Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious…
When you hear these words, what do you think of? Is there something lovely in your life? Can you think of something or someone that is pure, gracious, or honorable?
THE GOD OF PEACE
Sometimes it can become difficult to think of such things when life is so busy or when we are surrounded by people or headlines that are mired in the dishonorable and the impure and the unjust. I find that when such things surround me, I have little peace.
But it is peace that the God of Peace offers us today. And it is offered through Paul who exhorts us: “think on these things.”
I started putting this homily together while I was on vacation with my brother in the Rocky Mountains. The things I thought of were the pure white snow and the lovely golden aspen trees. There was, however, one other thought that I had: my Blessed Mother, Mary—the Morning Star and the Mystical Rose—more honorable and pure and lovely and gracious than anyone I know. And as I thought of her, I became more peaceful.
It makes sense, therefore, that in this month of the Holy Rosary, I will find peace in my life if I take time out to think and contemplate upon Mary and the Mysteries of her life with Christ. Being with Mary and letting her bring me to Jesus brings me peace.
THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
There is another reason why Paul tells us to think on the things that are good: because it inspires excellence. When I asked you to think of something that was true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious—did anyone think of themselves? “Honorable?… that’s me. Pure, lovely, gracious?… me, me, … me….”
The reality is that I fall far from being excellent: I have not been true, or honorable, or just, or pure, or lovely, or gracious.
When Paul invites us to contemplate what is good, he knows that the graces that come from doing so helps to purify us of what is impure and dishonorable in us. And as that grace-filled purification works in us, God brings us to a higher excellence. And because of that, we will be more inspired to seek out the excellent.
Just as evil can spiral downward into worse evils, so too excellence can build up and grow and inspire to greater excellence.
To put it another way: once a person eats at a banquet, they will refuse to eat from a dumpster.
A DIVE INTO THE DUMPSTER
But I must mention the dumpster. It’s October and Halloween is around the corner and it’s at this time that all kinds of FreightFests and Horror flicks are being attended by many. To which I say: there are some things that we cannot unwatch, things which, down the line, the devil will use to either tempt us or scare us in the future. How many times I’ve been going about my day when something from my past comes up and I have to re-conquer a particular thought or temptation again. Paul wants to save us from that! I do too.
After all, if God should use the good to inspire the excellent in us, then what should happen when we put the bad into our lives?
“But Father Gerber,” you say, “horror flicks and freight fests—they’re not all that bad.” And you’re right: when someone is used to the dumpster, horror is not all that bad.
My question is: do such things inspire excellence? do they inspire purity? Are they honorable? Do they uphold the dignity of the human person and the beauty of life itself? What do they glorify?
That many think that such things are not so bad bespeaks not that the quality of the horror flick, but how desensitized the person is to what is horr-ible.
A CULTURE INSPIRED BY SAINTS
We have said that contemplation on the good can inspire in us holy conduct and purify us of those things we have pulled from the dumpster.
If that can be said for us, so too it can be said for the culture. Our culture needs a people of truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, and graciousness—and it needs such a people to contemplate. That people must be us. We must help to purify our culture and bring it to the contemplation of what is true, good, and beautiful—and so help it to achieve the excellence to which we know deep down it is called.
So at the end of this month of the Rosary, we have Halloween—the vigil of All Saints Day. I love Halloween. Not for what it is, but for what it could be.
For portions of our culture, Halloween is marked by the gross and the confused: blood and skeletons, trickiness and children dressed as all sorts of things. While “not all that bad,” I ask: what is the excellence of Halloween?
I want to inspire the culture by Halloween, by reclaiming its excellence. Sure, you can have blood and guts and really cool stuff like that, but show the culture how blood and guts can be excellent: when it is the price for heaven paid by our martyrs. Dress up like the saints, wear the blood of martyrs—carry your eyes on a platter, like St. Lucy; walk around with arrows embedded in your torso, like St. Sebastian; hold a barbeque in honor of St. Lawrence. If you want to be really cool, be St. Joseph—who is called the Terror of Demons—or Mary, who crushes the devil with her heel.
And you may have to explain yourself. But do it. You are getting our culture to think on the good—which is what Paul is inviting us to do.
Just don’t be lame, dressing up like the dark stuff that tried to torment the saints. Everyone else can be the Walking Dead, but you must be the gloriously alive. That would be excellent. Because that is what is honorable. That is what is true. And gracious. And lovely.
So, brothers and sisters, I exhort you: think on these things.