
and he would make him a father of many nations.

But Paul talks about Abraham to move to a bigger point:
the promise made to Abraham
is the promise kept in Christ!

Jesus is the true Son of Promise,
born many generations after Abraham;
all who believe in Christ are the “many nations”
who are Abraham’s children;
and it Christ—and Christ alone—
who re-opens Paradise for the human race.

Notice, the invitation God gave to Abraham—follow me—

happens in a far more wonderful way in the Gospel:
God comes in human flesh to Matthew and says,
“Follow me!”

There’s one more thing Paul wants to teach us here—
how Jesus opened Paradise again
for all of us who’d lost our way.
He did it with the Cross.

Jesus gave himself over to death,
taking our punishment for us.
He rose from the dead,
lifting our human nature from being fragile and mortal,
to being eternal, just like his own risen body.

How can we gain this salvation?
Jesus says it to us, too: “Follow me.”
What Paul describes, actually happens for us
at each and every Mass.
The death and resurrection of Christ
is made present for us on the altar, every time.

Christ offers his sacrifice here—
that’s why the Cross is there for you to see,
why it’s here, for the priest to see.

Christ opens Paradise—
that’s why we decorate our churches
to remind us of heaven,
with the saints and angels all around us.
That’s why the Mass is meant to be
something that transcends ordinary life,
and lifts us up to heaven.

Christ shares supernatural, eternal life with us:
what is poured out on the cross, and on the altar,
is given in the Eucharist.

Who does Christ call?
Everyone who will confess, “I am a sinner.”
This is why this parish is here,
to call everyone to faith in Christ
and to make them welcome.
That empty seat near you?
It’s meant to be filled by whoever you bring along.

As we come to the awesome moment,
when through the Sacrifice on the Altar,
when what Abraham longed for, happens for us—
and then, Christ gives his Body and Blood
in the Eucharist—
this is “the saving power of God”!

Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Matthew and Paul
are praying for us, around this altar,
that we will recognize the saving power of God,
given here, so freely!

Oh, may we join fervently in prayer with them—
that, in receiving this Saving Power,
we may be filled with the same urgency Matthew felt, Abraham felt—

to go, to tell, to share, to invite.
There are so many people who strive to know the Lord—

they are seeking him, hungering to be forgiven.

Who will go, who will tell them?

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Saint Boniface 'Triduum'

We're now in what I call the 'Saint Boniface Triduum,' as a result of a liturgical oddity that I find amusing, and so will any other liturgy- and canon-law geeks.

We start with the following norms:

1. The observance of a parish's patron saint is a solemnity in that parish--i.e., Saint Boniface Day for Saint Boniface Parish--but only for Saint Boniface Parish, not Saint Mary Parish, where I am also pastor (and where I reside).

2. Church law says such an occasion can be "observed" on a nearby Sunday, so long as the nearby Sunday does not outrank the occasion in the rank of liturgical occasions. In summary, this means "no" if the nearby Sunday is Pentecost, Trinity Sunday or Corpus Christi, but "yes" if a Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Then we proceed to what is unclear to me:

3. Is the occasion merely "observed" or is it transferred? If the former, does that mean it's still observed on the assigned day, and also on the Sunday? Does this not seem odd?

4. What about the Liturgy of the Hours? The letter of the law seems to be, if celebrated publicly, make the shift, but not if private. But does it not seem very odd to pray the Office for Boniface on Thursday, but to celebrate the Mass, on Sunday (and Saturday evening)?

5. I did decide to transfer the observance to the weekend, for the advantage of the faithful, and we did not observe St. Boniface Day, in Saint Boniface Parish, yesterday.

6. However, I had a Mass at the nursing home. They can't come to Sunday Mass; I decided to have the Mass, with them, for Saint Boniface, as a memorial, not a solemnity. Don't ask in which parish boundaries we were.

7. Meanwhile, parishioners organize a picnic each year on our patron's day--that happened last night. No reason to mess with their plans.

8. I prayed the regular office yesterday, as I'll be praying the Office for St. Boniface this weekend. I'll pray parts of it with the seminarians here, so it will be "with the people."

9. Technically, I am only supposed to do this when I'm in Saint Boniface Parish--but my residence is in Saint Mary Parish.

I am open to other suggestions or comments, about this not-so-weighty matter. Now I must go get a haircut and then make communion calls.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dies Irae & In Paradisum

This morning we had our monthly Mass in Latin--it is the current, "ordinary form" of the Mass, celebrated predominantly in Latin--the orations, readings, homily and petitions are in English.

We've done this for about 8 months, and we get a good 20-25 people for this Mass, not too different from who comes to other weekday Masses. The only objections I've heard--I kid you not--are from people who never come anyway. Isn't that funny?

Since this is a "ferial" day, meaning, there is no feast or saint assigned, then any Mass can be used today. I decided to do a "requiem Mass" or a Mass for the dead. I do have black vestments, but they are at the other parish, so I used purple vestments. The music director, who brings his whole family for this Mass, sang the proper chants, the Dies Irae as the offertory, and In Paradisum as the closing hymn. The only false note was the celebrant (yours truly) who kept mixing up his "e" and "i" sounds, a mistake I usually don't make (i.e., I usually make other ones).
Just a simple Mass.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More Pictures from Corpus Christi Event

Here are a couple more pictures--a better shot of yours truly assisting the Lord as he blesses his people:

This is a nice shot of the concluding Benediction at Saint Boniface. For those who are very observant...yes, the Easter Candle is lit, the volunteer lit every candle. The trees in the sanctuary have been moved, I prefer them in the outer corners, beyond the side altars. You can see the white walls of Saint Boniface that someday, I'd love to see painted with more color.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

'Justified by Faith': Rules or Relationship? (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, Moses talked about keeping the commandments.
In the Gospel, the Lord himself said the same.
But in the middle, Saint Paul said,
we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

So which is it: are we saved by “faith alone”—or is it “faith and works?”
Another way to put it is, is it about “rules”—or about “relationship”?

The answer is—and this is what Paul means by faith—
is that it starts with relationship—and the “rules” flow out of that.

When Paul talks about “works of the law,”
he means specifically religious observances—
for Jews like Paul, things like what you eat;
for us, things like no meat on Friday or Sunday Mass.

Does that mean we don’t have to come to Sunday Mass?
No; but without the relationship, the “rules” by themselves won’t save you.
Recall what we just heard Jesus say: “Depart from me: I never knew you.”

Here we can appreciate the great treasure we have in our Catholic Faith:
All the ways God comes so close to us!

Long ago, God made told Moses about himself,
And through signs and wonders,
he led the people from slavery to a relationship with him.

But God has gone so much further!
When the time was right,
through an angel, he came to Mary, and said,
will you allow me to be conceived in you?
Mary—who gives us a perfect example of faith—
had as intimate relationship with God as anyone can.
With her “yes” she gave everything to God
and God came into her in the fullest way possible!

There’s a social dimension here as well.
If we understand “faith” too narrowly,
then it’s just about me and my choices.
As Americans, we’re all about individualism,
and we chafe when we’re held accountable.

In Kansas, the bishop said to the governor:
you reject Church teaching on protecting the unborn;
you can’t come to communion.
People are outraged—who is he to say that?
The answer is, the father of the family.
We’re in a relationship with each other.

Another way our Faith challenges us
is to keep expanding who is included in that family.
How do we welcome others?
How actively do we share the Gift of Faith?
Who do we mean by “we”—“us”?

Our children and teachers in Piqua Catholic
decided the “we” included a village in Haiti.
They raised over $11,000—
and some of our adults will go to Haiti to build a house.

When we realize faith is a relationship,
it gives new light to what the sacraments are about.
They aren’t about checking a box or doing the minimum;
the sacraments can only give us life if we have a relationship with Jesus.

When parents bring a baby for baptism,
The priest asks, will you teach her to know and follow Jesus?

That’s why the sacrament of confession is so useful and necessary—
a real relationship only works if we can admit wrong,
and seek reconciliation, or it won’t last.
In a marriage, if this doesn’t happen, what becomes of the intimacy?
It becomes phony and forced, and ultimately dies.

The Eucharist is essentially the same.
We call it “communion”

because it’s a “becoming one” with God, and one another
almost exactly parallel to the way a couple becomes one:
in the choices they make, in dying to self,
in their moral and physical union.

Jesus said it: a fool builds his house on sand:
“I followed the rules.”
But he invites us to build our house on the Rock:
“Let Me live in you, and you will live in Me.”