Yesterday I was out driving,
and I saw a car with a bumper sticker that said,
“my god can beat up your god.”
Now, my first reaction was irritation;
and then I had a sarcastic thought that I will keep to myself.
Then I wondered,
why does someone have that message on her car?
If it means--as I think it does--
that the person was skeptical about religion,
then what made that happen?
Was it because of hurts?
Was it a reaction to people
who claim to believe in God but fight with each other?
I bring it up, first, because it reminds us
that we as Christians do face skepticism and opposition.
But there actually two reasons for it.
I’ve already referred to one of them:
the criticism or mockery that comes our way,
because we act badly.
Someone looks at us Christians, and laughs,
“those Christians, they claim to be holy,
yet look how they live!”
No, we’re not perfect--
that’s why we need forgiveness of sins,
through baptism and confession.
That’s why we need
to be sealed by the Holy Spirit in confirmation,
and why we need the God’s life in the Eucharist.
But let’s stop and consider this.
If what we say about Jesus--and about the Sacraments--
is true; then our critics are right:
These things really ought to change us!
If we really believe what we say about the Eucharist:
it is Jesus’ Body and Blood--
then why wouldn’t we be here every week, or every day,
to receive Him?
If we really believe the Holy Spirit is poured into us,
shouldn’t we act differently?
If we truly believe God died on the cross for us to be forgiven,
how can we dare to refuse to forgive others?
Of course, someone could respond,
“Father, you’ve just disproven Christianity!
You’ve just pointed out that people don’t really change--
and therefore it’s all fake.”
Except that people do change.
People do act on the power of grace.
Behind me are the images of six people--six saints.
A saint is someone who makes that grace real in his life.
There’s Saint Francis, a rich playboy who gave it all up.
Grace was so powerful in his life
that we’re still talking about him 800 years later.
Or there’s Blessed Jose--
he was 14 years old in Mexico, in the 20s,
seized by troops and ordered to deny Christ
or they would kill him.
They cut his feet, made him walk to a cemetery,
but he would not deny Christ.
When he defied them, crying out “Viva Christo Rey!”
They shot him--and as his last breath left him,
he traced the cross on the ground in his own blood.
Over here is Mother Theresa,
who left her home and gave herself to the poor--
the poorest of the poor.
And for those of you who are becoming Catholic tonight,
here is someone for you: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton,
who was a Protestant, who felt a draw to the Catholic Faith,
and when she answered that invitation,
her family did not react well--
any more than Francis’s did when he renounced his fortune.
Oh yes, the Holy Spirit can do powerful things.
I could go on and on,
and this really would be a sunrise service!
So back to our situation:
what will people see the Holy Spirit do in us?
If you meet that person who had that bumper sticker,
will she see God’s power in you?
I mentioned another reason we face opposition.
And Blessed Jose--or Saint Angelo, here--show that to us.
These saints weren’t martyred
because they failed to live their faith--
but because they succeeded.
Following Jesus comes at a price.
Do not be surprised that there will be those
who try to dampen your zeal;
or who say ugly things about the pope, the Church,
even the Mother of Jesus or Jesus himself.
There are those who mock priests and religious.
Who actually hate what is holy.
And there are those who see the Catholic Church
standing in the way of their cherished goals,
and they won’t have it.
So we have legal battles and confrontations--
in the next few years,
we may pay a terrible price simply to be faithful.
So, when you profess your faith, when you say,
“I am a Catholic,” this is what you choose.
Like Abraham, or Mother Seton, it will cost you.
Like Isaiah, or Saint Paul and the Apostles,
you will have a something wonderful to tell.
And you can either plug up that spring of water
welling up inside you--or you simply must let it flow,
and give that water of life to others!
Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead?