Thursday, June 1, 2017

Whatever - Homily for St. Justin, Martyr

This morning, we celebrate and ask for the intercession of St. Justin Martyr. He lived in the 2nd century and was killed when he refused to worship the pagan gods of the times.  Justin was a philosopher, thus well-equipped to logically defend the faith, which he did—publically—in one of the still-recorded written works of the early-Church: his Apology (or defense) of Catholicism. In that defense, we have one of the earliest accounts of Catholic life and also, wonderfully enough, about the Holy Mass.

When I hear about the martyrs, I am tempted to think that such things belong to ancient days and don’t happen anymore. But, the reality is, is that in the past 100 years, there have been more people martyred for believing in Jesus than in all of the past 1900 years of the Church combined. Yes, more martyrs in the past 100 years than all of the past years combined.

What has been the cause of this?

Justin, a philosopher, would be able to point it out very clearly: the way that we think about the world—that is, our worldview—determines how we act in that world. Our “philosophy of life” will translate how we act in life. And in our world today, there is an insidious and violent worldview out there—and it isn’t simply radical Islam. It’s post-modernism.

Fancy word—but here’s the gist of it: post-modernism is a worldview that thinks and believes that nothing really matters. It is ultimately dismissive—of anything it wants to dismiss, really. It can be described by one little word: “Whatever.”

Whatever. It is such a dismissive word. “Do whatever you want”; “Do whatever makes you happy”; “Yeah… whatever.”

I say it is insidious because it can emerge out of good intentions: I don’t want to come off as a bigot or uncharitable or unfeeling, so can’t we just let people do whatever they want? Sounds good—but, then, what becomes of words? Do words really mean Some Definable Thing? … marriage… murder… heaven… Jesus…?

You see, words do matter. And Jesus is zealous about this. He says in the Gospel today: the Commandments matter. And if we act as though they don’t—and, worse, if we teach others by our words and our life that they don’t—then, yeah, we're not gonna make it into the kingdom of heaven. Contrary to popular belief, all dogs don’t go to heaven—because this matters and the world acts as though it doesn’t.

Now, I say that post-modernism is violent because, if we Christians stand up for the fact that Marriage means something and the Cross means something and that these things don’t just mean “whatever”—well, the Whatever-people out there aren’t going to like it. It is true: the post-modern worldview is diabolically opposed to Christianity (and, by the same token, Christianity is opposed to the post-modern worldview). As you are living out what Jesus says—that is to be “salt of the earth” and to be the “light of the world”—then, yeah, that’s going to buck up against those who say that you are bigoted, you who hold God’s Commandments or reality-objectively-defined-by-God.

But that’s the thing. Things matter. Words matter. The Gospels matter. Jesus' love matters. Justin died for this. He knew the worldview and he knew that you can’t simply acquiesce into the great Whatever and still hold on to heaven. We have to choose.

And that's the Truth: if we aren't different than the blasé Whatever of the world, then we are salt without flavor. We are already just as good as dead.

This is why I get more than a little upset when people, without emergency or without good reason such as to get to a job that puts food on the table, leave the weekend Masses early. I don’t judge them, but I do get upset that somehow, someway, the Reality of what is going on here at this altar has either been lost or dismissed. I hope it is the first and not the latter. Because there is nothing worse than realizing what is going on here—this great sacrifice of Love at the Mass—and then to dismiss it with the great early-exodus of Whatever. For us who come here every day, we have to have a little jolt in our lives so that we don't make this routine.

Like I said at the beginning , there have been more martyrs over the past 100 years than all of the years combined. Indeed, just last week, dozens of Catholics were killed while they worshiped at this very same Mass! Tens more were killed as they were driving to there. What would they say to us?

Jesus matters! This Mass matters! Our blood matters! You matter!

May we never take it for granted.

St. Justin, martyr. Pray for us.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

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