Sunday, July 16, 2006

All, or nothing at all (Sunday homily)

St. Paul’s Letter to Ephesus
raises the question:
What’s so great about being a Christian?

I'm guessing, most of us are Catholics
because that’s how we were raised.
These folks chose it;
and doing so put themselves crosswise
with everyone around them.

Why did they do it?
The other religions had "mysteries"—
ways to touch the divine.

What’s more, they offered,
not just one God, but a wide variety:
a manly god like Apollo,
or a strong goddess like Diana.

Those other ways
didn’t demand much change,
because they didn’t expect it—
they knew, as we do,
how hard it is for us to change.

Divorce was routine,
sex before or outside of marriage:
the attitude was, what are you going to do?
Abortion and contraception
were widely practiced;
these are not modern inventions!

And Catholic teaching
on these things hasn’t changed.
Then, as now, Christian marriage was holy,
and for life;
then as now, Christians waited for marriage;
then as now, Christians rejected
abortion and contraception as gravely sinful.

In other words, exactly what people, today,
say makes being a Catholic a hard sell.

So why would anyone go for this?

Listen again to what Paul said to us:

God "has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens…
as he chose us" in Christ,
"to be holy and without blemish before him…
for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ."

Notice what Paul promised, two key things:
Forgiveness of sins,
and to be united with God in heaven.

First, about forgiveness.

I’m guessing, somewhere, in each of our lives,
we all know one moment, one choice,
when we say, "that was awful—and I did it!"

I have lots of things I’m ashamed of,
but one thing I remember, as a boy:
I scared my mother with a spider.

Big deal, right?
Only what you don’t know, is
(a), just how much
my mother dreaded spiders;
(b), I knew she was having a bad day,
that day;
(c), just how terrified she was,
for that moment—
and I saw it in her face; and
(d), for just that same moment—
I thought it was funny.

Hardly the worst thing I ever did;
but enough for me to know
I need forgiveness;
and to be changed—
to be other than as I am, now.

Forgiveness is not—"that wasn’t so bad"; or,
we learn to live with that dark spot;
Forgiveness is God has taken it away—forever!

That is a miracle—that is life-changing!

And that’s why I need Jesus Christ!

Part two is being united to God in heaven…

I think a lot of us assume
we all mostly make it.
I hope so, but—why assume?

Picture heaven, with all of us there.
Are we going to be there as we are now?

Do we argue? Sure; will we, in heaven?
Do some of us love the wrong things?
Are we selfish? Who isn’t?

Does that sound like heaven to you?

We have to change—totally.
How’re you doing on that front?
Me? Not so well!

This is where we need the Good News!
This is what drew people to become Christians,
regardless of the cost;
because this--being part of his Church--
is where it happens.

Here’s a funny thing:
how many folks somehow expect
they’ll be totally part of him, then—
without ever totally
giving themselves to him, now?

So, you see, this Good News isn’t something
we hear as a spectator, like a CNN headline:

"Jesus dies and saves the world;
in other news,
Italy beat France to win the World Cup…"
No, it’s Good News
when we accept it and live it.

And this is what being a Catholic is.
The Church is where His adopted children
are on their way to heaven,
becoming heavenly along the way.

You want to get there? Join his Caravan;
no promises if you set out on your own!

This is why I said it’s total commitment:
It’s all, or nothing at all.

And the supreme encounter with that
is the Eucharist: Jesus proves himself to us
the most total way possible:
his broken body and shed blood!

So for Catholics,
the Eucharist is deadly serious.
We never come casually.

This is why we don’t have
non-Catholics come, too;
not because they’re not good enough—
you and I aren’t good enough—
but because it is so total, a commitment.
We have to know
what we’re saying "Amen" to:
it’s more than that—the host or cup—
it’s all of it:
living his life as faithful Catholics.

When we receive the Eucharist,
this is not only what he’s gives us—
we’re saying, we’ll give back in like manner.
He gives totally; do we come to do the same?

That, too, is what our "Amen" means.

So, before we come,
is there anything we hold back?
I’m not saying, don’t come;
but better not to come,
then to come not-ready.

Yes, we’re all sinners;
but if we have serious sin,
we "hit the box"—confession—
before we "hit the rail."

Why do we do this—all of this?
We do it because we heard the Good News:
God chose us in Christ,
"so that we might exist
for the praise of his glory"…

Do you want it? Come get it!
But it’s not for spectators:
it’s not part-time.

It’s all, or nothing at all.


Tracy said...


I liked how you encourage ppl to go to reconciliation before receiving communion. I always think, "Is this temple worthy of Him, or is this something I need absolution from BEFORE I have Jesus with me?" It seems this Sacrament has become almost non essential for many, even clergy may not mention the importance, encouraging attendance etc. I've only been Catholic for 4 years, but it seems that Reconcilation is ALWAYS the starting point of moving forward, of KNOWING that love and freedom of being able to receive and love and serve Him completely. And isn't that what repentance(sp?) is? At least for that hour until I stumble again! Maybe I need to be like PJP2 who went daily...I'm SURE our priest would just LOVE me!

Anyway, a long ramble to, thank you for reminding us of the value of this Sacrament.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Fox,

Really, really outstanding homily. Based on the description of your week and the time you spent on the homily it was worth every single minute.

Actionable items!! A call to holiness. Overtly Catholic. Connected to the Scripture. Teaching.


Thanks for being a priest of Jesus Christ and His Church and a good father to God's children.

Unknown said...


That was a great homily. I really appreciate how you incorporated respect for the Blessed Sacrament into it and the importance of confession. I really like how you emphasized how Christianity isn't a spectator sport as well.

Thanks for the gift of your priesthood.

Orange_Cross said...

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Anonymous said...

Fr Fox:

another homily I will share with my childern - great stuff
thanks for posting your homilies

St Albert the Great parishoner

mrsdarwin said...

You're a gifted homilist, Father. You have a knack for getting across truths in a clear and easily-understood format.

And your mother must have been a good example of mercy for you, because if you were my kid with a spider I'd have whupped you -- after I finished screaming hysterically.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Father! TX Catholic.