Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category

Pro-Life Women to be Honored on New $10 Bill

April 22, 2016

The U.S. Capitol Statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, & Lucretia Mott

The U.S. Capitol sculpture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott

The U.S. Treasury recently announced plans to redesign the $5, $10, and $20 bills. The new ten-dollar bill will retain the portrait of Alexander Hamilton but its reverse side will feature Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, and Lucretia Mott alongside the Treasury building. These five famous suffragists advocated for women’s right to vote, but lesser known are the pro-life convictions found among them and other feminists of their era.

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton co-founded a weekly women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution. From its beginning the paper had a policy against accepting ads for abortifacients: “Quack medicine vendors, …Foeticides and Infanticides, should be classed together and regarded with shuddering horror by the whole human race.” Their rejection of such revenue was a principled sacrifice for their struggling publication, since “child murder both before and after birth [was] a regular and, terrible to tell, a vastly extensive business.” In an 1868 editorial, Stanton called abortion “Infanticide,” declaring, “We believe the cause of all these abuses lies in the degradation of women.” (As honored suffragist Alice Paul, author of the first Equal Rights Amendment, wrote, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”)

An 1869 Revolution piece denouncing abortion is frequently attributed to Susan B. Anthony, though its signature (“A.” rather than “S.B.A.”) may well stand for some “Anonymous” author. However, there is no doubt that in an 1875 speech about “the evil of intemperance” Anthony listed abortion among the society’s worst evils: “The prosecutions on our courts for breach of promise, divorce, adultery, bigamy, seduction, rape; the newspaper reports every day of every year of scandals and outrages, of wife murders and paramour shooting, of abortions and infanticides, are perpetual reminders of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.

These five suffragists devoted many words and efforts to women’s equality at the voting booth and throughout society. By comparison, they said relatively little about abortion. Yet this is not because early feminists accepted the killing of the unborn as normal but because they acknowledged its great evil as a given. In the 1880’s, all U.S. states had laws against abortion and for early feminists opposition to abortion was a commonly held conviction.Alexander Hamilton Bill Portrait

It is especially fitting that the women to be honored on the ten-dollar bill will be sharing the company of Alexander Hamilton. As the sensational, new musical about him dramatically recalls, by Providence, Alexander Hamilton, the out-of-wedlock son of a prostitute, was born impoverished and in squalor yet grew up to be a hero and a scholar. In our day, baby Alexander quite likely would have been aborted but his remarkable life demonstrates how even an unwanted child can bless an entire nation.

In this conviction, as on the new ten-dollar bill,
the pro-life suffragists have Hamilton’s back.

What the Catholic Church Teaches on Immigration

February 26, 2016

The Catechism of the Catholic Church #2241

        “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

        Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.”

Abortion, Life, Truth, and Love

March 3, 2013

Yesterday, I received an encouraging note from a former teacher co-worker. She discovered, while rummaging through her folders of memories, that I had written a pro-life article in her college newspaper that had been a great encouragement to her. Reminded that we do not always realize the good our words can do for others, I have spent today posting my recent homilies and have included my September 12, 2002 pro-life opinion piece below:

Imagine you were asked on a biology quiz, “When does a human’s life-cycle begin?” Only one answer reflects the consensus of the world’s human embryologists: “At fertilization, or what is known as conception.” Through fertilization a new single-celled embryo is created which is genetically neither mother nor father, but offspring. The life-cycle of every human you and I know began at their conception. Here is our next question: when will we defend the human rights of new human life?

With their controversial Roe vs. Wade decision the Supreme Court decided not to recognize human life in the womb as a person. Their rulings have (effectively) legalized abortions at any time during pregnancy, even up to the last moment of delivery. The high court’s discovery of the (unprecedented) right to an abortion has brought horrific consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1,186,039 abortions occurred in 1997. That works out to about 3,250 each day. (Comparatively, 2,872 people died in the Sept. 11th attacks.) According to the CDC, more than 30 million abortions have occurred in our country since the 1973 legalization. It is possible to count abortions, but there is no measurement for the suffering and injustice they inflict.

Today, the partially born are killed with their fully-formed arms and legs dangling outside of their mothers, while their heads remain inside. However, if one of these babies were to accidently fall out, the child would receive the full protection of the U.S. Constitution.

Is personhood decided by location? How can six inches mean the difference between “tissue extraction” and murder? Do we receive our humanity by exiting a birth canal, or are we something of precious value long before entering the outside world?

Americans’ heartfelt convictions, combined with faulty notions of tolerance, create conflicted views on abortion. In June 2000, the Los Angeles Times polled 2,071 Americans, “Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Abortion is murder.” 57% agreed while only 36% disagreed. Yet, among those who agreed, most believed a woman should still have the right to choose an abortion. When I was younger, I reflexively shared this view. I saw abortion as the killing of human beings, but I hesitated to “impose my beliefs on others.” Finally, I realized my position’s absurdity. Imagine someone saying, “I’m personally opposed to terrorism on moral grounds, but I still think it should be legal. I would never murder anyone, but if someone else chooses to, who am I to say they can’t?” There is a classic saying from Supreme Court Justice Holmes about the limits of freedom, “The right I have to swing my fist stops where your nose begins.” Personal rights cannot permit the harming of the innocent. The innocent unborn should be no exception.

But what if a person is still unsure that the human life in the womb is “fully human”? How should we treat embryos and fetuses if uncertain of their humanity? For an answer, consider how we respond in other situations when we suspect human life might be present: We do not bury people who are doubtfully dead. We work frantically to rescue people from the rubble of collapsed buildings, even when there are no signs of life. If a deer hunter sees something moving through the bushes he must wait to shoot until he is positive it is a deer and not another human being. When in doubt, we assume there is life, because human life is precious. Conscience demands that we safeguard unborn life with our full protection and care.

Pro-lifers have no desire to see unhappily pregnant women abandoned out in the cold. There is no reason our society cannot love both mother and child. Local organizations, like the New Life Pregnancy Counseling Center (608-785-2377) and Catholic Charities (608-784-5323), extend helping hands and loving hearts. They offer free, confidential pregnancy testing and counseling. They assist mothers who lovingly choose adoption and support mothers who admirably choose to raise their own. These charities’ professional staffs and trained volunteers deeply care for women and their babies. They proclaim, by word and deed, that the choice to love is the greatest we can make.

In their 1857 Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court ruled black people were ‘not persons, but the mere property of their owners.’ In the 1930’s and 40’s the Nazis killed millions; Jews, Poles, and others they viewed as ‘less than human.’ During the 20th century, communist governments executed even more innocents they deemed counter-revolutionaries, justifying their deaths as being ‘best for society.’ Disturbingly, all these views are held against unborn life today. However, there is reason for hope. When minds and hearts unite in truth, history shows that falsehoods cannot long endure. Love’s future victory is certain, but the time-frame depends on us.

Enduring Despite Scandal — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year A

July 17, 2011

I know of a man who was called and chosen to lead, to preach, and to be a minister on behalf of Christ. Good and powerful things were done through his ministry and he was respected by many Christians. However, despite outward appearances, this man was a sinner (a great sinner,) and when his sins became known he brought great scandal to the Church. It was revealed that he had repeated stolen from funds collected for the poor. It also became known that he had betrayed Christ, his people, and his vocation in a vastly more terrible way. So terribly, in fact, that Jesus said, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”  (Better for him if he had never lived life outside his mother’s womb.) This man, who preached the gospel, who worked mighty deeds, who drew crowds to Jesus Christ, was the Apostle Judas Iscariot.

Could you imagine being one of those Christians who had been evangelized by the Apostle Judas? What if he had preached the gospel and ministered in your hometown? Imagine how your faith might be shaken by his sins. How tragic it would be if any Christians had parted ways with Jesus Christ, the apostles and the Church because of the scandal of this one man.

Though the one, apostolic, and Catholic Church is holy, she does contain sinners. Jesus said that there would be weeds that grow alongside the wheat. It has always been this way, and so it shall be, until the separating harvest at the end of the age. There have been terrible sinners among the Church’s popes and priests, her lay men and women; children of the evil one. Yet, these sinners, should not make us forget about the Church’s many canonized and uncanonized saints, the children of the kingdom, through whom far greater good has been done.

Like the mustard seed Jesus described, His Catholic Church, which began as a speck in history, has grown into the largest of plants, a peaceful dwelling place which brings together all peoples. And like the yeast in the dough that Jesus spoke of, the works and teachings of His Catholic Church have raised up the whole world for the better. For instance, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world and she has been the defender of universal human dignity through the centuries. The modern world accepts the concept of universal human rights as a given because the Catholic Church first championed human dignity by her teachings and deeds. Despite the sins of some of its members, let no one say that the Catholic Church has not been a source and a force for good in the world.

We see that Jesus foreknew what Judas was freely going to do. Jesus said, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” (He said this in reference to Judas.) Why did Jesus, who knew all the while what Judas would freely do, permit him to remain in their company? One could rightly say it was because the Father had ordained it so, or that it was necessary to fulfill Old Testament prophesies, or so that the Son of Man and Savior of mankind would experience the human suffering of betrayal by someone who knew Him well and should have loved Him. Perhaps there are one thousand true reasons for it in God’s providential plan, but I am convinced that one of these reasons is this: So that in the future, whenever one of Jesus’ own betrayed Christ’s Church, be they a member of the clergy or laity, it would not destroy our faith in Christ.      Ultimately, the only person our Catholic faith depends upon is Him, and Jesus will never let us down.

For those who have been alienated from the Faith because of scandals, let us pray whatever the offense, that no Judas shall keep them away from Jesus Christ and His Church.

Catholic Medical Ethics—30th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

October 27, 2010

In today’s second reading we hear from St. Paul, a prisoner in Rome on account of Christ and the Gospel.  Paul senses that the end of his life on earth is near. He writes:

“I am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.”

The emperor will soon order Paul to be executed by beheading, sending him to Christ’s eternal reward. Yet this is not to the emperor’s glory, for the blood of St. Paul’s murder will be on his hands.

By God’s grace, Paul was not left all alone in this difficult, final season of his life. Elsewhere in this chapter from 2nd Timothy, he writes, “Luke is the only one with me.”  (This is St. Luke the evangelist, whose Gospel we are reading this liturgical year.) In another letter, Paul calls Luke his “beloved physician.”

Now what if Luke, seeing Paul’s burdens and what trials awaited him, were to procure some hemlock with which to end his friend’s life? Would Paul be pleased with him? Would he not rather be angry that Luke would presume to thwart God’s purposes for him on earth?

The Lord, the author of our lives, is the one to decide when someone’s life story is complete. God has joined our souls to our bodies and what God has joined together, no human being must separate; for it is always and everywhere wrong to intentionally kill the innocent. God sent Luke to Paul not to kill him, but to strengthen, console and support him in this last season of his life.

Healthcare and end of life issues touch all our lives, and people of good will have many questions in this area. Like, “What is wrong with euthanasia or assisted suicide?” “What does Christ’s Church teach about living wills, ventilators, feeding tubes, and palliative care?” And, “What kind medical care is morally required, and what sorts of care are optional?”

The Church calls care and treatments which are morally required “ordinary care.” Treatments which are optional called “extraordinary care.” Each of us has an obligation to respect our lives and bodies as precious gifts from God.  This means that we must always receive, and provide to others, “ordinary care.” However, circumstances can arise where various treatments become “extraordinary” and may be omitted. Treatments which involve great pain, or extreme cost, or little likelihood of doing much good can be deemed extraordinary care.  Burden, cost, and futility can make a treatment morally optional.

Yet, every treatment must be put into context. Sometimes the same procedure, which is ordinary in some cases, will be extraordinary in others. Sometimes a ventilator can be an extraordinary treatment, making it acceptable for people to refuse or discontinue its use. However, imagine if an otherwise healthy person should come to the hospital with a routinely curable lung condition which requires surgery and the short-term use of a ventilator.  In this case, the ventilator—which can be costly and burdensome—is not extraordinary because its benefits far outweigh its burdens.

This is a danger with living wills and advance directives.  Making medical decisions about treatments, in the abstract, in advance, and out of context, can easily lead to wrong decisions. Consider the use of feeding tubes. A person can check a box on a living will that says they never want one, but feeding tubes are quite often ordinary care; however, in some cases, they become extraordinary care.

Sometimes, in the process of dying, a person may no longer be able to digest food. In such an instance, use of a feeding tube would be futile, painful, extraordinary, and rightly omitted. But if someone is not dying, to deprive them of food or water is like preventing a diabetic from taking their insulin. That is not allowing nature to take its course—it is homicide. Pope John Paul II taught that ‘a sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end to their life, still has the right to basic health care (such as nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, and the like), and to the prevention of complications related to his or her confinement to bed. … Causing someone’s death by starvation or dehydration, if done knowingly and willingly, is truly euthanasia by omission.’

We condemn euthanasia and assisted suicide because they are about killing the person rather than killing the disease, and we can never intentionally kill the innocent. It is wrong to kill the sick, but it is good to alleviate their pain and discomfort while they live. This kind of treatment, aimed at increasing a person’s comfort, is called palliative care and it is a great good. The work of Hospice and others is to provide palliative care in the final stages of life.

Would it be wrong to overdose a person with morphine to end their life?  Yes, for it is wrong to intentionally kill the innocent. But what about a case where treating someone’s pain with pain-killers (in the normal doses) might have the unintended side-effect of shortening their remaining days? Would it be wrong to request or administer such a treatment?  No because the aim is not to kill the sick person, but to relieve their pains. Sometimes, people with cancer choose to forgo chemotherapy and its burdens even though treatment might help them live longer than they would without it. Are these people choosing death? No, they are choosing a different way to live. The burdens of chemotherapy can make it an extraordinary treatment, and we are free to forego extraordinary treatments, even if it may shorten our lives.

The three principles I have tried to present today are these: first, that it is always and everywhere wrong to intentionally kill the innocent.  Second, that we must receive, and provide to others, ordinary care. And third, that treatment which entails great pain, or extreme cost, or little likelihood of doing much good can be deemed extraordinary care, and is morally optional.

I hope you now have a clearer understanding of some points of Catholic medical ethics, but these can be complicated issues. If you are facing difficult treatment decisions, for yourself or someone you love, seek out counsel of those who know the Church’s teachings on this subject. Holy Mother Church’s wisdom on healthcare issues is the natural and logical extension of her dedication to human dignity. As Roman Catholics in a culture of death, we must we stand for the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death, and we need to vote for it, too.

  • An article on “ordinary” and “extraordinary” care.

The Author of Life — Tuesday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 5, 2010

If you took our Catholic faith and boiled it down to its most central and fundamental truths what would you have? I think you would end up with these four foundations:

First, that God is three divine persons who are one in being, a union we call the Trinity. Second, that Jesus Christ is both God and Man, a reality we call the Incarnation. Third, that Jesus Christ, to save us from sin and death, suffered, died, resurrected and ascended, an event we call the Pascal Mystery, and from which Jesus empowers His Church’s sacraments. And fourth, that every, single, human being has inherent worth and surpassing value, a truth we call the dignity of the human person. It is this fourth fundamental truth of our Catholic Faith that I will focus upon today.

The psalmist says to God:

“Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made”

From the womb, God fashioned your inmost being, giving you an intellect to know, a freewill to act, and a desire for loving communion with others. Made in God’s own image and likeness, made for a purpose and made for love, every human life is precious from conception to natural death.

Sadly, laws sometimes disregard this dignity, and even Christians can forget it too. Martha looked down on her sister because she thought Mary was not being useful enough or productive enough. Martha only saw Mary as causing a burden to herself, yet Mary was exactly where the Lord willed her to be.

As Mrs. Eichstadt said before, God has a providential plan for each one of you. Like St. Paul, the Lord has set you apart from your mother’s womb for a great story which He has in mind. But anyone who would presume to cut short an innocent life would deprive God of a masterpiece.

Assisted suicide or euthanasia rips out the crucial final chapters. Suicide, murder, or neglect of our neighbor unto death, would end a story halfway. And abortion prevents the story from ever being told. Jesus is the author of our lives and He is to be the one who decides when our lives end. Maybe you will always remember the homily when Father tore up a book, but remember this too: every human life is precious and worth more than many, many books.

Be Catholic Americans — 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

September 5, 2010

I would like to begin by posing you a little riddle. Let’s see if you can get it:

What human possession do people always carry with them? Another clue: while we tend to hold on to these things dearly, we are also willing to share them with others, sometimes without them even asking. And the final clue: these things are something that we can always make more of, even out of thin air, if we want to.

The human possession I’m thinking of… is our own opinions. We always carry them with us. We tend to hold them dearly and share them with others, and we can form them out of nothing. Human opinions are abundant, but wisdom is scarce.

As our first reading reminds us, ‘rarely do human beings guess the things on earth; and what is within our intellectual grasp we only find with difficulty.’ The Book of Wisdom observes, ‘Who has ever known God’s counsel except when God has given the wisdom and sent His Holy Spirit from on high? Only in this way, with the help of God, are the paths of those on earth made straight.’

Whenever I stand here before you, I pray that I may never preach to you what is merely my own opinion. If I do that, I will do you no great or lasting good, and Jesus Christ will not be pleased with my efforts. The words that I speak must be His teachings, which come to us through the Scriptures and His Church, by the working of the Holy Spirit. Any personal views that I may have must be conformed to Jesus’ true perspective of things.

I feel this especially as a preacher, but the same goes for each of us here who claims to be Jesus’ student, or disciple. As Jesus says in the Gospel, ‘Anyone who would not renounce all of his or her possessions (including one’s own opinions) cannot be His disciple.’ We must conform our views to Jesus’ teaching; for human opinions are abundant, but wisdom (which comes from Christ) is scarce.

It’s important for us to live according to Christ’s view in all times, but I mention it this time of year because we are entering an important season for our country—election season. The Wisconsin primaries are the Tuesday after next, September 14th, and the general election nationwide is November 2nd , the first Tuesday in November.

There are more than sixty-eight million registered Roman Catholics in the United States. These elections will see them break into three different groups: some who will not vote, some who will vote as American Catholics, and some who will vote as Catholic Americans.

Some will choose to stay home from the polls, squandering the right to vote that other Americans died to give them and ignoring Christ’s call to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the transformers of culture. And some will vote as American Catholics, based upon mere opinions molded by the prevailing, secular culture.

But some will vote as Catholic Americans, as I urge you to do, with a worldview formed by Christ and His Spirit-led Church. As Catholic Christians, our first citizenship is in Heaven, but we are also called to be a leaven of goodness on earth. Be Catholic Americans, for our country’s sake.

As we see it over and again in the Scriptures, when a people turns away from God and His path of life their nation declines and falls. We have no guarantee that these United States will endure for a hundred, fifty, or even twenty-five more years, but we have it on Christ’s authority that His Church, history’s oldest institution, shall not perish from the earth. But if we love America and wish it to endure for generations to come, we need to live, speak, and vote as Catholic Christians.

If we conform ourselves to Christ’s teaching, and promote a republic and a culture of life, we can save this nation from becoming an abandoned, unfinished tower. As Catholic Americans, we can transform our country in Christ, and God will surely bless America.

‘Tis Better to Give — Tuesday After Epiphany

January 5, 2010

(The Micro Machines Aircraft Carrier – Not the Summum Bonum)

When I was a kid, in preparation for Christmas, I remember how my sisters and I would explore those big Sears and J.C. Pennies catalogues and circle the things we really wanted. I also remember the intensity of my excitement when I would open my presents to discover the toys that I had dreamed about. But over the years, I saw a pattern develop that maybe you’ve begun to start noticing for yourself.

Christmas after Christmas, I would play with all my toys, but I discovered that I would never get as much happiness from as I had imagined they would give me when they were still in their boxes. No Christmas toy ever delivered the supreme happiness I had hoped for from them. I was blessed through these experiences to learn a very valuable lesson. I learned that that getting stuff would not and could not complete me—it couldn’t make me truly happy.

Stuff won’t make you truly happy, but there are lots of people who don’t know this. Why do you think it is that TV and advertisers are always going after that “target demographic” of 18 to 34 year-olds, especially that younger segment of 18 to 24 year-olds? It’s because these consumers have significant amounts of disposable income, perhaps for the first time in their lives. And, since they do not have the wisdom of years, many of them can still be fooled into thinking that this or that product will really make them as happy as advertised.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into taking that bait. Keep in mind the words Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 2:35). It’s really about giving that I want to speak to you today. There are many ways that we can give of ourselves, of our time, talent and treasure, but this morning I want to address the importance and blessedness of giving from our incredible wealth.

Now I doubt that you would describe yourself as a rich person. In terms of our society, you’re probably not. But realize, that when compared to the rest of the world, you are a very wealthy individual. Did you know that about half of the people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day?

From our great material blessedness comes the great responsibility to share. Yet, the fact that we are far richer than many other people is really beside the point. Even if we were poor compared to everyone else, Jesus would still ask us to share of what we have. For whenever we give out of love, and a desire to spread and advance God’s kingdom, we imitate Jesus Himself, who gave of Himself to us first.

Maybe you feel like you have nothing much to give. The disciples thought they had next to nothing to give too, and they were right. They had just five loaves of bread and two fishes, but Jesus said to them, ‘Give the crowd some food yourselves.’ The disciples wondered what good so little could do for so many, but in Jesus’ hands their small gifts multiplied.  Their deed first feed thousands, and then, through its retelling in the Gospel, it feed untold millions.

It would be hubris, or foolish pride, for us to think that if only we had a million dollars, a billion dollars, a trillion dollars, or any sum, that we by ourselves could save the world. Yet, when we place what little we have into Christ’s hands, giving where and when the Holy Spirit prompts us, Jesus blesses it and our deed does more good within His kingdom than we realize.

Though you never fully see all of the good your giving causes on earth, you can immediately feel some of its goodness inside yourself. Part of the blessedness of charitable giving is in the joy you feel in always knowing that you have done a good deed. When you consume something you may enjoy it for a moment, but when you give something away in love you can enjoy that act forever. If fact, when we get to heaven, we should find ourselves made the instant friends of many strangers when it is revealed to us how our lives were profoundly connected through the smallest gifts.

To help in put our faith into practice, to love our neighbors and advance the Kingdom, we are going to begin taking more regular collections at our weekly school Masses in support various causes. We will be starting by helping a number of area organizations suggested by the Student Senate. And, once our Liturgy & Campus Ministry Committee is up and running, about which Mr. Zimmerman will be speaking to you about at the end of Mass, the selection of worthy charitable causes will one of the important tasks that will fall to them.

Today our collection will be going, in its entirety, to support the Hope Lodge here in Marshfield. The Hope Lodge provides temporary accommodations for patients and their family members while they are receiving cancer treatments at the Marshfield Clinic. Please give as generously as the Holy Spirit may prompt you and know that you will certainly be blessed.

Tuesday, 3rd Week of Advent

December 16, 2009

Is it more important to say the right thing, or to do the right thing? As people like to say “Talk is cheap,” but “Actions speak louder than words.”

Some Christians say that if we merely confess Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior then we are assuredly saved. But Jesus Himself says that ‘not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

It is easy to feel righteous like the chief priests and the elders if we subscribe to the right and enlightened opinions, but we should be humbled by the fact that scandalous sinners have turned to Christ and today harvest more fruit in the vineyard than we do.

We have to do more than talk a good game, we have to show up on the court. For example, you say you oppose the killing of the unborn? Good! But what are you doing to end it? Do you pray for mothers and their babies? Do you march for life?

You say that hatred between peoples should end. Absolutely! But is there someone here that you cannot bring yourself to pray for, or say “hello” to in the hallway?

You say that we must care for people in need. Indeed, and Jesus says the same. But do you give of your time, talent and spending cash until it hurts a bit, like an actual sacrifice?

If I were to end this homily here and now with an exhortation that you should go out into your world and to work hard for good in that vineyard, you might decide to listen and your life might change a little bit for a little while. But I would not expect your life change a great deal, unless you also respond to another calling; the calling from our Father that you work in another vineyard first. This vineyard is within you, it is an inner-vineyard. You work it alongside Christ in prayer and what you harvest from it is intimacy with God.  Of this encounter, St. Augustine wrote:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!  You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.  In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.  You were with me, but I was not with you.  Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.  You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.  You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

In the labor of prayer (and it does take a daily effort) you encounter God. He surprises you with gifts of consolation and peace, and you overflow with His love. This overflow is what makes the saints the saints. It is what makes their holy lives possible. The saints are not self-made men and women. Their cups runneth over within them, and it is from out of this abundance that they love the vineyard of the world and work in it for the better.

You say that you believe in God, and in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. So come to the work of prayer each day, or your devotion and service to God will remain forever little more than lip-service.

Monday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

October 26, 2009

Christians Martyrs and the Lions

Remember Jesus’ story about the two men who went up to the temple area to pray, the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax-collector? “The tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven…”

In today’s gospel, at the synagogue where Jesus is teaching, there is a hunched-over woman who has not raised her eyes to heaven for a very long time. Jesus calls her, lays His hands on her, and at once, she stands erect, for the first time eighteen years. I have to imagine that her very first act was to raise her eyes and hands up to heaven, to speak praises and to glorify God. Imagine how she must have felt to be deprived of such worship for so long, and then, how she must have felt for it to be so suddenly and wonderfully restored to her.

Seeing this, the authorities, the Pharisees, object that Jesus should not do healings during the Sabbath rest. But Jesus rebukes them, to their great humiliation. Who are they to say that this woman should not be free to worship God this day? Her freedom to worship comes from God Himself.

We, this morning, are free to gather here, free to raise our eyes up to heaven and offer worship. We are free from fears that authorities or angry crowds will storm through those doors and drag us off to our imprisonment or death. In the past, not all Christians have been so privileged. Still today, around the world, not all Christians are so privileged.

Let us celebrate this Mass, and every Mass, with a deeper reverence and gratitude, for the freedom we have to raise our eyes to heaven and to offer our worship to God. Let us pray for persecuted Christians around the world and celebrate this Mass, and every Mass, as if it were our first, our last and our only.

September 24 – Sts. Cosmas and Damien

September 25, 2009

A number of years back, there were two twin brothers, the eldest of a widowed single-mother’s five sons. From their youth, they had a profound love for their Catholic faith and they viewed God’s creations, especially the human body, with great wonder. The two brothers studied medicine and became general practitioners.

Two things made them stand out among other doctors in their profession: first, their willingness to share their Catholic faith with others; and second, their refusal to accept payment for their work.  The two worked for free, pro bono, for the good. They healed the sick, in both body and soul. And they were gratefully admired by many. But then it happened that their government instituted new laws which were contrary to the Catholic faith, offensive to human dignity, and universally binding without exception.

The two brothers might have said to each other, “Our work helps so many people.  If we don’t go along with this we won’t be able to practice medicine anymore. We should compromise, for the sake of the greater good.” However, these two doctors were adamant in their convictions. They understood that if they chose to forfeit their Catholic faith, then they would have nothing else of truly lasting value to offer to anyone. They did not yield, and it cost the two of them their careers, and much more, but the brothers preserved their faith, their clear consciences, and their heavenly rewards in Christ.

You’ve heard of the names of these brothers before, but you’ve probably never heard their story until today. The twin brothers, the two doctors who were unwilling to compromise on their Catholic faith when the Emperor Diocletian decreed in the year 303 that everyone worship idols or be killed, these men are the saints we celebrate today: Saints Cosmas and Damian.

May we learn from their example and benefit from their prayers.

Petitions:

 

Saints Cosmas and Damian are the patron saints of physicians, surgeons and pharmacists.  Let’s pray for those who care for the sick… We pray to the Lord.

Through the intercession of Saints Cosmas and Damian, may Catholic healthcare workers in our time never have to face a test of faith like theirs because of unjust laws… We pray to the Lord.

Through the intercession Saints Cosmas and Damian, may we have the courage to share our faith in the workplace, by both our silent deeds and our spoken words… We pray to the Lord. 

For my intention in this Mass, for Congress which is now considering amendments to the healthcare bill which would grant conscience exceptions and prohibit the federal government from subsidizing, reimbursing, and paying for abortions, and for your Mass intentions… We pray to the Lord.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

September 6, 2009

Remember what it was like before the dot-com bubble burst? Maybe you heard about tiny internet start-ups having total stock values in the billions and you just knew that that wouldn’t last. Remember the time before the recent housing bubble popped? I remember watching a show on TV called “Flip this House” in which a couple bought a building, put two weeks of work and a few thousand dollars into cleaning it up, and then quickly sold it for several tens of thousands of dollars more than what they bought it. I remember saying to myself then, “This just can’t go on. This isn’t sustainable.”

The thing about economic bubbles is that while you can often read the signs of the times and see that the bubble’s there, you’re never quite sure when it will pop.

For years now, our country has been riding on a similar bubble with the unsustainable spending and borrowing by the federal government. We’re not quite sure when it will finally pop, but you can see that the bubble’s there.  Most of us here will witness firsthand the consequences of its bursting.

The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan, independent government agency that provides economic data to Congress. And for years, regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans were in power, the CBO has consistently reported the unfortunate facts and grim forecasts of our present course. This summer, the CBO published its “Long-Term Budget Outlook.” And they tell us, quote…

“Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path—meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.

Although great uncertainty surrounds longterm fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. […]

Keeping deficits and debt from reaching levels that would cause substantial harm to the economy would require increasing revenues significantly…, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.”

Some or all of the following things will inevitably happen: an increased federal retirement age, decreased retirement benefits from Social Security, decreased health benefits from Medicare and/or Medicaid, increased federal taxes, or (and this seems the most likely) a dramatically increased national debt.

Now understand that an endlessly ballooning national debt is no solution.  It has economic consequences for us. What happens when foreign countries finally decide they are no longer interested in holding any more of our debt (in the form of low-interest yielding U.S. government bonds?) One result will be hyper-inflation, which will negatively impact anyone who uses U.S. Dollars. Unpleasant changes are coming. And they will have real consequences our lives. We will feel their effects.

Maybe hearing me speak about these grim realities feels as if I’ve just spit on your tongue.  It’s unpleasant and a bit repulsive. But my hope and prayer is that you will “be opened” by it, that you will be motivated to prepare yourself for what is coming, to begin living now as we should have already been living as Chrisitians all along.

In the past we have lived beyond our means, just like crowd, just like the government made in our own image. We spent more than we had and we often spent wastefully. But we are called to live differently, to live out Christian stewardship, Christian poverty, or simplicity of life in our own lives. Let’s not wait to hit economic rock bottom before we begin living as we ought to.

We are called to live simply and within our means, free from debt-slavery. We are called to be both frugal and generous, generous and frugal. If we are frugal without generosity, we’re simply being misers. If we are generous without frugality, we are being irresponsible. But if you are both frugal and generous won’t God, who (as the psalmist says) keeps faith forever, who secures justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, who supports the fatherless and the widow, won’t He provide you with what you need? On the other hand, if we are not frugal and generous, if we do not lovingly support our poor neighbors, those in our parish, throughout the diocese, and abroad, then how can we ask God to support us?

To quote St. James, “Act on this word.  If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” “Fear not, be strong.” “Be not afraid,” but prepare yourself. Prepare for the days when our accounts will come due.  For a day coming soon in our country, and for the Last Day, when we shall all appear before God.

Wednesday, 20th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

August 19, 2009

Today’s readings give us two lessons about service:

In the first reading we hear an allegory of the forest trees coming to their most prominent members, asking each one to lead them. But every tree declines, asking “why would I want to give up my comfortable glory to serve like that?” As a last resort, they ask the buckthorn tree. This last tree is something of a large bush, and not good for very much. The buckthorn agrees and rules as a tyrant over them.

What is the lesson for us here? If we Catholics are not willing to sacrifice our some of our comfortable glory for the social needs of others, we should expect bad things to come. As Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

The second lesson is from the Gospel, where we hear the parable most likely to offend an American’s sense of justice. We hear that the last laborers work a little and receive the same pay as the first. But the landowner is right to say that he has robbed no one. The first laborers receive the full wage which they agreed was fair and just at the beginning of the day.

What is the lesson here for us in our service? Serving Christ is work, but it should not make us feel deprived.  It should make us feel enriched. If we come to the end of the day’s labors feeling bitterness at our Landlord we are in need of an open and honest conversation with Him.