The Archbishop asked me
to preach the homily at all Masses this weekend,
because this is the weekend when each of us is asked
to make a commitment to the annual Catholic Ministry Appeal.
I was going to work my way up to this subject,
because right now many of you are still settling in, and tuning in.
But I’m jumping into it for a very simple reason.
This ministry appeal is important—
yet I have something else important to say.
In a sense, I have two homilies to give but I can only give one.
So first the Catholic Ministry Appeal.
It’s simple: we have six causes that no one really can dispute.
This provides for retired priests—
including Father Ang and Father Tom.
This provides for seminarians,
and that means more priests—and we need them.
This fund helps St. Rita School for the Deaf.
It helps Catholic Social Services.
I get calls all the time and I refer people to Catholic Social Services—
for counseling, for troubled families, for many other helps.
And then this fund goes for college campus ministry,
and ministry in hospitals and prisons.
There are times we may question this or that project where our money goes—
but can anyone really question the value of any of these?
So I’m asking your commitment;
today is the day to put your commitment card in the collection,
if you brought it; if you didn’t,
you can bring it another Sunday or mail it in.
If you want or need materials, they are in the back of church.
Now, I could stop there and you’d be happy with a shorter sermon.
But we’re in God’s Presence, we heard his Word just now,
And the first reading contains some of the saddest words
anywhere in Sacred Scripture;
in fact, they could be the saddest words we might ever hear:
“Until there was no remedy.”
Last Thursday at Mass, the reading was from the Prophet Jeremiah,
And the gist of that reading was God saying to Jeremiah:
“Go tell them—but it won’t work; they won’t listen!”
Same idea: “no remedy.”
And as I listened to that reading Thursday morning, I thought,
“They”? How easy to say it was someone else,
back then, who was stiff-necked.
What if it’s us?
We live in strange times with so many assaults on our Faith.
If there were but one, we could handle it better.
Our entertainment and media culture sells lies, especially to our young.
So many businesses seem to have no conscience;
So many questionable decisions: jobs go overseas
where workers are little better than slaves.
And our own government is moving deliberately
to mow down conscience, to reshape it according to its own vision.
How tempting it might be to go limp, stop fighting—it’s too much!
God is in control of these events.
In his providence, He is allowing his Church to undergo a trial.
If the President’s health-care mandate isn’t overturned,
in the next 12-18 months,
we are facing the shocking prospect
that we’ll either have to knuckle under to the government,
or else we’ll lose our schools, our hospitals and charities.
Notice what it’s all about; it’s about religious freedom, yes;
But its also about part of our Catholic Faith:
Our belief that the gift of married love
must always remain open to God giving the gift of life.
We have to decide: is this our Faith or not?
Is this something worth taking a stand—a costly stand—over?
If they said, “you can’t have a fish fry”—
we’d be mad about it, but we wouldn’t close our school over it.
This fight could easily have been over abortion;
or so-called same-sex marriage.
Then, we’d be defending a position
shared by many other religious groups—
and by people with no religion.
Instead God has allowed this confrontation to be over a doctrine
that is uniquely associated with the Catholic Church.
The spotlight is shining—for all the world to see—
not only on his Catholic Church,
but on a teaching that to so many, even many Catholics, seems foolish.
But remember what St. Paul said:
the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men!
So if you’ve ever wanted a sign to confirm
that this teaching on contraception is what God thinks?
God seems to think this is worth us fighting for.
In that light, then, this is a moment of conversion:
for us as Catholics, and for our culture.
No, the President and his allies didn’t seek that.
We didn’t either.
Truth to tell, for decades, bishops and priests
and many of the faithful have just avoided this whole subject.
It’s probably true that a large number of Catholics
don’t follow this teaching.
It’s demanding and a lot of folks don’t see a justification.
That status-quo could have gone on.
But notice: God has allowed things to develop
that we can’t kick the can down the road any longer!
This is the Hand of Almighty God!
So what do we do?
Week in and week out, we must bear witness to our Faith.
We have written Congress
and that will probably happen again down the road.
The Archbishop asked us to pray and fast for conversion, so let’s keep at that.
The bishops are under intense pressure to back down.
Pray for them; tell Archbishop Schnurr you support him.
But at the center is a listening heart.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be, what do we need to do,
But rather, what are you and I prepared to do?
As Lent leads us to Good Friday,
and as these troubled times lead us to our own Good Fridays,
we are likely to feel as the Apostles did: fear and defeat.
That’s not what happened on Good Friday.
That’s not what will happen to us.