31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2012

November 4, 2012
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Springfield, Va.

2 [3] days left.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this election season.
I’m tired of talking about it too,
and I know some of you are tired of hearing me talk about it.
Someone kidded me the other day about how for the last few weeks
I’ve managed to dig around in each Sunday’s readings
to find something related to election themes
He was kidding,
but, elections are, by definition, about choices,
choices that effect human lives.
And so all elections involve moral choices.
And the Word of God always helps us to make moral choices.
So of course we can find something in every Sunday’s readings
to help us make the morally correct choices in the coming election.

But this Sunday I don’t have to dig around: it’s staring me in face.
The two great commandments: to Love God and love your neighbor.
The most basic guide to all moral choices, and so for all ballots cast.

At the heart of these 2 commandments is one word: “love.”
As wonderful as love is,
we all know that many people misunderstand what it means.
So it demands explanation, especially when we try to figure out
how it effects our political choices.

A lot of Catholics today think loving our neighbor as ourselves
simply means being kind to them,
and maybe also to be helpful, welcoming, tolerant and accepting.

But while there’s something to that, it kind skips over the fact
that God himself has given us
a very thorough explanation of love and it’s requirements.
And it begins with 10 basic defining principles
that set a minimum standard for love
and a context for all the other requirements of love.
And He called these 10 principles of love “the 10 Commandments.”

Now, some like to think that Jesus sort of over-road the 10 Commandments
with 2 great commandments of love.
But what Jesus is actually doing in today’s gospel
is quoting from two different passages in the Old Testament,
one of which, the Greatest commandment to love God,
we read today in the first reading from Chapter 6 Deuteronomy.
And if we open up our bibles and look at that passage in Deuteronomy,
we find that it comes right at the end of the list of the 10 Commandments.
And if you look ups the second great commandment, to “love your neighbor,”
you can find it at the end of a second listing of the same 10 commandments
in Leviticus 19.

So In other words, the Great commandments to “love God” and “love your neighbor”
summarize the 10 Commandments,
or we can say, the 10 Commandments explain what it means
to “love God and our neighbor.”

They set basic principles, sort of a minimum you must do, or not do,
if you love your neighbor.
For example, if you love your neighbor “you shall not kill” him.
But that’s only the beginning, as we read in scripture:
first we don’t kill him,
and when we’ve got that down, then we don’t physically hurt him,
and then we don’t call him names, then we help him when he needs help.
But first things first:
if we lived in a society where we were allowed to kill each other
what difference would it make if we are required to help each other?
So if our neighbor asked for help, we could either help him or kill him.
First, thou shall not kill.

We see this applied very clearly in the coming election.
Promising all sorts of good things to people doesn’t mean much
if you’re willing to kill them.
So that if you’re willing to kill, or abort, the unborn baby in the womb,
what difference does it if you promise to feed, educate,
or give health care to poor children—once they are born?
Not much.

And take another of the “10 principles”—the 6th commandment:
“thou shall not commit adultery.”
Essentially, this commandment prohibits “marital acts” outside of marriage,
because that degrades both marriage
and that act of marriage that creates life!
Because not only is killing life important, so is the way life is given.
And so we have this wonderful thing,
where giving love and giving life come together,
and were all the fruits of life and love are learned and received
— the union of man and woman to love each other
and beget and raise children.
The amazing gift that God and all of history calls “marriage.”

So if we love our neighbor we will protect marriage.
What good is being kind to people, of tolerating their differences,
if we destroy marriage, and real family, and civilization in the process?

And that’s what we do when we try to redefine it,
merely to please a few people who don’t understand it.

So, as Catholics,
recognizing that when we make choices that effect our neighbors,
we must love our neighbor as ourselves,
and do so by upholding the 10 basic principles of love,
the 10 commandments.
But how can we do that if we support candidates
who brag about their support for aborting babies and destroying marriage?

But, as I said, first things first.
We’ve been talking about the second greatest commandment.
But that’s useless, unless we first follow the first greatest commandment:
“The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God”

What this means is that God comes first, before everything else.
Nowadays many think this means simply having a warm feeling toward God.
Some further reduce this to merely worshiping God.
But the great commandment requires we love God
“with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Not with just feelings, and not just inside the 4 walls of your church,
but with your whole being!
Everything you think, do and say.

And the 10 commandments help us to understand this better.
So, of course, if you love God you won’t kill your neighbor
because God gave him that life and God loves him!

But also, if you love God, you will “have no other God’s before him”:
the very 1st Commandment.
Nothing can be more important than God.
Not your own selfishness, not your own economic situation,
not even the economic situation of your neighbor.
Not you’re your political party or ideology.

Now, some say that approach to things is “un-American.”
Well if it is, so be it, because we’re Catholics before we are American
—we must love God even more than country.

But, the thing is, it’s not un-American: it is quintessentially American.
Because our nation was founded on the principle, or principles,
that the people have the right to form their own government,
and that government is formed to protect the rights of the people.
But those principles are founded on an even greater principle:
that God gives those rights to each of us:
they are not given to us by kings or congresses or courts.
Nor are they given to us by the votes of a majority of other men.
They are God-given rights.
And if that principle is rejected, then we have no real rights,
just permissions given to us by government or a majority vote.

Now, when Catholics 1st came to the original 13 British colonies
back in the 17th century
they came largely to escape religious persecution in England.
But even in colonial America,
Catholics were still persecuted for their religion:
we were, in many ways, treated as 2nd class citizens.
For example, before the 19th century,
the Catholic Church wasn’t even allowed to own property in Virginia

But with the dawning of the Declaration of Independence
and then the Constitution,
things began to change.
The Declaration enshrined the fact that God gave us our rights, not men.
And the Constitution guaranteed that the government existed, in part,
to protect each and everyone’s right to believe and follow God
according to their own conscience and religion,
as the 1st Amendment provided:
“Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Even so, over the years these rights have been repeatedly attacked.
Sometimes the 1st Amendment protected us.
But sometimes we had to work hard for that protection.

We look back and we remember in the mid-1800’s
when the public schools often taught Protestant doctrines and prayers,
so that Catholics, led by their Bishops, priests, and the good sisters,
decided they had to form their own huge system of schools.

And in 1922, when the Masons and the Ku Klux Klan
teamed up to pass state laws to close Catholic schools,
Catholics fought back and won at the Supreme Court.

In those and other cases, the 1st Amendment’s was our strong legal shield.
But sometimes even that didn’t work.

For example, in 1844 anti-Catholics, so called “Nativists,” in New York
who were tired of the growing influence of Catholic immigrants,
planned to burn down St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
When Archbishop John Hughes found out about it,
and that the politicians and police were planning to turn a blind eye,
he put out the word
and four thousand Catholic men armed themselves
and encircled the Cathedral.
Needless to say, finding out about the Catholic “hospitality” awaiting them,
the Nativists never showed up.
And anti-Catholicism started to die down in New York.
And Archbishop John Hughes became known around town as “Dagger John.”

Today, our God given religious liberty, our right to love God,
is once again under threat.
But this time not by some school district, or a state, or even a mob,
No this time we are threatened by the President of the United States.
As you know, under the law many call “Obamacare,” he has mandated
that all employers provide employees with insurance coverage
for contraception, sterilization and even abortion inducing drugs.
This even though he knew this would require
most Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, charities
and even Catholic business owners
to act in a way contrary to their fundamental religious moral beliefs,
It would force us to directly disobey the God who we are called
to love with all our heart mind soul and strength.

And if we don’t, the penalty for not cooperating is $100 per day, per employee.
That’s $36,500 per year per employee.
Folks, I can’t see how this won’t shut down every
Catholic hospital, college and charity,
not to mention Catholic owned businesses,
in the country.

How do we answer this?
The Congress has refused to defend us,
and the President is bragging about his new rules on the campaign trail.
Perhaps the Supreme Court will come to the rescue,
but everybody thought they were going to overturn Obamacare,
and that didn’t happen.

So, it looks like we’re on our own.
In the historic words our bishops wrote us last January:
“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law…
“In generations past, the Church has always been able
to count on the faithful to stand up and protect
her sacred rights and duties.
We hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics
to do the same.”

Friends, it’s time for Dagger John and his followers to step forward again.
Not with knives and guns wielded by an angry crowd,
but with the two most powerful weapons we have at our disposal
as Catholic Americans:
as Catholics, we yield the sword of prayer,
and as Americans, the dagger of the vote.

Tuesday is election day, and all elections involve moral choices.
I beg you to make your choices based on the greatest moral laws,
the 2 great commandments and 10 Commandments.
Love your neighbor as yourself
by defending the right to life of your unborn neighbor
and the institution of marriage.
And love God by not bowing to party affiliations or ideologies,
or to any other worldly concern.
Demand your freedom to love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength.

In short, vote, and vote like a Catholic.