Sunday, June 26, 2022

Post Roe: Let us 'bind up the nation's wounds.' (Sunday homily)

 In these readings, we hear about being called – and not turning back. 

We have the Lord Jesus setting the apostles straight 

about the right way to carry out his call. 

And we have St. Paul, right in the middle, talking about “freedom.”

That’s a word we love, especially as Americans. 

Unfortunately, what it means politically, and what it means in the Bible, 

are far from the same.

Our social and political version of “freedom” is, 

I want to do what I want. “The American Dream.”

Leave me alone, Big Government! 

Don’t track me online, Big Tech!

St. Paul reminds us why God gives us freedom:

So that you and I can become who we are meant to be.

To be our “best version of ourselves” as someone else said.

This disagreement about what true freedom means 

is at the heart of so much that divides us as Americans.

Look at what happened on Friday.

June 24 must go down in history as a great day, 

because the U.S. Supreme Court 

corrected a terrible error from 50 years ago. 

In overturning Roe v. Wade,

the court stopped being a roadblock to protecting unborn children.

But notice how much rage is being generated, along with anxiety.

And I am not making light of anyone’s feelings here.

But notice what people are angry about: 

to their view, they lost a “freedom.”

Freedom to do what? 

Well, there’s no nice way to say it: to take a human life.

And that’s why so many of us are celebrating: 

because now, the unborn can regain their freedom simply to live.

With God’s help you and I must be messengers 

for this true freedom, again, not just license to do as we please, 

but to be truly and fully human as God created us to be, 

and to allow every child of God that freedom, 

including his smallest children.

Answering anger with anger won’t help.

Responding to anxiety and fear with love and patience will heal.

For example, Archbishop Schnurr sent out an email yesterday,  

encouraging all of us to keep supporting efforts to help women 

and families facing difficult circumstances around a pregnancy.

There are wonderful efforts already happening in this community, 

and if you never got involved before, now is a great time to start.

I will mention four organizations right around us:

Rustic Hope, Elizabeth New Life Center, 

New Choices shelter for those facing domestic violence, 

and Shelby County Right to Life.

This is a good time to mention Project Rachel, 

which seeks to offering reconciliation, healing, and peace 

for those involved in an abortion. 

This truly is a moment to celebrate and give thanks to God.

That’s why we’re using a Mass of Thanksgiving today, 

as the Archbishop suggested, 

instead of the usual prayers for this Sunday.

There seemed to be no right place to say the following, 

so I’ll say it right now.

This is my last weekend with you as your pastor.

No words are adequate. My heart is full. Thank you so very much.

Enough about me; let’s get back to God’s work.

There are some powerful lessons to take from these amazing events.

One: never give up! I am 60, and it took most of my life 

to get to this point, and I truly wondered if I’d live long enough. 

Two: this is a work of Divine Providence.

This isn’t just about politics. Pause to notice God’s hand at work.

As Christians, helping people see that is also our task.

Yes, laws must change. So must hearts.

Three: you and I must get right back to work on this.

Not everyone understands what happened Friday.

The Supreme Court did not outlaw anything.

It decided to overturn prior rulings 

that blocked laws protecting the unborn. 

So now you and I as citizens must tell our governor and our legislators 

to do their jobs and protect unborn children. 

All these years, candidates like our governor, 

senators, congressmen, and state officials told us: 

they would protect the unborn from the moment of conception. 

But the courts were blocking them, 

and they couldn’t do more than half-measures.

God has removed those roadblocks!

Now, you and I must respectfully, but vigorously, tell the politicians: 

Do what you always said you’d do when the time came.

The time has finally come! Thank God!

Finally, as we celebrate and give thanks,

we might take inspiration from the words of Abraham Lincoln  

in his second inaugural address, 

as the Civil War was, thankfully, near its end:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, 

with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, 

let us strive on to finish the work we are in, 

to bind up the nation's wounds 

[and] to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.

That sounds like an excellent plan.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Don't be afraid to be used up for the Kingdom (Pentecost)

 The readings for Pentecost are different for the Vigil and the Day. 

At the vigil, we hear from Genesis about how 

people tried to make a name for themselves 

by building the city of Babel. 

They aren’t interested in God.

This is the same city later called Babylon – 

which becomes, in Scripture, 

a symbol of all in the world that demands our loyalty other than God. 

You will remember how King Nebuchadnezzar built a golden statue, 

and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to worship it, 

and they were thrown into the fiery furnace. 

Babylon always opposes God directly. 

Babylon lives on in our culture and government.

On the day of Pentecost, we hear 

how the Apostles and the other first Christians, 

including Mary, are praying for the Holy Spirit. 

See the contrast? 

A city that worships itself, Babylon, and the City of God.

Recall what we talked about last week:

Jesus ascending to heaven is not about him going away,

But rather, about him reorienting all Creation around him.

Jesus is in the process of bringing heaven and earth together.

So, pouring the Holy Spirit into Creation – “baptizing” it as it were –

is the necessary next step of bringing us earthly creatures to heaven, 

and “heavenizing” – to make up a term – this world.

If you have ever been unclear about what your task is as a Christian, there it is: 

let God “heavenize” you, 

which is a necessary part of you helping heavenize this world.

It may occur to you to ask: 

if God is heavenizing the world, why are so many things so bad?

I would remind you that you and I cannot know 

what this world would be like without God’s grace now at work.

We live in a pretty nice corner of the world.

The land is fruitful, and this time of year is especially nice.

But what if all the water, all the rain, went away?

It would all be a lifeless desert as dead as the moon.

Now, I want to call attention to something 

you’ve observed over the past seven weeks: this candle. 

It was so tall when we first lit it at Easter! 

Why does that crazy Father Fox let it burn down like that? 

It’s not very pretty anymore. 

A candle has but one purpose: to give light. 

As it burns, it is used up.

The Easter Candle stands for Christ. 

Remember: Jesus came into the world to be spent—

To be used up—for the salvation of souls.

And that’s what our lives are for. 

You and I are only going to get so many years in this life. 

When our time ends, will we want to say to Jesus: 

look, I didn't burn my candle, I kept it pretty, see?

Light that candle, keep it burning! Burn with the fire of God! 

This is what the Church of God is. This is what you are, O Christian! 

Lift up that light! Lift it up! Let it shine!