When I began Mass today, I wasn't going to offer a homily. It's not required for daily Mass (but is encouraged); it's good for folks to have some silence to reflect on the Scriptures and on the prayers of Mass; and many people at daily Mass have to get back to work--so I try to keep things moving, yet reverent.
But as I listened to the readings, a point came to mind that I decided to share.
It occurred to me that what our Lord told people to do, in the Gospel, is directly the opposite to what the so-called "progressive" Catholics (bonus: check out the Apostle John's advice for such folk in 2 John 1:9) say the Church should do. Our Lord said, if you want to be my disciple, take up your cross; deny yourself.
Yet what do so-called "progressive" Catholics (typified by the National Catholic Reporter*), in league with secularists, given voice by the likes of the New York Times, say?
They say, oh no, what the Catholic Church asks of people is too hard! What you have to do is drop all that talk about marriage, chastity and self-denial; that'll get lots more people!
So who do you believe? The National (so-called) Catholic Reporter--or the Son of God?
This isn't just a homiletic point--it's personal. Only after I was driving to the office downtown did I realize that this very issue was what helped bring me back to the Catholic Faith.
I spent a decade as a Pentecostal and then an Evangelical in my 20s; I had a conversion experience while in college, and I took that to mean I should leave my Catholic Faith. It took me awhile to work that out. And one of the things that happened was that, on my own, without reading anything Catholic--other than the Bible of course--I came to the conclusion that God did not endorse the "people are the problem" mindset; that contraception completely contradicts what the Bible tells us about love and life.
And I remember when I made this point, in a conversation with some of my fellow, "on fire" Evangelicals, a young woman in our group turned on me, with a ferocity that shocked me, and said, "are you going to feed those children?" Given her surprising reaction, I chose not to pursue it; but I thought about her response. Aside from the non-sequitur of the response, I pondered what, in substance, she was saying. I wish I had asked, but: was she saying that God didn't want too many people in the world? Sorry, I don't believe it. Did God fail to provide for plenty of people? Again, wrong answer. Was she saying that it's just too hard for couples to have a marriage without recourse to contraception?
Even if that wasn't her point--it surely is what "progressive" Catholics and others who advocate allowing contraception say. It's too hard.
And I remember thinking of the very thing our Lord said in the Gospel today. Take up your cross. Since when have we argued that a teaching of the Faith is false...because it's too hard?
Which gives me an idea. Imagine one of the NCR crowd being there, that day, listening to Jesus preach... (This was not part of my homily at Mass.)
Jesus: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” [Luke 9:23-25]
Tom Roberts, editor of the NCR: "Um, Rabbi, that won't sell. That's not where people are today."
Lord Jesus: "What? Won't sell?"
Roberts: "That taking up your cross business. Don't you think you should adapt your message to the way people live today?"
Jesus: "I didn't come to adapt the Word of God to the world; I came to call the world to the Word of God."
Roberts: "Well, the Jesus I know and serve loved people and didn't impose a lot of rules on people!"
Jesus: "OK, well, there are many who claim to speak for God. The Father sent me. I have come to testify to the Truth."
Roberts: "What is truth?"
Jesus: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me."
Roberts: "Huh. That's pretty pre-Vatican II stuff there, Rabbi. People won't like it."
Jesus: "What are you talking about? 'Won't like it'? Dude, they're gonna crucify me. Have you been listening to anything I'm saying?"
Roberts: "Hey, this has been nice, but King Herod's having a "sensual spirituality" seminar this afternoon, so I've gotta book out of here. But seriously, you're gonna need to rethink all this. I'll be happy to help you, let me know."
Jesus: "Hm? Sorry, I was just praying. For you."
* My friend Father John Zuhlsdorf aptly dubbed the NCR the "National Schismatic Reporter"; I have come up with several alternatives of my own--all to emphasize the point that calling that outfit "Catholic" sticks like a fishbone in the throat of anyone who knows the folks there, and knows what being Catholic means.