Sunday, October 14, 2018

The only wealth we take to heaven (Sunday homily)

This Gospel passage – this meeting between 
Jesus and the rich young man – 
reminds us that there is only one form of wealth 
that we can take with us after we die.

It is certainly not money. We will leave it all behind.
Money will mean nothing in the next life.
Nor is it fame. 
Rich people and politicians have streets, buildings and monuments named for them, but guess what? They still end up forgotten. 

The only wealth we can take with us is other people.
That’s why the most beautiful work any person can accomplish 
is to be a parent, to bring new life into the world. 
We can do this both in the natural sense, and in the spiritual sense.
Notice Jesus talks about those who give up family and children 
will “receive a hundred times more.” 

If I had raised a family, perhaps I would have matched my parents’ seven children. Maybe even more.

But as a priest, I have baptized hundreds of babies.
Probably married about two hundred or so couples so far.
Heard many thousands of confessions.
I take a special interest in our schoolchildren – you are all dear to me! 
Jesus has kept his promise, and given me children a hundred-fold!

So if you ever wonder what difference you can make as a priest, 
perhaps this gives you some idea.

But why stop there?
Parents, as beautiful as it is to cooperate with God and each other 
and bring new life into the world, 
you realize that your next task is to bring them into the next world, into God’s Kingdom.

This you promised when you brought them to be baptized, 
before God and before all the saints in heaven.
This is the purpose of the family, which we call “the domestic church.”
And the purpose of this parish family of Saint Remy is to help you.

My point being that it isn’t just a priest who begets spiritual life.
Every Christian is called to this. Every single one of us.

So if you ever wonder what difference you can make, 
or what the point of your life is; 
If you ever think, I’m too young, I’m not smart enough, 
I am past my prime, I am old and infirm;
What is the point of me being here?

Then I remind you: you are here to share eternal life with others.
Think how great your joy will be to arrive in heaven, 
and see those faces of people you helped get there?

And if you want to think in terms of self-interest:
Who do you think will be praying for you while in purgatory?
Both those ahead of you – who you helped to heaven – 
and those behind you, who are following your example?

The Bible says the heavenly Jerusalem will be a city of gold.
But what is gold to God is not a rock in the ground, but people!
God can have all the gold and silver and diamonds he wants, 
just by wishing it. But God the Son came to earth, 
and shed his blood, for people. He thirsts for souls.
We human beings – for all our failings and depravity – 
are the treasure God values above all. 

When I was a young man, I was away from the Catholic Church. 
But it was this insight that led me to realize 
that the mindset so common today – that population is a “problem,” 
and that there are “too many people” – 
is completely and totally anti-God, anti-Bible, and anti-Christian.

God never says, there are too many people. We humans say that.
This world is full of abundance – 
And yet greater wonders waiting to be discovered.
The reason there is poverty is not for lack of resources,
But because of corrupt and misguided government, 
and because of human selfishness.

To reiterate: people are the one great treasure there is.
This is what God cares about most; therefore, people – 
their needs, their dignity and their eternal salvation – 
must be our most important concern.

So, to our schoolchildren: think about this.
If people matter most of all, then that means you matter most of all!
You are of infinite value; you may not think so, but God thinks so!

And this also means that it matters so much how we treat each other.
School can be a time you make life-long friendships.
But it can also be a time of meanness and bullying – 
and that can have effects for a lifetime, too.

There were kids who bullied me in school; 
and there were times I was mean to others, 
or joined in laughter at their expense; 
or failed to do anything when someone was being mistreated.

If I could go back in time and change one thing, 
How I handled those things is something I would change.

High school students: you can be a powerful influence for good, 
just by setting an example treating people with decency, 
and stopping others from being thugs and bullies.
You will never regret being that kind of leader.

Making a difference in another person’s life is the best way to live.
And just think about what it will be like to arrive in heaven,
and to look around and see it filled with people you helped get there.
That is the best and only way to be truly rich.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The great delusion of our age (Sunday homily)

The ancient words from the birth of man ring true 
down to this present hour: “It is not good for man to be alone”: 
Humanity is made for community. 
How obvious this may seem; and yet the hallmark of our time 
is the determination to eradicate this truth wherever possible.

So much of what is wrong in our times is rooted in the false notion 
that each of us can live as we like, create life our own way 
and ultimately recreate ourselves no longer in God’s image, but our own. 

Today is “Respect Life Sunday” 
and there are so many things we could talk about. 
So many rejections of God’s gift of life. 
Certainly in the earliest stages; we know that well. 
But also the rejection of life less than perfect; throw it away! 

And there is a growing movement 
to respond to people who are suffering, 
not with care and companionship, but only death. 
“Here is a pill. Now go away forever.”

We find a powerful lesson here: when human beings shout at God, 
“Your Creation does not suit our desires; we can do it better!” 
The result is not beauty but parody. 

Consider how people deliberately poison themselves, 
so they no longer give life 
(added at all Masses:) -- which is what contraception is --
or, they mutilate themselves to sustain the illusion
that they are no longer the male or the female they were born as, 
but something else. 
In the end, you and I cannot replace God’s gift of life; 
we can only flee from it. 
From sunshine, to twilight, and finally darkness.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they fled from each other and from God. 
Today, how many people flee from each other, 
from a true human encounter! 
Instead of spending time with others, 
each goes to our own electronic device, each to our own world.

Otherwise decent people go online and what happens?
They become anonymous score-settlers, spewing rage at each other.
In real life, no one gets away with that very long. 
But online, we can be “free” to use one another like a Kleenex, 
to be thrown away. 

Do you realize how common it has become 
for people of all ages – including teenagers – 
to share very personal pictures of themselves online with strangers? 
Doesn’t this expose the crushing loneliness of our time?
So many people, in so many ways, are crying out the words of Genesis: 
“It is not good to be alone.” 

Is family life idyllic? Of course not. 
Building a marriage and raising a family 
are the two hardest tasks there are. 
No family is perfect, and no parent gets everything right. 

(Added at 9 am Mass:)

Some people are not cut out for marriage. Some do not have the ability
to enter into relationship with the opposite sex.
This is a cross for them; and they too, say, we don't want to be alone.
But creating a parody of marriage with two men or two women,
which is incapable of creating life, is not the answer.
Not everyone will necessarily enter into marriage,
but no one should ever left alone.

Learning to live with others, to love people not in the abstract, 
but right here and now, is hard work. 
No wonder so many eagerly seek solace in fantasy on the Internet. 
Fake is so much easier. Even so, it remains fake. 
A parody without life or hope.

It infuriates modern man that the choices he demands 
are not on offer. How dare reality not be what we dictate? 

If you want to see the options presented in pictures, 
first imagine an image of a mother, a father, 
surrounded by children and grandchildren, friends and neighbors. 

Perhaps they are eating; or working; or even suffering; 
nevertheless, they are together. 
It is not without pain or cost; but it is also a scene of love and life – 
which in the world God gives us, is all a package deal.

But what does the alternative look like? 
See a man or a woman, sitting alone in the dark, 
with gaze locked on a computer screen, 
with perhaps one hand tapping at the keys, search for what? Love? 

Perhaps, but more often than not, finding only a substitute, 
a parody of love. And trying again the next day, and the day after that.
The Gospel makes clear what God thinks about divorce and remarriage. 
We Catholics are reproached constantly for today’s Gospel. 
How dare we say that marriage is for life, 
and that no court on earth can untie the bond God creates in marriage? 

But these are not our words, but Jesus Christ’s.
Even so, Jesus said these words, not as a weapon, but as healing truth. So should it be with us.

Divorce is a trauma, and no one knows that better 
than those who have been through it. 
The spouses and children who have been through divorce 
are walking wounded who we embrace and do all we can to help heal. 
They don’t need condemnation but companionship.

If you have been through a divorce, the mere fact of a divorce 
does not separate you from the Catholic Faith! 
It does not* mean you cannot receive Holy Communion. 
If you have questions, please come talk to me. We will speak privately. 

Obviously, a new attempt at marriage, after divorce, is a problem. 
But what about an annulment? I can only give an over-simplified answer; 
there is more to say than I can say now. 

But to give a simple summary, an annulment is a determination 
that a couple attempted marriage, in good faith; 
and yet something essential was lacking. 
An annulment is not a dissolution of a genuine marriage. 
As Jesus said, that is impossible! 

Rather, it is the discovery that what appeared 
to be a genuine marriage, turned out not to be. 
If you want to know more about this – 
especially if this affects you personally – please call me. 

Here is the Gospel, the Good News 
that each of us and those around us need: 
You and I will never realize our humanity and our purpose 
alone and apart from others. 

Each of us came into this world in a family, 
the fruit of love between a father and a mother. 
And this in turn shows us that we were created 
to be in relationship with, in love with, 
not only each other, but above all with God.

(Added at 9 am Mass:) 
God who is our Father; and we are brought to him by Jesus, our brother!

Many people today, all around us, are turned away from each other, 
and from God – from the God who is real. 
Instead, they are turned into themselves, 
to the god and to the reality they wish existed, 
but for all their willpower, can never bring to life. 

This is the great delusion of our modern age, 
and it is hard to tell how much longer it will go on. 
Perhaps it will go on for quite a while; 
or maybe it will come crashing down sooner than we dare hope. 

In the meantime, Christ invites us to true life, 
in the Creation of his making – not ours.
Our daily task is to share that invitation to all who are ready 
to step from twilight loneliness into the blazing light Sun of human love. 
(Changed at all Masses.)

* corrected.