Sunday, November 6, 2016

Honor Your Father and Your Mother - Homily for the 32 Sunday in OT (C)

There are two reactions to Daylight Savings Time. The first says, “Ah, an extra hour of sleep!” The other says, “What sleep?—I have children.”

*          *          *

Imagine for a moment that you are coming home from work. And you pull up the driveway and you walk to the door of your house. And as you open the door, you are overcome by an overwhelming smell: there’s a gas leak. And it’s not a small leak—it’s a going-to-blow-your-house-up kind of gas leak.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but when it happens, you only think of one thing: fix the leak. If your daughter tugs your clothes and says, “But mom, can’t I go and get Apples.” (Apples is the hamster). You would say, “Honey, I love Apples too, but we have to wait and get this leak fixed first.” “But mom,” says your teenage son, “the upstairs toilet is clogged.” “That stinks, son, but we have to fix this first.”

Any home-owner knows that when it comes to a gas leak, everything else is less important: the hamster, the leaking toilet, even cracks in the basement. Everything takes a backseat to the leak.

If you understand this, you can understand the Church’s social teaching on the hierarchy of goods—that some issues are more important than others and can even outweigh them all.

*          *          *

But before we talk about that, I know that every one of us has within us a sense of right and wrong as well as a kind of moral calculus that weighs what is important and what is not.

This sense/calculus is the result of years of formation… from the lap of our parents to the desks and halls of our schools and universities. Even the light of our television sets, computer screens, and smart phones have been forming us—for good or for bad.

The people of this parish are incredibly well-educated and I love and respect that about you. As good as our education has been, however, all of us—all of humanity, myself included—still suffers from the wounds of sin and the effects of concupiscence. In other words, on our own, our moral calculus is never as solid as we would lead ourselves to believe, nor is our intellect as piercing as we would like.

*          *          *

Take, for example, the King in our first reading. He’s a smart guy. But he is absolutely befuddled by these seven brothers and their mother. He doesn’t understand their moral calculus—how they would prefer to die than eat meat. “It’s just pork, after all,” the king could say. I mean, we’re talking bacon! It’s not like we’re talking the Fifth Commandment. So why, brothers, would you give your life for something so small, something so… disproportionate? Why is this issue so important to you that it outweighs everything else, even your own life?

What the king did not know—because he was not formed by the mother (she who prefigures the Church)—What the king didn’t know is that the issue wasn’t about pork. It was about their identity. And integrity. Fidelity. And love.

Love will not permit itself to be unfaithful even to the slightest degree. Love knows that it loses its integrity and therefore its identity when it is unfaithful. (Unfaithful love, after all, ceases to be love).

The brothers calculated that loving the king more than God was tantamount not only to unfaithfulness but to a loss of their very identity as God’s children. The Ten Commandments, after all, were not only God’s way of teaching us morality; it was also His way of carving us out from the rest of the world: “the rest of the world kills its own, etc, but it will not be so with you.” To lose our sense of the Commandments meant to lose our very identity.

*          *          *

The brothers further calculated that only God could raise the dead. So to spurn God was to spurn any chance one had for eternal life. Therefore, since eternity was at stake, this issue of pork was no small issue at all. This was a very big issue.

The king, without this light of faith, did not see the weight of the eternal dimension and so he miscalculated.

He was like a homeowner that does not understand the danger of the gas leak. Or a person who does not get why the defense of life in its most vulnerable stages is the greatest weight in the social calculus. Such things hold such great weight not simply because of their eternal dimension, but because God has made them so.

And we, who are God’s children, if we are to hold on to our integrity and our identity as such, must always remember that and act according to it.

*          *          *

The world may say that we are disproportionate and they could talk economic theory and poverty and so on. But none of that changes the fact that we are children whose mother is the Church and whose Father is God and that children are called to honor their father and mother. To honor does not mean to say “I am personally opposed, but…you know” for such words lack not only honor and integrity, but they also lack good sense, for who would say, “I am personally opposed to gas leaks, but…you know.”

Further, no good parent would let their daughter get the hamster or send their son to fix the toilet before fixing the gas leak. Indeed, if we choose to fix the toilet or get the hamster before we fix the gas leak, we are responsible for the destruction of the house and the people that were in it. So too, if we choose social issue a or b before fixing our culture’s fixation on killing its elderly and the unborn, we are responsible for their deaths and will have to give an account to not only Jesus at our death, but to the array of all the killed who stand at the gates of heaven for our judgment.

*          *          *

I will admit: I’m tired of being a pawn: on the one hand, being told that candidate A will fix the economy and candidate B will overturn things and get good judges. I’ve been around to see that rarely do either happen. We just had 8 years of the promise of hope and change and great unity, but we are worse off and more divided than ever.

But we Catholics have a powerful voice. Politicians don’t take us seriously because so many Catholics don’t take our faith seriously. They get our vote and then do nothing. We must hold them accountable. We may vote you in, but if you do not hold true to your promises, we will vote you out. Because we want people of integrity.

*          *          *

Sure, some may think our Mother the Church to be un-cool—that she is behind the times. But she is ahead—and she is ahead precisely because she possesses an eternal perspective and, as such, she can see and calculate that the state of one’s soul is more important than the State of the Union. Indeed, the State of the Union depends entirely on the state of one’s soul. And that depends entirely whether the soul is united to the laws and will of God—both of which are communicated through the Catholic Church.

This is why She is constantly trying to navigate the narrow way for us: the narrow way between, on the one hand, that idolatry where we make a person or political party a replacement for God; and, on the other hand, that horrible apostasy where we loudly or quietly say to God and to Church “I disagree” and so lose not only our holy communion, but our identity and our eternity.

*          *          *

Every Catholic has an obligation to vote. And that obligation involves not only the Presidential election, but the numerous races and issues facing the State in which we live. In order to vote, we must first study what is on that ballot. Then, we must measure the issues and weigh them in the light of the moral calculus of which not only our dim intellects provide, but firstly and especially in the light of Christ and His Church. Such exercise is an opportunity to express our faith, our hope, and our love-- as well as an opportunity to honor our Father and our Mother.

To quote the last words of the martyr St. Thomas More, that saint who served as a faithful man in politics: “I beg you: pray for the king daily … I die his faithful servant. ... But God’s first.”

* I'd like to thank our holy Deacon John Schneier for several of the ideas found here. The gas leak, the connection to St. Thomas More, and the State of the Union line are all his. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your beautiful homily and speaking the Truth. We will continue to pray for our country and that God's Will be done. ALL glory to God!