Friday, September 30, 2011

Homily 5: 'for you and for many'

Next week, as you know, we begin using the new translation of the Mass.
Today I want to look at the one change that I know have a lot of people talking.
If it’s misunderstood, which will be easy to do, it will cause some concern.

In the Eucharistic Prayer, we are all familiar with the words the priest says,
when he holds the cup of wine:
“this is the cup of my blood—the blood of the new and everlasting covenant,
it will be shed for you…”

In the outgoing translation, it goes on to say, “…and for all.”
In the new translation, it says, “for you and for many.”

That certainly raises a lot of questions. There’s more going here, so let’s dig into it.

We have to go back to the Scriptures to understand this.
The fact is, this is what the Gospels tell us Jesus said at the Last Supper.

Here is what Matthew wrote, which we read on Palm Sunday:
“this is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
The Gospel of Mark has very similar words.

Now, some might ask, are the words in the Bible, in Greek, hard to translate?
Is the Latin of the Mass prayers ambiguous? They really aren’t.
And, for those who are interested in more detail on this,
I prepared a handout which is in the bulletin today.

But before we go any further, let’s stop and realize the reason
“many” sounds bad to us. It’s only because we’re contrasting it with “all.”

If at first I tell you, you get to have “all” the cookies—
but then I tell you, no, you get to have “many”—that sounds like a step down.

But take the word “all” out of the picture.
If the word “all” had never been used in the first place,
there’s no reason for “many” to sound bad to us.
Because the natural and logical counterpoint to “many” is what? How about “few”?

And that is the very question—regarding salvation—that comes up so often in Scripture!

At one point, the disciples asked: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
That was what everyone was asking: is salvation only for a handful?
Can only the rich be saved? Can only the Jews be saved? Is it only a few?

And the Lord’s words at the Last Supper are his rebuttal: “for many.”

Even so, the Lord could have said “all.” Why didn’t he?

First, while it is true that Jesus’s death is available for all people,
if they respond, that doesn’t mean all people are guaranteed heaven.

The Gospel we heard is pretty stark: if we don’t live as Jesus commands,
we risk being sent to the Lord’s left—with the goats.

We have no idea who or how many will, ultimately, be saved.
It’s certainly less challenging if we assume salvation is easy,
and everyone, or almost everyone, makes it.
That’s the downside of the translation we’ve been using.

In any case, whoever is saved, it won’t be “few”!
Many times the Lord makes clear
that they will come from “east and west, north and south.”
The “many” will be vast number;
the Book of Revelation says an uncountable multitude.

More than that, one of the things the Lord was mindful of
was the Old Testament passages that foresaw his coming as Messiah.
And none are more vivid
than what Isaiah said about God’s “servant,” “the just one,”
whose suffering and death “shall justify the many.”
This phrase appears several times in Isaiah’s prophecies.

In other words, not only did the Lord himself know the prophecies—
he realized his disciples knew them too.
He was extremely mindful, especially on Holy Thursday and Good Friday,
of how his actions would fulfill those passages.

Recall when Peter pulled out his sword, Jesus said,
“Put back your sword… Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father
and he will not provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?
But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled
which say that it must come to pass in this way?”

So at the Last Supper, the Lord was determined
that even his choice of words should fulfill the words of Isaiah.
Ever the Good Shepherd, Jesus wanted us not to have the least cause for doubt
that he is truly our Messiah!
As we say in the Creed: “in fulfillment of the Scriptures.”

This is our last weekend using the old translation.
When you come to Mass next weekend, you’ll hear it all the first time,
and we’ll all pray it together for the first time.
It will sound somewhat different, and for awhile, that’s what we’ll notice.
But it’s the same Mass.

Remember, the Lord said, “do this in remembrance of me.”
In the end, we are attempting, as best we can, to carry out the Mass faithfully.

Faithful to what the Church teaches us,
faithful to prayers that were handed down from the early Church,
faithful to the texts of the Bible,
and faithful even to Jesus’ own choice of words.

Sometimes—as in this case—we find the Lord’s words jarring.
But we don’t paper them over.
We recall just what he said, the way he said it.
If they make us ponder, so much the better.

(Here's the text of the handout I plan to distribute...)

Background on ‘for many’ in the Eucharistic Prayer

New Testament Passages from which the words of the Eucharistic Prayer are taken

The following are the New Testament passages from which the words we hear in the Eucharistic Prayer are drawn together; the first two include “many”:

Matthew 26:27-28:

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Mark 14:23-24:

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Luke 22:20:

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”

1st Corinthians 11:25:

In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Background on the Greek and Latin terms underlying the Matthew and Mark passages:

In Matthew 20 and 26, and in Mark 14, the Greek expression used is pollon—many. In Greek, there are multiple ways to say “for all.” Similarly, in Latin, “for all” would be pro omnes; the Latin text of the Eucharistic Prayer, before and after the Second Vatican Council, is pro multis, “many.”

Other Gospel references to “few” and “many”:

Luke 13:23-24, 29:

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.

And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. [I.e., there will be many in the Kingdom; but they won’t get there by avoiding the narrow way.]
Matthew 20:28:

Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Isaiah Chapters 52:13-15 and 53:11-12:

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him—so marred were his features, beyond that of mortals his appearance, beyond that of human beings—so shall he startle many nations, kings shall stand speechless; for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.

My servant, the just one, shall justify the many, their iniquity he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the many, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death, was counted among the transgressors, bore the sins of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

Note on Aramaic vs. Greek vs. Latin

Scholars point out that in Aramaic, the term that translates “many” is ambiguous, and often was used to mean “all.” This is the reason the translators opted for “all” in the 1970 translation. They reasonably argue that Jesus and the others more likely conversed in Aramaic at the Last Supper, not Greek.

Yet the fact remains that the authors of Matthew and Mark had available in Greek many terms that could have been used to express “all,” yet they chose to use “many.”

We can’t read their minds, but there are several very good reasons for that decision:

1. The most obvious reason would be that Mark and Matthew are relaying accurately the sense of what Jesus actually said. Either they heard it themselves, or they were told by others who were present when he said it.
2. The most compelling rationale for “many” is that it makes the fulfillment of Scripture more emphatic. It lines up exactly with Isaiah’s description of God’s suffering servant (chapters 52 and 53), a passage that strongly foreshadows Jesus suffering and death. Whether Jesus was thinking about this himself—or whether the Gospel writer saw the connection—doesn’t matter, because either way the Gospels are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
3. “Many,” rightly understood, matches exactly what we believe about salvation. To say that “many” will be saved doesn’t exclude the possibility of everyone responding to God’s invitation; it is possible but not certain. On the other hand, “all” can be misunderstood as meaning Christ’s death guarantees everyone’s salvation.

Homily 3: The Creed

Did you notice how the first reading talks about
Wisdom not just as a quality—but as if a person?

One of the things the Jewish people were thinking about,
just before Jesus came—when the Book of Wisdom was written--
was this idea that God’s truth is so powerful in the world
that the world can’t exist without God’s Wisdom holding it together.

Of course, when Jesus was born and he revealed to the Apostles
that God is a Trinity of Persons, this idea came to full flower.
So the Gospel of John tells us, Jesus is “the Word”—
the truth of God that spoke the universe into existence and holds it together.

What does that mean to us?

It means two things.

It means that the truth of who God is, and who we are in God, isn’t secret.
It’s been made known to us in Jesus Christ.

And more than that, our knowing God isn’t just knowing things about him,
but having a relationship with him: God dwells in us, in the Holy Spirit.

And the part of the Mass where we really delve into this Wisdom is the Creed.
Along with the rest of the Mass, it too has been newly translated.

Let’s turn to page 5 in those booklets, and take a look at some of the changes.

The first thing you’ll notice is we’ll now say “I believe,” not “we believe.”
Actually, both forms of the Creed come down to us
from the early Church. So why use “I”?

Well, because it emphasizes that while this Creed
isn’t just something we say together; it’s something each of us makes our own.

Then, scan down to where it says to bow.
Notice the wording changes to, “was
incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
This used to say, “was
born of the Virgin Mary.”

Why this change?

Well, this more accurately expresses what we believe.

The old version says Jesus became flesh—became human—when he was born;
but this is incorrect. We celebrate his becoming human
nine months before Christmas, at the Annunciation in March,
when he was conceived. That’s when he “became man.”

Now, let’s focus on a change that folks have wondered about.
Scan up a four lines, and you’ll see the word, “consubstantial.”
That replaces “one in being.”

Some object it’s a hard word to understand; but that can’t be helped:
it’s describing a reality that’s just as hard to understand.

Now what I’m going to say here is kind of heavy. Please bear with me.
This is one of the most profound mysteries of our Faith,
so it’s supposed to be hard stuff.

This Creed was adopted by the Council of Nicea in AD 325.
They had a particular thing they wanted to say about God’s true nature.
They prayed and debated over key words—and this was one of them.
The thing is, what they were trying to say is just doggone hard to say.

So why isn’t “one in being” good enough?
The problem isn’t that it’s false, but that it’s not precise.
It’s not a stretch to imagine two people: friends, lovers, spouses—
describing themselves as “being one” or “one in being.”

Consubstantial means something much more specific than that.
It means that what the Father is—as God—the Son is too.
But not two “substances”; but only one.

It’s describing a reality that only applies to God.

So, for example, two spouses become “one”—
but they don’t cease to be individual human beings, individual human souls.
They aren’t one in the way that only God, himself, can be “one.”

The bishops at the Council—struggling for the right word—
were trying to say this: whatever God is, there’s only one;
and the Son is that one and same reality.

The issue, back then, was whether Jesus is God.
And even if you call Jesus “God,” what do you mean?
Is he sort of God? Is he a kind of junior God?
Even to this day, a lot folks take “Son of God” to mean
that Jesus may not be quite as much God as the Father is.

For example, without thinking about it, folks might say, “God and Jesus.”

With this Creed, they wanted to make as clear as a bell
that Jesus truly, really and totally is God.
What the Father is, as God, the Son is too.
One and the same—to the nth degree.

OK, so what’s that mean to us?

It has to do with what our eternal hope is.
Paul told us in the second reading,
the goal of our Faith is to be with Jesus forever.

If Jesus is not God—why is he our hope?

If he is only near God—that means that’s as close as we’ll ever come.

But here’s the truth the Creed tells us:
When we become one with Christ through baptism,
and we stay with Christ through our life,
and we go to be with him in eternity,
our destination isn’t somewhere in the “neighborhood” of God.
We’re not going to be in the cheap seats!

Our future “home address” is the heart of the Son—
which is also the one and same heart of the Father.

Another practical application: for everyone who wonders
why we Catholics make such a huge deal about the Eucharist: here it is.

Our “communion”—union with—is with Jesus himself.
And this Creed tells us, that is also union with God the Father.
Every time we are at Mass, we are challenged to ask ourselves:
am I ready for this? Have I fasted?
Do I believe what the Church teaches me? Do I live as a Catholic?
Have I confessed my sins?
Am I at peace with my neighbors?

Am I ready to say, “I believe?”

Homily 2: 'and with your Spirit'

As you know, we’re doing a series of homilies on the new translation of the Mass.

If you pick up the red booklets in your pews,
we can take a look at one of the changes that everyone will notice—
and which we may stumble over at first.

It’s right on page 1. The priest says, “The Lord be with you”;
and the people respond: “And with your spirit.”

Why the change? Well, there’s a lot to this.

First, of course, this is straight from the Latin, which some of you remember:
Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. “And with your spirit.”

OK, but why did they say this in Latin? It comes from the early church.

We aren’t sure where they got it;
however, it is a phrase that St. Paul uses several times in the New Testament.
For example, in his second letter to St. Timothy,
he said: “The Lord be with your spirit.”

We do know what they thought it meant.

St. John Chrysostom said this:

“If the Holy Spirit were not in this your common father and teacher,
you would not, just now, when he”—the priest—
“ascended this holy chair and wished you all peace,
have cried out with one accord, ‘And with your spirit.'”

In other words, what this is all about is God acting here:
the priest acknowledges the Lord in you;
and you acknowledge the Holy Spirit in the priest.

St. John makes the same point
when the priest approaches the altar—
you’ll see this on page 10.
At the altar, the priest sings or says, “the Lord be with you.”

Here’s what he said:
when the priest “stands at this holy altar to offer the sacrifice…
he does not touch that which lies on the altar
before wishing you the grace of our Lord,
and before you have replied to him, ‘And with your spirit.'”

And, then, on page 15,
the people and the priest exchange these words once more,
at the end of Mass, before the blessing.
The point is made again: when the priest gives the blessing,
it is Christ himself who blesses.*

This is part of what the Lord means when he says,
call no one father or master or teacher.
Now, let’s first explain what this is NOT about.

It’s not about whether a title is good or bad.
Jesus did not object to calling your teacher, “teacher”;
he didn’t object to calling your dad—or your priest—“father.”

No, the Lord is telling us not to focus on the human being;
and not to accept that focus.

Let’s look at one more change that goes along with this.

On page 9, right in the middle,
you’ll see what the priest says to you,
right after the bread and wine come to the altar.
The change is that the priest will say,
“my sacrifice and yours”—instead of “our” sacrifice.

Again, why the change?

It makes the point once more:
the priest approaches the altar not on his own steam,
but because he was ordained to be a priest for Christ and for you.

When the priest says, “my” sacrifice, it reflects this.
And because being a priest means
being united to Christ in a particular way,
it is Jesus himself who says, “my sacrifice.”

Then the priest says, “your” sacrifice.

It’s what our Lord told us about the Cross.
He took up the Cross in a unique way—
dying for us so we could live forever.
But then he says to us: “take up your cross.”
He invites us to bring all our troubles, our trials,
yes even things very unworthy—
but when we give them to him, he will make them of infinite value!

We often talk about “participation” in Mass,
but there is sometimes a misunderstanding.

Sometimes we talk as though what really counts
is whether we’re doing something:
singing, reading, bringing the gifts forward, and so forth.

As good as these things are,
they don’t determine whether people are truly “participating.”
Folks who sit silently—but intently—are surely participating too.
They may even be participating better than any of us. Who can say?

Because the key participation is right here in this prayer:
joining our hearts and lives—warts and all—in the sacrifice;
offering them as our personal sacrifice.

That moment of the Mass—which will happen shortly—
is an excellent time to do just that:
in prayer, lay on the altar all the cares and troubles,
all the people you pray for, all the sins that trip you up.
Don’t be afraid of offering anything as part of your sacrifice.
Jesus takes it all!

* I am indebted to Mike Aquilina's article, “‘And with Your Spirit’: The big difference in a little phrase,” June 1, 2011; I consulted it September 22, 2011.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homily series on new translation

Over the next few days, I'm going to post a series of five homilies on the new translation.

They are actually intended to be delivered, beginning October 23, through November 20, Christ the King.

I wrote them early because there will be four other priests, along with me, who will be taking Masses at my two parishes during that time, and I figured if I was going to ask them to go along with this, I owed them as much help as I could. FYI: this doesn't mean I asked or expect them to deliver these, exact, homilies; just that they could have these to work with.

So, since they are ready, I thought if I posted them now, there might be priests who would like to see them. Also, if someone sees something that is incorrect or unclear, I'll be happy to have a chance to fix it.

If you are reading this, but not a priest, you may want to mention this to any priests who you think will find it helpful.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

'For you and for many'

I was working today on two more homilies for my series on the new translation of the Mass, completing--just moments ago--my first draft for Homily 5, "For you and for many."

You realize this is a tease, right? You have to check back to see it?

While I'm tempted to publish it, I want to let this draft sit a bit, and return to it.

The truth is, this is a fairly deep subject, involving many passages of Scripture. It's not exactly easy to delve into that, in a Sunday homily, without losing people. (And dealing with "consubstantial" was even more interesting! That homily has gone through a lot of editing!)

So I'm going to hold off publishing it--wait just a bit more. I should be able to publish them by mid-October, when I am going to provide them to the priests who will be preaching at Masses here during October and November.

One more to write, for the First Sunday of Advent.

Oh, and I have to write a homily for this coming Sunday! D'oh!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Working on Mass translation homilies

My day thus far...

Today I finalized one homily, for use next month, on the new translation of the Mass, and have completed a first draft for the next two; six are planned in total.

My first homily gives an overview and explains the principles guiding the translation.

The second discusses "and with your spirit" and how the Holy Spirit is active in the Mass.

The third discusses the Creed, and spends some time on "consubstantial."

When we get closer, I am going to post these early--which I otherwise never do.

In a moment, I'll head to the hospital for visits, then back for a meeting with one of the Pastoral Councils.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Catholics Believe about ‘Same-Sex Marriage’

(This is a re-posting of something seen on this page a few weeks ago. After I published this, here, first, I revised this, with the help of reader comments, among others. I wasn't going to re-post it, except a staff member urged me to. This was actually distributed to parishioners the first weekend of September.)

Recently, the legislature and governor of New York changed the definition of marriage, to apply to people of the same sex. In recent years, this has been at issue in several states, and in many state courts—and it may come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Catholic Church opposes this redefinition of marriage. As a result, we’ve been criticized as against “progress” and even called bigots. Because this is so often cast as a question of “rights,” we may wonder why the Church teaches what she does.

Let me briefly explain what the Church teaches and why it matters.

First, a surprise: our stance is not based on religion; marriage existed before anyone wrote the first words of the Bible. Marriage arises from human nature itself.  Human beings are designed to come together and make a family. This is part of being human and obviously necessary. Marriage is important to the well being of us all.

What’s the harm?

Still, many will say, “So what? Why not just change the law to accommodate the wishes of those who don’t fit this mold? What’s the harm in that?”

Here are four areas of concern:

1. This is a power-grab by government. This is a fundamental change in the whole of society being imposed by the government. To a great degree, we all must go along with it. We teach our children to respect the laws. Laws express the common values of society.

The Archbishop of New York asked a question we can all ask: Who gave the government the right to do this? Redefining marriage means redefining family and ultimately what it means to be human. This is social engineering.

2. This strikes at the peace and cohesion of society. A society isn’t just a collection of individuals, but a community with shared values. People often say, “we shouldn’t impose our values.” But there’s no avoiding it; this is what laws do—they reflect shared values and “impose” expectations on all of us. 

What’s happening is new values are being imposed on all of us already. Consider…

> In 2004, the supreme court of Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex unions; a 2005 law changed how “family” was viewed by the state. The Catholic Church, long involved in adoptions, was told that if it deemed only a man and a woman as “family,” that would be illegal “discrimination.” The Church stopped referring for adoptions, rather than comply. Something similar has happened in Washington, D.C.

> In California, the state now mandates public schools teach “gay history” beginning in kindergarten. Where is this leading? What will this mean in practice? Will this affect textbooks or other programs made available to Catholic schools?

> In Canada, we might see a glimpse of our future. A Protestant pastor was charged with a “hate crime” in 2002 when he wrote a letter to the editor saying homosexual acts are sinful. After a lengthy court process, and much expense, he was finally cleared. This was not an isolated incident; it happened to the Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Calgary.

3. Marriage and family are not merely private matters—society rests on this foundation as surely as our homes rest on their foundations. Can anyone seriously argue it has been good for our society in recent years to have marriage become fragile, to have children grow up in broken homes, or grow up without both parents married at all?

4. This is reckless tampering. In recent years, we are better appreciating the importance of treating our ecology with respect. It is complex system which we don’t fully understand; but we are realizing better that polluting water and air, and not respecting the climate, wetlands, and endangered species can ultimately threaten our future. 

And yet, politicians are re-engineering marriage and family. As Catholic writer Mark Shea observes, “what can it hurt?” will eventually be followed by, “how were we supposed to know?”  

This raises a much broader question:

What does our Faith say about same-sex attraction?

We don’t fully know why some people (1-5% from various studies) experience this attraction. For some, it is a phase, for others it’s deep-seated. Some feel an exclusive attraction, but others don’t. Some try to change and do, but not all. Coming to grips with this at a young age can be very difficult. Some never share this, others are open about it.

Sadly, teasing, cruelty and rejection take a terrible toll. Some young people go through awful trials, and make rash decisions with life-long or even fatal consequences. A lot of folks have serious soul-searching to do about attitudes and behavior toward gay people.

The truth is, our family and friends who wrestle with these feelings ask the same questions we all ask: who am I? Why did God make me? How do I fit in his plan?

The answers—for everyone—are: We are made in God’s image. God made us to know, love and serve him in this life, to be happy with him in the next. We spend our lives discovering our particular vocation, but we are all part of his plan.

Did God make me this way?

Many say this same-sex attraction comes from God. But can we really say that?

People have all kinds of sexual feelings or desires. Will we say every one of them is likewise “God given”—simply because people experience them? Throughout history, faithfulness in marriage has always been a challenge; and people have seriously claimed that they can’t help being unfaithful. Is being unfaithful also “God-given”?

Whether we look at what nature tells us about human sexuality, or what Scripture and Christian tradition say, the answer is the same: that human sexuality is meant for a permanent union of a man and woman, with procreation an inseparable part of this union.

This is why our Faith has always taught that sex before and outside of marriage (including by oneself and porn), and marital acts involving contraception or sterilization, or which deliberately exclude procreation, are all gravely sinful.

Do I matter to God?

Maybe what we’re trying to say is something different: that whoever we are, God loves us. We have worth and dignity. That is true!

Nothing in our Faith allows us to demean or devalue anyone, for any reason. If we’ve ever treated anyone that way, that is a sin on our part. When we present our beliefs about the meaning of human sexuality and the call to chastity, this isn’t to be “anti” anyone.

As Christians, we believe two things that apply here: that human beings are broken and wounded, because of Original Sin; and that Christ, who died to save us, gives us grace to become new people. Having same-sex feelings is just one form of brokenness.

Facing our own brokenness, and bringing it to Christ, are essential to our salvation. Many people can say, “why did this happen to me?” Many people face life long struggles and shame. Christ accepts us where he finds us, but loves us too much to leave us there.

The virtue of chastity

Jesus said, “Take up your cross.” Why did he say it? Maybe because he knew there’s no other way to become truly human.

Our culture ridicules chastity. A lot of heterosexual folks, even Christians, do not embrace chastity themselves; so it seems unfair to ask it of those with same-sex desires.

So, a reminder: Christ calls everyone to chastity, not just some.

Married people are called to be chaste in their relations with each other and with others. This, along with the dying to self that comes in marriage and family, is costly.

Some heterosexuals find they can’t make marriage work. They either attempt it and it ends badly; or they never marry. They also find chastity hard.

And our Lord specifically called some to be chaste for his Kingdom—which is what brothers, sisters and priests do.

We might recall the words of G.K. Chesterton: “The Christian ideal hasn’t been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and not tried.” No one can seriously claim our culture is too “pushy” about chastity and self-control. Just the opposite: what we experience from all sides is the celebration of not just lust, but greed, gluttony, materialism and anger.

Is this set of values working for our society? For families? For children?

We need the virtue of chastity so we can truly possess ourselves; in order to truly give ourselves fully to others. A society that scorns self-denial cannot say “no” and sacrifice for the future—which is at the heart of both our nation’s fiscal woes and health problems, is it not?

But chastity isn’t just about what you say “no” to; saying “no” to something that feels good, or really is good, means saying “yes” to a greater good. This is what soldiers do; what faithful spouses and parents do. It is what Jesus Christ did! It’s what each of us is called to do.

What is our Catholic answer?

To those who experience same-sex attraction, you are part of the Body of Christ. You are always welcome. Your priests will readily help with the sacraments and spiritual support. (See below for a link to Courage, a Catholic organization of those with same-sex attraction living their faith.) Every Catholic should be equally ready to provide true friendship and support. I’m here to help: call me to speak confidentially if you wish.

It has never been easy to answer Jesus’ call. In every age, some part of his message has always been rejected because it was too challenging.

When the prophet Habbakuk asked God why society was not listening to God’s words, the Lord said, “Write down the vision…the vision still has its time…wait for it.”
    —Father Martin Fox, Pastor, St. Mary & St. Boniface Parishes, August 2011

“Bishop Henry calls for overhaul of human rights commissions,” Catholic Civil Rights League, accessed July 28, 2011, online here; “Bishop Fred Henry's letter to the Premier of Alberta,” Catholic Education Resource Center, 2008, accessed here.

“California to Require Gay History in Schools,” New York Times, July 15, 2011, accessed here.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1602-1605; accessed here; paragraphs 2337-59, accessed here.

“Catholic Charities stuns state, ends adoptions,” Boston Globe, March 11, 2006, accessed online at:

Courage: Catholic Apostolate for those with same-sex here.

“Same-sex ‘marriage’ law forces D.C. Catholic Charities to close adoption program,” Catholic News Agency, February 17, 2010; accessed here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A cross was left standing (Sunday homily)

When we think about the anniversary we mark this weekend-- 
that it falls on a particular Sunday--
and then there are readings, which come up every three years… 
Were you struck by the so-called “coincidence” of these readings, on this weekend? 

It’s not coincidence. It’s Divine Providence. 

What did we hear? About anger and wrath, About the sinner who “hugs them tight”; 
And about vengeance. About the choice of forgiveness--or refusing mercy. 
And about God’s healing. 

A group of people we didn’t know about hugged tight their wrath, and they attacked us. 
Even though war and killing are as old as mankind, 
Still that day changed us; we’ll never forget. 

Our nation responded. 

We all support our President--then and now--
When he has to take action to defend us. 
And we have no words good enough for our fellow citizens, many in our families, 
who answer the call, with some paying the ultimate price, to keep us safe. 
Now--we have the right and the responsibility to defend ourselves. 
That is not in question. 
But let’s face it: we used what tools we have--we struck back, hard. 
How is this going to end? 

We all want to know God’s answer: why does evil happen? 
Well, we know why. Because human beings chose sin. 
It only takes one domino to fall--they all fall. 

There are two answers to evil in the world--
yes, even for God, there are only two responses: 
Coercion or conversion. God can force us, take away our freedom, and we’ll be good robots; 
Or we can change. 

And what our Lord was saying to Peter, what he says to us: 
We can hit back--or we can forgive; we can be reconciled. 

We can hit back; as a nation, we have the right. 
But if all we use is our might, until we kill everyone who hates us, the cycle won’t end. 

Reconciliation starts to look a little more practical. 

When World War II ended, we had to be reconciled to our enemies. 
Would we be better off if we hadn’t? 

Is forgiveness hard? Oh yes; some of you know that better than I do. 

What Peter couldn’t understand-- and wouldn’t, until after Good Friday--
was that the Cross wasn’t just a really bad thing that happened to Jesus. 
The Cross is every sin--in Peter’s case, every sin against him, 
and every one he was guilty of. 
But then start multiplying: 
From Adam who failed his wife, Eve, 
Cain, who killed his brother, 
Right down through the ages. 
All of it--the wars, the greed, the obscene cruelty, 
slavery, violence and indifference: 
That towering, festering pile of evil was dumped on Jesus, on the Cross! 

Jesus says, turn the other cheek? He turned his a billion times infinity. 
He tells us, forgive seventy times seventy? He forgive infinity times forever. 
What if he hadn’t? Where would any of us be? 
Is there anyone who can walk into heaven by right? 
Who doesn’t first have to stop at the Cross, to leave our sins? 
That’s the price. To be forgiven, forgive. 

In this time of war and terror, you and I as Christians have a role to play 
our government, our nation, can’t take. 
Our government is using the tools it has. 
Those protecting us are doing their best. 
But there’s something more. 

Someone has to say to those who hate us, who choose death, 
“In Jesus’ Name, we forgive! 
Bin Laden and others chose to die, so they could destroy others. 
Look at Jesus: here is your God! He chose to die, that he might save others. 
To save you, bin Laden; to save you, al Qaeda. Jesus died for you.” 

Remember that day? In the mangled steel of the twin towers, remember? 
There was a cross left standing. A coincidence? No. 
Amidst all the war and wrath, someone has to lift up the Cross to our world.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Sorry it's been pretty hectic.

Last weekend was extremely busy, between four Masses for the weekend, a funeral, preaching at a fifth Mass; then we had the Heritage Festival in Piqua and I helped out with the two parishes' booths on Monday. Then I came down with a nasty cold and was sick for two days, now I'm back to work.

Sorry for no homily for last weekend; my homily included a financial report for St. Mary Parish, and I think it's not appropriate for me to post those details online; not secret, but not the business of anyone outside the parish, I think.

Same thing this coming weekend regarding St. Boniface.