Sunday, July 20, 2014

Working for justice is not a negotiation with God (Sunday homily)

When we listen to a parable from the Lord, like the Apostles, 
we are often unsure how to understand it.

Here’s a suggestion:

To get more out of what the Lord says,  
Try asking what about his message 
is something you do NOT want to hear.

Let’s try it with this parable.

It clearly illustrates how good and evil will endure until the end, 
and only God will really solve the problem. 
Not only that, God is willing to be patient -- 
often much more patient than we think he ought to be.

So far, so good. 

But many take this parable to mean something else: 
that we don’t really have to worry too much 
about confronting evil -- they let that be God’s job.

So for example, what do you hear people say -- 
even people who imagine themselves to be good Catholics? 

“I’m personally opposed, but…”

See how convenient a surface reading of this parable can be? 

Now, you might ask, 
how can I be so certain I’m right and they’re wrong?

Here’s why. 
Because if you go through the Bible, you will not go far 
before you find God telling us 
he expects us to stand up for justice -- 
particularly for widows and orphans, 
For the foreigner and the outcast, 
the poor and powerless.

But there seems to be a conflict. What do we do with that?

Well, remember my suggestion. 
Let’s look for something in the parable we won’t like to hear.

How about this: You and I don’t get to play God. 

Let me ask you: have you ever played the “if I were king” game?

That’s where we are ready to explain -- 
if anyone asks, and even if they don’t -- 
all the ways we can fix what’s wrong with:

-- The world
-- The church
-- The archdiocese
-- The Reds…or even the Bengals
-- The parish
-- The county or the village
-- Even the family next door!

But here’s the thing. Does anyone ever play, 
“I’ll be vice president -- 
have no power and let someone else call the shots”? 
That’s nowhere near as fun, is it?

That’s how you solve the seeming contradiction.

Elsewhere, our Lord tells us: work for justice. 
But here, he tells us, you won’t be the one in charge.

When we work in various ways in pursuit of justice, 
one of the humbling and frustrating things we must face 
is the limit on just how much we can accomplish.

Let’s talk about the marriage question. 
A lot of us are astonished and discouraged 
to see so many around us going along with redefining marriage. 

Just as an aside: it’s not really all that surprising. 
It’s been a long time in the works. 
To be very plain: when we as a society 
first accepted easy divorce laws, 
and then accepted contraception, 
this was the logical outcome.

Still, a lot of people are thrown off. 
As a result, many are simply abandoning 
what they always believed; they are, as they put it, “evolving.” 
It’s very hard to stand alone.

Meanwhile, maybe others of us, 
while not abandoning the truth at stake here, 
still might get mighty discouraged.

We might be tempted to take 
the “personally opposed, but…” approach, and let God sort it out.

But here’s the thing. 
When God tells us we must work for justice, 
When did he promise we’d see results on our timetable?

This is not a negotiation:
“OK, God, I’ll work for prolife laws, or to help the needy, 
or to oppose the death penalty, or to defend marriage…
but we have to win by such-and-such a date!”


Saint Thomas More was on the right side; 
and he pretty much did everything right. 
And he got his head chopped off! 

But never did he imagine that that meant 
he didn’t have to do exactly the same thing as he did!

So you and I are called to work for justice.

And lest you think that doesn’t apply 
to this question about marriage, 
let me explain why it certainly does.

It’s about justice to the truth. 
The truth about what family is, 
and therefore, what being human is: male and female. 
These are not mere external attributes; 
they are at the core of who we are; 
and we are not interchangeable. 

When government or society starts saying 
that something essential to human identity 
actually has no meaning? 
Watch out: that’s a road to oppression.

And this is about justice to children. 
We have already become a world in which 
children are less a gift we accept, and more a right we demand. 
We have more and more people seeking children, 
not for the sake of the children’s needs, 
but to meet the needs of the adults!

The word for this is narcissism, and it never ends well. 

This massive social experiment will not end well. 
And lots of people will suffer along the way.

Meanwhile, we have the maddening truth of today’s Gospel.
We have our methods and timetable; and God has his.

The parable tells us the field has wheat and weeds; 
children of light and children of darkness. 

Right off the bat I can think of two reasons God is so patient.

First, he’s waiting for those of us, 
who imagine ourselves to be pretty spiffy wheat,
to discover how weedy we actually are!

And then, of course, God is surely eager that 
as many of the weeds as possible cry out: 
Please save me! Lord, have mercy!”


John F. Kennedy said...

Father, please continue to post your homilies. I will encourage my wife to read them too. (A recording would be great in the future.)

It's wonderful to hear (read) a faithful homily! I attended yesterday. Our Deacon preached about how we should never judge any one or their actions. Special note was those living in "alternative lifestyles." At the petitions we even got to pray for MORE weeds to be mixed in the wheat. I could not believe it. The weeds were sown by Enemies and we were praying for more of it!!

Trooper York said...

Thank you for sharing your homily with us Father. It is an inspiration.

Tom said...

Father, if all your homilies are as faithful and well reasoned as this one, your parish is truly blessed!!!

truthfinder2 said...

Thank you, Father, for the wonderful homily. God has gifted you with the ability to convey truth with clarity. May He grant the same gift to all of His priests!

Rosemary A.

Unknown said...

Father, thank you for posting this; I was out of town and unable to attend mass here.
I assume that your reference to "Bonfire of Vanities" is related to the Tom Wolfe novel, and not the event in the 1400s?
Thank you, again!

Fr Martin Fox said...


Yes, to the Tom Wolfe novel, which I liked very much; however, he in turn was referring back to Savoranola's bonfire.

In any case, the choice was given very little thought at the time; and I've thought about changing it, but I haven't ever come up with something better.

In many cases, this blog serves as a bonfire of my own vanities!

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful and meaningful homily.

Hope you are well!


Deacon David Oatney said...

Father, I hope I can state the truth in this way without fear and with such courage.

Unknown said...

Father, thank you!
BTW, one of my husband's favorite Catholic authors is Thomas Merton. Have you read any of him?
Keep the fires Burning!

Fr Martin Fox said...


I have not read any Merton, actually.

Jenny said...

Another really good homily, Father--thanks! I so appreciate your posted homilies as I live in a part of the country where there is a dearth of Catholics let alone good homilies!

Unknown said...

Father, good morning. Thank you for your response.
We will pass on some of his books for your reading pleasure if you'd like.
How about Henri Nouwen?
See you tonight!
Blessings on us all,


Fr Martin Fox said...


Thanks; I'll let you know. At the moment, I have a lot waiting to be read!