Sunday, June 28, 2020

You want to make a revolution? Start with yourself (Sunday homily)

Here’s a cheerful way to begin my homily: let’s talk about death!

First: death is all around us. Trees and plants die;
and all those dead leaves and husks, along with other things,
makes up the rich soil we use to grow our food.

Second, there is an absoluteness, a finality, in death; 
which is the very point Saint Paul is trying to drive home 
in the second reading. To be a Christian – to be baptized – 
equals an absolute, unconditional, total break with sin.
As total and final as death. There must be no going back.

Next weekend we celebrate the 4th of July, 
and there is usually a ceremony somewhere, 
in which immigrants become citizens.
And part of that ritual is an oath with these words:

“I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure 
all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, 
potentate, state, or sovereignty, 
of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.”

If you can’t say goodbye to those old allegiances forever, 
you cannot become an American.

And that’s what Paul is saying: 
to be a Christian is to renounce sin forever.

Of course Paul knows we struggle with sin; part of his point is to say, 
When you find yourself casting longing eyes backward, remember:
You died. Leave all that behind you, in the grave.
Actually, if St. Paul were here now, he might also say,
That dying isn’t just past; it’s present and future.

Each day’s ups and downs give us a choice:
Die to sin and live a new life. 
Jesus says the same in the Gospel: take up the Cross.

Let’s consider all this fury of demonstrations and destruction.
What people are really worked up about isn’t just laws and injustice.
It isn’t just about history, or statues. It’s about people.
Laws and history are flawed because we people are flawed
and we always have been. 

Every once in a while, someone tries to start a revolution 
That once and for all, is going to purge away all those terrible defects.

But these movements always end up the same way:
Someone setting up a guillotine; a firing squad; a death camp. 

In all history, only Jesus Christ has provided an alternative.
The problem is sin, and it’s universal; it’s not this or that person.
And the only remedy is a kind of spiritual surgery:
Jesus will replace our sin-nature with a divine-nature: his own!
We turn in our sinful life; he gives us his heavenly life.

And that means that you and I, right now, are on the operating table!
The surgery isn’t finished. It takes a long time: a life-time.
Meanwhile, you and I are usually really bad patients!
We fight the divine surgeon; we tell him how to do his job!
Sometimes you and I get up from the table and stop the procedure; 
but then we realize, no, it’s the only way forward.

So if all that’s true, the natural question is, how can we help?

One is to remember the words of the writer, G.K. Chesterton, 
who when asked, “what’s wrong with the world?” answered, “I am.”

It’s so easy to point fingers and blame the President, the Governor, 
the rioters, this group or that – and they all have a share.
But there’s just one person who I can really control: and that’s me.

You want to make a revolution? Start with yourself.
Start with a resolution to kill off one sinful habit.
Go to confession. Tell God you forgive once and for all…
and then fill in a name.

If others express hate and ugliness: you respond with love and peace.
They may not listen; but at least we won’t add fuel to the fire.

May I also suggest not turning a deaf ear?
There is a lot of nonsense being spoken, no question.
But amidst all the noise, some people are hurting and feeling unheard.

There are real troubles facing our fellow Americans, 
including black Americans.
Are there dumb ideas for addressing them? You bet!
The answer is not to turn away and say, “not my problem.”

Next year we will celebrate 200 years of the Archdiocese – 
and 175 years for our parish. 
Archbishop Schnurr has provided a theme: “Radiate Christ.”
Like a candle or a light bulb – in darkness.
That sounds really good right now.

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