This is going to be somber homily. I hesitated in giving this homily;
but I am convinced it needs to be said,
and that the time to give this warning is running short.
I’ve been thinking about something
a lot of us have been thinking about:
the growing gulf between our Faith, and our society.
And it raises a question: are we facing a time of persecution?
I realize how strong a word that is.
What is happening in Iraq and Syria and many places in Africa, and elsewhere: that’s persecution.
Having your church burned down, and being ordered to convert,
or you will die—that’s persecution.
I’m not talking about that.
But something is coming in our country; it’s already begun.
Something very different from what we’re used to.
Let’s call it a climate of hostility,
as opposed to acceptance, which is what we’ve known.
But what’s coming is more than just hostility.
What’s beginning to happen is coercion.
And it’s going to get worse, very soon.
First, we have, for the first time ever,
our federal government bringing all its power to bear
to force Catholic institutions to embrace
that which is morally impossible:
to promote and provide contraception, sterilization
and abortion-inducing drugs as part of health insurance.
Think about that: who would have thought
that our government would seek to destroy the Little Sisters of the Poor—
and if the sisters lose,
they won’t be able to operate any longer in this country.
A host of Catholic dioceses, colleges and religious communities
like the Little Sisters of the Poor
are locked in a legal battle with the government.
Second, our government, hand-in-hand with big media,
the entertainment industry, political groups, large corporations –
in other words, pretty much the entire culture –
is all united in pushing a new morality about same-sex behavior.
The catalyst has been the fight over redefining marriage;
and we all wait to see what the nation’s highest court will rule.
Isn’t it interesting that almost everyone seems to think
the Supreme Court will force a new definition of marriage
on the whole country?
Let’s be very clear: this is far bigger than just marriage.
As I said, it’s a new morality.
The military has been forced to accept it.
The Boy Scouts have been forced to adopt it.
The organizers of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York—
a Catholic, religious event—were forced to yield.
And, by the way, legally,
that parade is no different from our Corpus Christi procession
in the streets of Russia.
There are a number of business people—
photographers, bakers, florists and others—
who are being sued, accused of crimes, fined,
and threatened with the loss of their businesses,
and with financial ruin—
if they don’t give their own, personal approval to this new morality.
And a few weeks ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court
was hearing arguments over the question of redefining marriage,
Justice Alito asked this question:
“In the Bob Jones case, the Court held
that a college was not entitled to tax exempt status
if it opposed inter-racial marriage or inter-racial dating.
So would the same apply to a university or a college
if it opposed same¬-sex marriage?”
Listen closely to how the government’s top lawyer responded:
“It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito.
It is going to be an issue.”
Understand what that means:
religious organizations that don’t endorse same-sex marriage
will lose tax-exempt status.
But here’s the thing. People think this will fall hardest on clergy.
That this will be about whether I’ll be forced to officiate at a wedding
between two men or two women.
That’s not the main thing to worry about,
because if I refuse—and I assure you, I will—
the worst the government is likely to do to me
is to take away my license to perform marriages.
Which means, I can still celebrate weddings,
but they won’t count as legal marriages.
Couples would have to get legally married somewhere else.
That won’t be a problem for me—but for the couples.
Now, if our parish no longer had a tax exemption, it would cost us;
but I think we could manage.
Those who donate to the parish would lose a tax-deduction,
but a lot of us don’t even use that tax-deduction,
so that won’t hurt as bad as you may think.
No, do you know who is going to be hit the hardest?
You will. You’re the target.
When political figures, business owners,
TV shows and advertising and the rest of the culture
start calling people who embrace Catholic teaching
“bigots” and “haters,” that’s aimed at you.
That’s about making you ashamed to say what you believe,
to question your beliefs, and ultimately renounce them.
That’s not something any of us have had to endure.
And I really think this is going to be a brutal shock for a lot of folks.
It’s going to be a rough, rough experience.
The effects and the consequences
are going to be far worse than anyone realizes.
It’s like this: you and I, for being faithful Catholics,
upholding the truth that marriage and family are man-and-woman,
will be put in the same category as the KKK.
Let that sink in.
And if I’m correct, here are some things
that we need to brace ourselves for:
There will be a sudden and shocking wave of hostility unleashed.
Remember, this isn’t just a human conflict; this is a spiritual conflict.
And the real enemy is the devil,
whose malice we cannot begin to imagine.
And there are people who harbor contempt for the Catholic Faith,
but haven’t felt free to let it loose. Soon, they will.
Do you think the media is unfair now? Expect ten times worse.
Does the media worry about being fair to the KKK?
That scrutiny will find rottenness. We’re not perfect.
If there is a bad apple, our enemies will find it;
and it will be on TV seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Lots of people won’t be able to take it.
Look: when we talk about sharing our faith in a friendly context,
most of us squirm—we’re not comfortable.
Lots of people will admit they are embarrassed
to make the sign of the cross in public.
That’s without any manifest hostility.
So don’t be surprised when you see people just fall away.
When Islam conquered the Holy Land in the 7th and 8th centuries,
most people were Christian, but now those in power were not.
As a result, if you wanted to advance, to do better in business,
to make something of yourself, it paid to become Muslim.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Lots of people just converted—
not because they were threatened with death,
although that happened—
but simply because they saw greater advantage that way.
So don’t be surprised when people cave in,
because it means saving their jobs, their businesses, or getting ahead.
In fact, don’t be surprised by anything you see or hear.
Prominent Catholics will give in. Priests and bishops will give in.
When King Henry VIII declared himself head of the Church
in England—instead of the successor to St. Peter—
only Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher stood up to him.
Most of the clergy went right along.
Now, I’ve painted it pretty dark. But nothing is set in stone.
The future can be changed, particularly by our prayers and sacrifices, and by conversions.
But even if it is as bad as I’ve forecast, it won’t all be bad news.
Let me talk about some of the wonderful things that will happen.
There will be conversions. People will see what is happening,
and rally to the cause of Jesus Christ.
Those who resist will grow in their faith.
When you swim against the tide,
your muscles and endurance grow very strong.
While the Church may become smaller, and certainly poorer,
she will also grow in holiness, in beauty, and union with Christ.
Many of you have experienced what I’m going to describe.
When you are in trouble, your back is against the wall,
and you feel very alone—
that’s when you experience the presence of Christ in a wonderful way.
There is a fusing of heart-to-heart, ours to his.
And that is a tremendous power and consolation—
knowing Jesus and I are ONE!—there is nothing to match that.
When our Lord spoke about giving us the power of the Holy Spirit,
that’s what he was talking about.
And remember—all the words in the readings we heard today,
were addressed to Christians facing persecution.
This power is what enables the martyrs to be strong.
And we saw it, a few months ago,
when a group of men were lined up on a beach in Libya, and told:
deny Jesus or you will die.
And one by one, they proclaimed their faith in Jesus,
even after they saw the man next to them die.
That is a power and a peace the world cannot give!
The Church has been persecuted before; in fact,
that’s pretty much the normal state of the Church.
The peace and quiet we’ve known is the exception.
Don’t miss the meaning of the Ascension.
Our task here is to make him known; not to make this world our home.
Our destination isn’t this world,
but to follow Jesus Christ into the New Creation.
Jesus did not leave us. Just as he did not leave the Father,
when he came among us as man,
so he is not abandoning us as he returns to his throne.
Jesus is here—above all, in the midst of a suffering, crucified Church.
Jesus’ victory was on the Cross!
So it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.