Sunday, June 30, 2013

Are my values Christ's values? (Sunday homily)

There’s something going on in the Gospel worth looking at.
But we may not like it.

Look at James and John.
They were certain in their judgment
about the way the Samaritans had wronged them—
and about what punishment they deserved.

They did what we all do.
They had all sorted out in their heads a hierarchy of values.
And in their line-up of values,
the Samaritans deserved fire from heaven.

Our Lord is not gentle in his response!
There’s something kind of comical here.
Imagine how this would play out today.
Someone in the crowd would call out:
“Jesus, you’re not being very sensitive!”

So, there again, we see a clash of values—
but now, it’s between Christ and us.
Not hurting feelings is important;
but our Lord clearly thinks other things are more important.

So let’s put ourselves—and our values—in this story.
Now, there are plenty of examples I could cite;
for time’s sake, I’ll only cite two.

Example number one.
Our Catholic Faith tells us that human dignity is non-negotiable,
and ends can never justify the means.

And yet, what has the government we elect
done in areas of war and national security?

How is it that the Catholic community
hasn’t been a thundering voice against torture?
Against the President ordering drones to kill people,
sometimes civilians, and it all seems pretty loose?

What about the President involving us
in combat without asking Congress?

And I don’t just mean President Obama;
we could be talking about President Bush as well.

If we approve of these things, or simply go along—
what values have shaped our thinking?

Are they Christ’s values?

Example number two: the question of marriage.
This is one more of us are wrestling with—
so I will say a bit more about it.

The reason this is a controversy
is precisely because of the way our culture exalts,
above everything else, the value of “choice” and freedom.

When put in those terms, a lot of folks say, sure,
change the definition of marriage.
That includes a lot of Catholics; and many are on the defensive.

Of course, choice and freedom are good values;
but are they the supreme values?

Our society says yes. Jesus says no.
For our Lord, truth comes first.
Truth about him; and truth about us.

And the truth at stake here is the truth of human nature:
either men and women are, in fact, made for each other—or not.
Either sexuality is bound up with God’s creative purpose—
and that’s why our Faith says “no” to the things it says no to.
Or else it’s not.

Now, some will say, oh these are just religious questions;
They don’t have anything to do with civil law.
To a point, that’s true.
And we don’t seek to include
everything our Faith teaches in our civil laws.

Still, all law in some way or another embodies moral values. 
Meanwhile, when our Church opposes redefining marriage, 
we aren’t just talking about what our religion teaches us.
We’re talking about what is true and evident in human nature itself.
And what we’re saying is, our society can’t really be one society
if we don’t have a common understanding of such basic things.

(I added the following extemporaneous remarks:
This is where this becomes a religious freedom issue.
When you have one group--us--saying, this is our faith,
and another group--those who seem to be winning at the moment--
saying, of us, you are bigots, then there is no way there won't be conflict.)

The question of what marriage simply is

both as a matter of law and as a central force in society—
can’t only be a private question.
It affects us all.

This is about what family is.
Our culture is tending to say,
family is anything anyone chooses.

But again: what about truth?
Is it true to say that it doesn’t matter
if a child has a mother and father?

These are uncomfortable questions,
But that’s the kind Jesus tends to ask—
and sooner or later, we all get put on the spot.
No exceptions.

As with James and John, sometimes our Lord turns to us and says, 
"those aren’t my values. Try again.”


McCall1981 said...

Wonderful homily, thank you.

Pat said...

I think it is government's job to define marriage.

That is, if we have a system that regulates "housing" then the government must define what is and what is not a "house" for purposes of administering those laws. Including a co-op, or a condo in that definition, won't make the world stop spinning.

If we have a system that regulates the purchase and sale of "securities", the government must define what is and what is not a "security" for purposes of administering those laws. Including a "derivative", along with "stock and bonds", but excluding "tax credits" won't make the world stop spinning.

If we have a system that regulates inheritance, the government must define who is and who is not a "descendant" for purposes of administering those laws. Including an adopted child along with natural born children as "descendants" won't make the world stop spinning.

Same with "spouse".

Fr Martin Fox said...


You believe in the supremacy of government over everything. I do not.

Just a fundamental difference.

Make no mistake: this trend in redefining marriage will increase government power and reduce that part of life that is not intruded upon by government and law.

Pat said...

Fr. Fox,

I most certainly do NOT believe in government supremacy over everything. In fact, a friend of mine once advised me to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.

Civil licenses are Caesar's.

Unknown said...

Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing this Father! You made me realize a lot of things with this article. It was a good read and I'm glad to have read this post.