TEXT: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 28, 2018

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 28, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Forgive me if I make some mistakes today.

I had another homily ready to go,

but last night I decided I had to say something else

—so this is not as well-crafted as I’d like.

But that is the nature of speech:

it often fails to communicate adequately,

and sometimes communicates poorly.

Which I will talk about later.

 

The events of this last week,

with the mail bombs and then the synagogue shooting,

along with the past shooting of congressmen at their baseball practice,

and mailing of ricin or anthrax to public figures,

all remind us of the sorry state of affairs in our country:

of the divisions that more and more radically separate us from each other.

 

In today’s Gospel, we find the story of Bartimaeus,

whom Jesus cured of blindness.

It seems to me this is the same problem so many Americans

and so many human beings around the world have today: blindness.

Not physical blindness, but a kind of mental and spiritual blindness.

They are blinded by their ideologies, by their unjust prejudices, their hatred,

and even by their corrupted religious views.

This can then lead to all sorts of distortions of political and social action,

to extremes of speech, then to grossly unacceptable physical encounters

—such as harassment of public officials in restaurants—

and even to the kind of extreme physical violence we’re seeing all too often.

 

The response to all this seems to be a near universal call

to calm down the rhetoric:

to scale back the harsh language we find in today’s public discourse,

especially in politics.

The idea is that such harsh speech leads to physical violence.

And I agree, but I also disagree.

 

Let me explain.

 

In Scripture Jesus twice repeats and affirms the 5th Commandment:

“you shall not kill.”

But Scripture makes clear, and the Church has always taught,

that this is not an absolute ban on killing human beings

in every single case.

For example, the Church has always taught in the case of self-defense,

and even just war,

we can morally use physical violence, and even kill an unjust aggressor.

But at the same time, the Church teaches this must be only as a last resort,

only when it’s truly necessary,

when all other non-deadly efforts have been exhausted or aren’t possible.

And it must only be used as a proportionate response:

if someone slaps you, you might be justified in slapping him back,

but not in killing him.

But if he comes at you with a knife, you could be killed, so you could shoot him.

Still, you should try to only wound him, if possible.

 

And again, you can only use physical force when other means don’t work.

Which means you first use words.

You discuss, debate, even argue, before you use physical violence.

 

But there’s a problem there too.

Remember in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says, “‘You shall not kill…’”

He immediately adds,

“whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment,

and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’

will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,

and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Hell.”

So does that mean we can’t have a heated argument with each other,

or never use harsh words?

 

Not really.

For example, even though Jesus tells us not to call our brother a “fool”,

He Himself calls the Pharisees “fools” and “vipers” and “snakes”

Because that was what was necessary to get their attention,

that only thing that would make them understand the trouble they were in,

and also probably to communicate that to the people.

So it falls under the same logic as using physical force:

you can use the force that is truly necessary, and proportionate,

to defend yourself, or others.

 

So, where does this leave us?

Clearly we have to  use physical violence against those

who use physical violence against us:

so the guy who shot up the synagogue yesterday

was justly subdued by the cops who shot him.

 

But that is clearly and absolutely not necessary in our political discourse today.

Even the physical confrontation of public officials and their families in restaurants

is clearly over the top, and not necessary or proportionate.

 

You see, we have this great country that enshrines, right from the beginning,

in our foundational principles and laws,

the safety value against violence.

As our founding fathers wrote

in the very first article of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law ….abridging the freedom of speech….”

And so we can fight our fights, we can defend ourselves with speech, with words.

 

Can speech be hurtful?

Of course.

But there’s a lot to the old adage, most of us learned when we were children,

“sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Now, certainly words can hurt us, but usually only if we let them.

And a reasonable mature person doesn’t have to let them.

 

And can hurtful words incite others to physical violence?

They clearly can, if the words actually call for actual physical violence.

Otherwise only the mentally ill are triggered to violence by harsh words.

So, we have to be careful and prudent, or proportional, in our choice of words.

But on the other hand we have to use the words we need

to communicate clearly, even if those words are hurtful.

Otherwise we’d all just have to remain silent,

lest we say something that might trigger a violent response

in some deranged person.

 

___

Again, just like in war or physical self-defense,

we should words proportionate with the words our opponents use.

 

Now, in the current political climate,

have the various sides always used proportionate language to fight with.

Certainly not, not always—some are way out of bounds.

But what’s worse: to compare someone Adolf Hitler,

or to call them “ugly” or “stupid”?

Is it worse to call someone a “bigot” or to call them a “liar”?

I don’t know.

 

But I do know that the protection of free speech

has allowed Americans to fight for what we believe in

without resorting to physical violence

and has held our country together for 242 years

—except with when ran out of words to argue for and against

human slavery,

and then we had to go to war with each other:

and 625,000 Americans died.

 

So let’s not be afraid of battling with words, now—even harsh words.

Because it seems to me that if freedom of speech is suppressed,

there will once again be nothing left

to defend yourself with,

or defend the opinions and beliefs of both or all sides,

nothing but bloody civil unrest, violence and even war.

 

____

The key seems to be never to speaking when we are blinded by

ideologies, unjust prejudices, hatred, or corrupted religious views.

And so the answer for us, for all Americans and for the whole world

is to be like Bartimaeus, who, after the disciples told him “to be silent,”

filled with faith in Jesus, begged him,

“Master, I want to see.”

And then, after he received his sight, it says, he then, “followed him on the way.”

 

The answer to all the violence is to follow Jesus.

To follow him and his teaching about violence, and about speaking.

To remember that our opponents may be our enemies,

but that Jesus calls us to “love our enemies.”

This won’t, can’t and shouldn’t force us to never say a harsh word

about them or to them,

but it will force us to never say anything that doesn’t really need to be said.

 

Of course, in the heat of anger, it’s pretty hard to control our words.

But if the love of God, and the reason and justice of God,

govern our tongues, it gets easier.

And with the grace of Jesus Christ,

who spoke the truth at all times,

even using harsh language when it was necessary,

all things are possible.

 

____

Now, I know that I’ve said this clumsily,

and the someone might here this and be offended.

That’s probably my fault for choosoing the wrong words.

Words are like that, and human beings are like that.

Which reminds us of another thing to remember about speech:

always listen to others with love and reason in Christ,

and charitably try to understand

even the most poorly articulated thoughts of others.

 

____

As we move more deeply into the mystery of the Mass,

let us ask our Lord to shower our nation with his grace and love.

Let us pray for our politicians that they may fight boldly for what they believe,

but fight only with words that are truly necessary,

and subject to the judgment of Christ.

And let us pray for each other and all Americans,

that we may never resort to physical violence to defend our beliefs,

but rather always forcefully speak up for what we hold dear,

never being blinded by the false values of the world,

but always seeing with the eyes of faith in Jesus.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

VACATION. Just got back from a week playing golf in Williamsburg. It had been awhile since I’d be able to get away: I stayed close to home all summer just in case I could help move the lighting project along, which wound up being unnecessary. Just so you know, we priests get 4 weeks of vacation plus 5 days of retreat every year. Since we work 6 (and sometimes 7) day weeks, the breaks are important to our physical and mental health. I know it is to me.

Something unplanned always happens on vacations. This time it was a tooth emergency. While eating dinner one night I bit down on my hamburger and heard a “pop” in my mouth—a tooth (with a 30-year-old filling) had cracked. Long story short I wound up driving back here the next day to have my dentist pull the tooth. So when you notice a gap in my handsome smile over the next few months, you know the story. In any case, I went back to golfing the next day and had a very relaxing time.

 

THREE DAYS OF ADORATION. From Tuesday, November 13, to Thursday, November 15, all the American Bishops will meet in Baltimore for their Fall General Assembly. With the exception of a few minor administrative matters the entire session will be devoted to addressing the sex abuse cover-up, including how to discipline lying or abusing bishops.

While the bishops have to step up and take responsibility and reform themselves, it is clear to me that the laity have a huge role in making this happen. There are various ways you can do this: letters or petitions to bishops (and the pope), funding, awareness, etc. But one key thing we can all do is PRAY. We are Christians, and we believe in the power of prayer. So use the power of Jesus dwelling in you from your baptism and pray constantly for reform.

With this in mind, I’ve decided St. Raymond’s will have Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the 3 days of the bishops’ assembly: from 7am on Tuesday to 7pm on Thursday. That’s a total of 60 hours straight, except during Holy Mass. And as your spiritual father I beg all of you to participate, signing up to spend at least 1 hour before our Lord on the altar. I’m very serious: it is important that we do this as a parish, coming together to beg the Lord to intervene for the conversion of sinful and weak bishops and priests, and for the consolation of victims.

So please sign up. In the next few days we’ll put a sign-up page on the parish website (straymonds.org), or you can email or call the parish office.

What do I do in Adoration? There really aren’t a lot of rules for what you do at Adoration. Basically you come, sit or kneel quietly, and pray. Bring your Rosary, your Bible or some other good spiritual book (even an interesting biography of a saint) to read between prayers. We’ll also have some prayer books available if you want to use those. But mainly come and be with Jesus.

An hour sounds like a long time, but it’s not really, if you split it up between praying the Rosary, reading, and just talking and listening to Jesus. As St. John Vianney once said, “Him looking at you, and you looking at Him.” It’ll do you great good, and joined with all the others adoring over the 60 hours it will be a mighty prayer for the greater good of the Church.

 

A HOLY WEEK. This Thursday, November 1, is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation. Since all Catholics are required (under mortal sin) to attend Mass, we have our usual extra Masses scheduled (see below).

The following day, Friday, November 2, is the Commemoration of All Souls, when we pray for all the souls who are awaiting entrance into Heaven as they are being purified in Purgatory, especially our loved ones. I invite you all to pray for the dead every day, but especially on this day and throughout the month of November. Even though this is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation, all are encouraged to attend Mass. In particular, I invite you to join me and our choir for a special Sung High Requiem Mass according to the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin) that evening at 7pm. If you’ve never been to the EFM, don’t worry—just come. Even if you think the EFM is not your “cup of tea,” you will not regret having experienced this different, but very beautiful, form of Catholic worship. It will be a very prayerful experience. Trust me. (This is not the “low” Mass we offer on the 1st and 3rd Fridays, but Mass chanted by the priest, choir and congregation from beginning to end).

Of course, all this is proceeded by Wednesday, October 31, which is “Halloween.” As you know, I am not a fan of this day, since it not only tends to distract us from and trivialize the meaning of the important days that follow, but it is also used as a feast day by those that serve the devil (including Satanists, witches, etc.). Still, I understand the innocent fun, especially for kids, of dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating. But keep it balanced, and be careful not to let it, in any way, lead you or yours away from Christ, the Saints, or the Holy Souls.

 

VOCATION. I am overjoyed to announce that parishioner Jacquelyn (Jackie) Parman, daughter of parishioners, Don and Claudette Parman, has entered into the first stage of religious life as a postulant with the Cistercian Nuns of The Valley of Our Lady Monastery in Wisconsin. This is a very demanding vocation, so Sister will need our prayers—so please pray for her! And I’m sure she will also pray for us!

 

Parish Finance Report. Please find the Finance Report of the year ended June 30, 2018 inserted in this bulletin.

Operating Income (mainly from offertory and debt-reduction collections, and other donations) was $2,413,223, up $62,092 (or 2.6%) over the prior year, while Operating Expenses were $1,935,456, up $20,775 (or 1%) from the prior year, leaving us a Net Operating Income of  $477,767, up $41,317 from the prior year.

We also had Extraordinary Income of $248,383 and Extraordinary Expenditures of $167,562, both related to the Lighting and Mural Project (except for $8,059 of other expenditures). This left us with a Net Surplus (the bottom line) of  $558,588.

On the Balance Sheet side of things, we had cash of $148,352 in checking and $1,237,547 in savings, with $16,419 in Accounts Payable and a $0 balance on our Building Loan (down $387,917 from the prior year). We also had Restricted Assets of $88,881, i.e., Capital Campaign funds dedicated to paying for the Lighting and Mural Project.

Please feel free to contact me or Kirsti Tyson in the parish office with any questions about the report.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

Twenty eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Justice Kavanaugh. Well, thanks be to God the hearings are over. The country moves forward with a great new Supreme Court Justice, one who I’m confident will, to the best of his abilities and in keeping with the Constitution, uphold the traditional values dear to America for centuries, including the right to life, the meaning of family and marriage, religious freedom and the dignity of women.

Thank you for all your prayers during the hearings. I have been hearing, however, that the Kavanaugh family is still receiving unpleasant feedback from opponents. I am particularly worried for his 13 and 10-year-old daughters—imagine what suffering they’ve endured. So I encourage you to pray for the family, especially invoking St. Raymond and St. Thomas More (patrons of lawyers), St. Michael, St. Mary Magdalene, and Our Blessed Mother. Also, St. Agnes and St. Maria Goretti, patron saints of young girls.

 

Going Forward. The Kavanaugh hearings dramatically revealed a deep fissure in American society. I’m not sure exactly where the boundary of one side and the other begin or end, and I’m not sure what to call the various factions. In any case, there is a growing acrimony and bitterness in our country, and it is making itself manifest in more and more public violence, either in rhetoric or action. I am afraid it will only get worse.

I do not know the answer, except the grace of Jesus and a return to the Christian values that have made us great. Beginning with loving God above all things, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, and even loving our enemy. We must learn, as our founders did, to patiently tolerate—not “accept” or “embrace” or “acquiesce to” —the differences in ideas and opinions, and work within the system of debate, persuasive dialogue, elections and laws that has helped make our nation a peaceful and great nation.

Last week one politician said, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.” God bless them, but no, that won’t work. We can’t be civil with each other just when we are in power. There is a sense in which we can be “too civil,” too accommodating to opponents. But basic civility, basic respect for your opponents has to return to public life. If not, I’m afraid that civility will give way to uncivility, which will give way to something like a civil war. And this civility must begin with Christians, especially us Catholics. Again, this doesn’t mean rolling over, or not fighting for what we believe in. But fighting fairly, governed always by reason and charity.

Let us pray for our nation, for our friends and for our foes.

 

Children at Mass. Being a parent is incredibly challenging, especially these days, and especially at Mass. For example, sometimes you just can’t stop a newborn or a two-year-old from doing what they so often naturally do—make noise. This problem is often compounded in larger families: parents try to deal with the crying newborn, while the 4 and 6-year-old talk to each other. I don’t know how they manage, God bless them.

Many of these parents are torn between not wanting to disturb others and wanting to come to Mass as a family. And many understandably think: “well the Church and the priests encourage us to be pro-life and open to life—and we were!” Some warn that if we’re not careful we’ll chase these families away from the parish or from Catholicism altogether.

But there are others we have to be very careful not to “chase away.” Years ago a young man told me a story I’ve heard innumerable times since, from scores of young people: as a teenager he stopped going to Mass because week after week he found himself completely distracted by the little children around him. So he thought, “why bother?” and stopped going. Not a good excuse, but that’s the way a lot of teenage boys’ minds work.

On the other hand there’s the story one mother told me of how her young family had been away from Mass for a few years and decided to come back, but after just few weeks they stopped, embarrassed by their little two-year-old’s behavior at Mass. Or the story of the mother who was up all night with a colicky baby, and didn’t notice her 3-year-old run up into the sanctuary. Or the father of an autistic little boy who suddenly laughed out loud at Mass, only to be scolded by the people in front of him, and he broke into tears.

Back and forth. What do we do? The only answer seems again to be a combination of Christ’s grace, and practicing the virtues of patience and charity—by all parties. All of us who might be distracted should try our very best to charitably empathize and be patient, “offer up” the distraction, and/or if necessary (and possible) move to another seat. But in the same way, those with disruptive children should be charitable to those around them, and patient with their frustration—and try to take steps to ease the situation when possible.

One solution is to have Mom (or Dad) stay home with the fussy baby while Dad takes the other children to Mass, and then vice versa. It worked for my Mom and Dad. But, for many families today family dynamics are very different than they used to be. We have to understand this, and I leave it to the parents’ good judgment.

And there is another simple solution: at St. Raymond’s we have lots of places parents with fussy children can go to avoid distracting others during Mass: we have the “Family Room,” and we have a huge narthex—the vestibule at the main entrance.

Now, let’s be clear. Babies and small children just sometimes make noise—that’s just part of what they do. A baby will start to fuss, and Mom whips out a bottle and the baby is happy again. Or a 5-year-old suddenly starts to talk out loud, and Dad gives him “the look,” and it’s under control. Or a special needs child may blurt out a loud noise all of a sudden, and then stop. All of us need to accept those largely uncontrollable situations—with patience and charity.

But where a child continues to make a prolonged disturbance that is genuinely distracting to others (crying, talking, noise-making, etc.), out of charity, parents must consider what action they can take.

With the grace of Jesus, let us all truly strive to love one another as He has loved us, especially by practicing the virtues of patience and charity. And thanks again for your patience and charity with me.

 

Oktoberfest. Thanks to all who made our Oktoberfest dinner last week a great success. Especially Pat Franco and the Knights of Columbus, and particularly Cindy Leaf and Michael Welch who worked so hard in supervising the food preparation.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 7, 2018

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Respect Life Sunday)

October 7, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This last year the topic of sexual abuse has been a dominant theme in the news.

Of course, in the Church,

this has taken on particular disgusting and sinister dimensions,

and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about that.

 

But sexual abuse isn’t the exclusive problem of the Church.

In the last year, society at large has become more acutely aware

that sexual abuse is a huge problem for all of us,

particularly the sexual abuse, including sexual harassment, of women.

 

And so we’ve seen the rise of the so called “me-too” movement:

women coming forward to reveal

that they have been sexually harassed or worse.

This was sort of initiated or at least publicized by Hollywood actresses

coming out about how powerful men in Hollywood had abused them.

 

Of course, this is kind of ironic, sadly, since Hollywood has been

one of the main promoters of the sexual abuse of women for decades

—just look at almost any movie and most tv shows,

and we see women constantly exploited for their sexuality.

 

But the thing is, Hollywood and it’s—for lack of a better word—“leftist” friends,

are turning to their unique set of values to solve the problem.

But they wind up making even greater problems,

because those values are largely morally bankrupt.

 

So for example, they’re promoting the idea

that we must now always believe the accusations of women,

and that men should never be trusted.

As one politician said recently,

“Guess who’s perpetuating all these kinds of actions?

It’s the men in this country.

And I just want to say to the men in this country, just shut up….”

 

Of course, we do need to listen to women who claim abuse.

But the idea of always trusting the women and never trusting the man

only aggravates the problem

by turning man and woman further against each other.

 

___

The real solution is actually very simple, well known and ancient.

And it comes from Jesus Christ and His Church,

which for 2000 years has clearly and strongly upheld

the dignity of women

and the mutual respect and love male and female

should always, without exception, have for each other.

 

Actually, this goes back to the roots of our faith in Judaism.

In today’s first reading we literally go back to the beginning,

to the story of how God created man and woman

recorded in beginning of the Bible in the Book of Genesis.

In Chapter 1 of Genesis it tells us that God

“created man in His own image…male and female He created them.

Then in Chapter 2, that we read today,

it says that God created Adam first,

but that it wasn’t “good” that he be alone.

So God created the animals, but none of them could fill his loneliness,

none was a suitable partner for Adam.

And so God created Eve, from the very flesh and bones of Adam.

Adam looks at her in awe and says,

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”

And it says, “a man clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.”

 

All this is to say, in part, that women are not animals to be used

for man’s needs or selfishness.

They are made of the same stuff as males, equal to him in dignity.

But also made different, so as to complete mankind—so two can become one—

they are partners.

Different but equal, so that their equality must be mutually loved and respected

through their differences.

 

Jesus picks up on this theme in today’s gospel.

He quotes both Chapter 1 and 2 of Genesis, in his defense of marriage.

And in that defense he points out that women are equal in dignity to men,

first by citing Genesis’ teaching that both are made in the image of God,

and the 2 become 1 to complement or complete each other.

But also notice how he defends women from a terrible abuse:

men abandoning and divorcing their wives.

Not only does this leave the woman penniless,

but more fundamentally when the man marries another woman

he abuses the sexuality of his ex-wife:

in effect, he has used her sexually,

and now cast her aside as if she were trash

—that is at the heart of adultery.

 

And remember that Jesus makes it clear that adultery, this demeaning of women,

it isn’t just limited to bodily acts.

In the Sermon on the Mount he warns us:

“…that everyone who looks at a woman with lust

has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

 

And so the Catholic Church promotes the dignity and rejects the abuse

of women.

It calls us to look at woman not as sexual objects to be used,

either by our eyes or with our bodies,

but to always treat them with love, chastity, and respect.

 

____

So, the Church has been right about this all along,

and the Church has the solution for the sexual abuse of women today.

 

But if the Church has been right on that moral problem for 2000 years,

what other moral problem might she have gotten right?

 

What about an equally, if not worse, kind of abuse of women,

that involves a different but still fundamental aspect of their sexuality:

motherhood?

And that is the abuse of women we call abortion.

 

Think about this.

We tell a woman, it’s not a baby so there’s nothing wrong with it.

But of course, it IS a baby, and in her heart she knows it’s a baby,

and that she has killed her baby.

 

But we tell her she’ll be fine afterwards, and she can move on with life.

But the reality is she will never forgive herself,

and she will be burdened, even crippled,

by guilt and even self-loathing for the rest of her life.

 

And we pretend it will empower her.

but in reality most of the time it only further subjects women

to the power of men, the fathers of their babies,

who so often force the woman to have an abortion

either directly or through fear of abandonment.

 

And we tell her it’s her free choice,

but then we don’t tell her about any of the other choices she has,

choices that are not deadly to the baby or traumatic to her.

 

___

It seems to me, that abortion is painfully similar to sexual abuse:

both take the woman’s sexuality

and turn it from an expression of joy, love and life,

to an experience of pain, hatred and destruction.

And the scars of both stay with them and effect everything they do

for the rest of their lives.

 

But the thing is, if we were honest with ourselves, as terrible as sexual abuse is,

abortion is even worse:

sexual abuse only injures,

but abortion always kills…a child—and not just any child,

but the woman’s baby girl or boy.

Given the right care, a woman can be greatly healed

from the traumatic effects of both sexual abuse and abortion,

but no one can bring the aborted baby back to life.

 

Sexual abuse must be stopped

God forbids it, reason shows it, and justice demands it.

And the abuse of women through abortion must also be stopped,

for the very same reasons—God, reason and justice.

 

____

3 months ago, the President nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh

to the Supreme Court.

To many of this, it was seen as a God-send:

we knew that Kavanaugh was a strongly pro-life judge

who would work to protect women and their children

from the terrible abuse of abortion.

We had been waiting, working and praying for him for 50 years.

 

But for the exact same reason, many others immediately decried his nomination.

One of the pro-abortion leaders called him “evil,”

and another promised that he would

“oppose him with everything I got.”

Because you see, abortion was on the line

—no matter what other qualification he has,

that was all that mattered to them.

 

And they did throw everything they could at him to stop him.

And in the end, when all else failed, they threw one final horrible accusation

that they thought would end his nomination.

The irony is thick here:

they accused him of sexual abuse of a woman

in order to protect their abuse of women in abortion.

 

In the end however, even though her testimony was compelling, his was too.

Who should we believe, when they both seemed believable?

Again, some said we should believe her no matter what,

and assume that he was guilty because, after all he is a man.

Thanks be to God, clearer heads prevailed,

and again turned to God, reason and justice for an answer.

When no corroborating evidence was presented,

we remembered the fundamental maxim of American Justice that

we must always assume someone innocent

until they are proven guilty.

And some us remembered the words of God the Son himself, Jesus:

“If your brother sins, ….take one or two more with you,

so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses

every fact may be confirmed.”

 

And in the end a majority of the senate voted yesterday

to confirm Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

And we will finally put an end to 50 years of a Supreme Court

that has sanctioned the abuse of women through abortion.

So that, thanks be to God, we will finally have

a truly pro-life, and pro-woman majority on the Court.

 

____

Sexual abuse of women is a despicable thing,

an abomination before God, reason and justice.

But we cannot show respect for women by throwing out our respect for men.

We can only do so by remembering that

we are created in the image of God as male and female,

meant to cling to each other in love:

to mutually respect and love each other in every aspect of life.

And by appreciating and standing in awe of

the God-given differences between male and female,

especially the sexual differences,

and never use them to exploit or abuse each other.

 

But all that means we must also respect the dignity of a woman’s sexuality

that is expressed in motherhood.

And we must end the abuse of women that comes through deception

and the rejection and distortion of that great gift through abortion.

____

As we continue more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,

let us ask our Lord Jesus to pour out His grace upon us,

so that we may truly understand and appreciate the gifts He has given us. Most especially that we may always respect and truly love women,

and protect them from any abuse

of the great and multifaceted gift of their sexuality.

Twenty seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Respect Life Month.” Today is “Respect Life Sunday” and October is “Respect Life Month.” During this month the American Bishops call us to remember that almost 2500 innocent Americans are killed every day by abortions, over 900,000 a year, for a total of over 55 million dead since 1973.

But even as horrible as that death toll is, we can’t forget that abortion has other consequences as well—consequences that have been eating away at the moral and legal fiber of our nation and culture.

Of course, we cannot forget the consequence of abortion’s devastating effect on women. Especially the women who have been lied to and told, “it’s okay, it’s just a formless clump of cells.” But deep inside they know, or come to know, the truth of what they’ve done. These are the 2nd victims of abortion, but they are ignored and ridiculed for expressing their pain and feelings of guilt. We must not forget them, we must love them and do everything we can to help them heal, and to make sure that the evil of abortion will not continue to plague future generations of women.

But the consequences of abortion go beyond even that, as the establishment of a constitutional right to abortion is like a virus injected into the body politic slowly corrupting every other right, and the freedom that is the life’s blood of our great nation. Because there cannot be any human rights if human beings don’t have a right to life. If you’re not alive, you have no rights at all. This is why when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence the only rights he felt it necessary to list were the most fundamental: “the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”—with the right to life being first.

This is a key reason why we work so hard to defend life, but it also seems to be a key reason some people work so hard to defend the “right” to take life from babies. If you can take that right away, you can do just about anything you want in society.

So, what does this say about politicians who fight so desperately to defend the right to abortion? And what does it say about us, if we support those politicians, with our money, free speech or votes?

 

Supreme Court. The last few months of debate over the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh seems to come down to this: will America continue to defend the right to kill innocent babies, or will it finally protect the right to life? That is the main reason millions of Christian voters voted for the very imperfect Donald Trump in 2016: he promised to name justices to the Supreme Court who would defend life.

And now President Trump has done that, twice. But this second/current appointment of Kavanaugh will create a pro-life majority on the Court. And that is why so many have opposed his nomination with such unprecedented viciousness from the beginning, well before the last-minute accusations of Dr. Ford, et al, surfaced. As Sen. Chuck Schumer, leader of the opposition, said when the Judge was first nominated, “I will oppose him with everything I’ve got.” And he and his allies have done just that. Primarily to protect abortion.

 

“I Saw Satan Laughing With Delight…” Excuse my lapse into secular music, but as a child of the 70’s I can’t help but think of these words from the 70’s hit song, “American Pie,” that lamented the problems of America 4 decades ago. Satan loves abortion: not only does it kill human life (which he hates) and destroy families, but it also undermines all the principles of justice that undergird Western Society. So surely today he is delighted with the success of the pro-abortion senators the last 2 weeks, including their thoughtless abuse and political manipulation of Dr. Ford and her personal tragedy, to the incomprehensible and irrational rage directed at Judge Kavanaugh. All because of abortion.

What If It Was Your Daughter? What If It Was Your Son? Some say, but what about the accusations of sexual abuse? Are you dismissing that? Of course not. As I’ve said several times, I assume that Dr. Ford is telling the truth as she best remembers it, and my heart goes out to her. I have tried to keep in mind “what if it were my daughter who was saying this?”

But at the same time, we have to also consider, “what if it was my son, or father, or brother, (or husband), being accused?” We have to love and protect the rights and dignity of both the accuser and the accused. And pray for them.

 

Life Chain. To kick off this “Respect Life Month” today, October 7, our parishioners will join thousands of Americans in the “Life Chain.” This year, as in the past, over 100 St. Raymond parishioners will join other local pro-lifers lining up on the sidewalk of Franconia Road in front of Key Middle School from 2:30 to 3:30 PM to simply stand peacefully and quietly praying, maybe holding a sign, as a public witness to our respect for the dignity of human life. It is always a very spiritually rewarding event. Please join in. Parking is available at the school, and Pro-Life signs will be available.

 

40 Days for Life. The Fall “40 Days for Life” Campaign, a similar but more prolonged public witness to the right to life, has already begun, and St. Raymond’s will be taking responsibility for this peaceful vigil on the weekend of October 20 and 21. Please visit the display and sign-up sheets in the narthex this weekend and sign up.

 

Parish Holy Hour. This Tuesday, October 9, at 6:45pm, CCD/Religious Education is sponsoring a Holy Hour of Adoration for the whole parish. Join our CCD families in adoring Our Eucharistic Lord and praying the Holy Rosary for various intentions, including and especially for the “success” of our CCD program this year.

 

Synod of Bishops. Last week Bishops from all over the world gathered in Rome for the Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment, which will continue throughout most of October. Many bishops had called for a cancellation of the Synod, suggesting that, 1) we need to address the current abuse scandal first, and 2) until we do address that scandal the bishops lack credibility in talking about youth. But the Pope apparently didn’t agree. Please pray that all goes well at the Synod.

 

Prayer to St. Michael. The last 2 weeks I have encouraged you to pray the Prayer to St. Michael frequently. Interestingly, this last week Pope Francis also called for the same thing. The powers of darkness surround us, and the devil IS laughing with delight at his many apparent successes. But St. Michael has the “power of God,” and Satan’s power is like that of an ant’s compared to God’s.

 

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

 

 

TEXT: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 30, 2018

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 30, 2018

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Today’s gospel beings with the words,

“John said to Jesus,

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…”

This is one of many many times that Scripture

recognizes the existence of demons or devils,

and the reality of their objective of tormenting man and mankind.

We can also think of Satan personally tempting Jesus in the desert,

or Eve in the Garden.

 

Christians believe this, because God revealed it to us,

and because we see the work of the devil all around us.

 

But, thanks be to God, Christians also believe in the Angels,

the holy creatures who exist to love and serve God completely,

and because God loves us, they love and serve us also.

And they also are real, personal beings.

In fact, yesterday we celebrated the feast day of 3 of these persons:

the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

St. Michael is particularly important because he is the Prince of the angels,

the General of the heavenly army of angels,

leading them in constant battle against Satan and his minions,

protecting us, and leading us in the way of peace.

 

And so the angelic-satanic battle wages.

 

One person who never had to be convinced of all this was Pope Leo XIII.

Because one day in 1881, while he was praying after Mass,

he had a supernatural vision that vividly revealed Satan and his devils

and their work to conquer mankind.

The Pope never spoke publicly about what he saw,

and there are several different versions that come down to us.

One account tells us he saw the battle vividly raging.

Another tells us that, much like in the story of Job,

he heard Jesus allow Satan to have a freer hand to tempt mankind

for a period of 50 or 60 or 100 years, or for the whole of the 20th century,

depending on what story you believe.

You can believe this or not, but, just so you know,

St. John Paul II believed that Leo had at least had a vision

of the angelic battle being waged against the demons.

So I believe it too.

 

And I think the visions were clearly prophetic,

as the next century saw the horrors of World War I and World War II,

the rise of atheistic Communism and Marxism, and radical Islamism.

And then the mainstreaming of sexual abuse and perversion, contraception,

attacks on marriage, and abortion.

Have you ever wondered why all these things are happening:

why mankind is seemingly out to destroy itself

and its relationship with God?

Even if you don’t believe in the vision of Leo, it seems pretty clear

that it’s not merely some human conspiracy,

but the cunning and calculated plan of the enemy of mankind—Satan.

 

After all, he hates man, because Man is created in the image of God,

whom he hates with his whole being.

So he hates man and tries to destroy that which is most important

for man’s happiness and wellbeing: marriage and family.

And he hates man, so he seeks to destroy his confidence and trust

in the means of his salvation, the Church,

as he first tempts priests to commit sinful acts abusing their children,

even though Jesus warns, as we read today:

“it would be better for him if a great millstone

were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

And then the devil tempts bishops and cardinals to cover it up,

and promote the abusers.

 

And he hates man, so he seeks to take his life,

so he tempts us to kill each other by the thousands and millions in war.

But not only in war, but also in the scourge that must make him most gleeful:

killing millions of little babies in abortion.

 

___

Last week, as I watched the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh,

I couldn’t help but think about all this.

First, seeing the horrible pain that Dr. Ford seems to have been through,

the effect of the devil’s turning of the act of love into an act of hate,

and so turning man against woman and woman against man.

 

But then there was also the politicians’ despicable attempts

to aggravate this division by insisting that in every claim of abuse,

we must always “believe the woman”,

no questions, no alternative explanations,

and so never believe anything the man says,

and always presume he’s guilty and should just “shut up,”

even if by all accounts he is one of the finest men you’ll ever know.

Again, the satanic turning of woman against man, absolute distrust,

that goes on to destroy all societal relationships

A destruction that goes right back to the garden of Eden.

 

But even more than all that, I saw the devil’s hand manipulating events,

as politicians continued to abuse this woman,

using her pain as a weapon in their demonic battle to defend

what seems inexplicably most precious to them:

the killing of babies in abortion.

Because that’s what this appointment to the Supreme Court is all about:

for most of us here it was about ending abortion,

and for most of the left it’s about keeping abortion.

 

___

All this, from the scandals in the Church, to the violence on the streets,

to the rise of Marxism in our own country, to terrorism,

to the degradation of marriage and sexuality,

to abortion… all of this is part of Satan’s war on mankind and God.

 

And it can be overwhelming to us, and lead us to despair and to give up.

And wouldn’t the devil like that?

 

But we don’t have to give up.

Because it’s a war against not just man, but against God as well.

And God will not lose, and he will not abandon mankind.

 

If we think about it, Pope Leo’s vision was not just of the coming days,

but really also a vision of the last days:

it sounds a lot like a vision of St. John had in the “Book of Revelation.”

And there, in “Revelation,” just when the devil seems to be winning the war,

something remarkable happens:

“war broke out in heaven:

Michael and his angels fought with the dragon;

and the dragon and his angels …did not prevail

…the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old,

called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…”

 

And so, the story goes, when Pope Leo saw this vision,

he immediately sat down and wrote a prayer,

a prayer he commanded the whole church to pray after almost every Mass.

And that prayer was the Prayer to St. Michael,

that we pray here at St. Raymond’s after every Mass.

 

For some unknown reason, Pope Paul VI lifted that requirement in 1964.

But he didn’t say we couldn’t continue the tradition of Pope Leo it if we want to.

So I have included that prayer at the end of every Mass I’ve offered

during my 22 ½ years as a priest.

 

____

My friends, St. Peter tells us in scripture:

“Be alert and of sober mind.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion

looking for someone to devour.”

 

So we must not pretend the devil’s not around, or harmless,

or not a thousand times more cunning and manipulative than we are.

That’s not to say that we can blame the devil for all our misfortunes or sins;

it is not true that, “the devil made me do it.”

No, men and women sin and do evil by their own free choosing.

But the devil is always there encouraging it,

and using our sins, coordinating our sins,

to try to destroy us, and to mock God.

 

So, we must, as St. Peter goes on to tell us, “resist him, solid in our faith.”

And we must continually call on the great Prince of the Heavenly Hosts

to defend us in our battle with Satan.

Confident, that by the power of God he will cast him and his minions

into hell forever.

 

___

Now, the name Michael is Hebrew for “who is like God.”

But we’re not sure exactly how to take this.

Catholic tradition tells us that before his fall from heaven

the angel Lucifer was so caught up in his own magnificence

that he did not want to serve, but wanted to be adored like God.

Of course, this which was his great sin, and God cast him out of heaven,

and now calls him the “enemy,” or, in Hebrew, “Satan.”

On the other hand, Michael, in his great humility, did not seek to be adored,

but to rather serve adore and lead others to serve and adore God alone.

 

So we can say, “who is like God?” as a question,

and Michael boldly answers “no one is like God.”

Or we say, “who is like God” as a description,

so that Michael in his humility is, in a way, “like God,”

like Jesus, in his humility.

 

So we not only seek Michael’s protection, but also, we seek to be like him.

First by resolutely fighting with him and his angels against Satan.

But also, by joining him in living life as he does

—humbly loving and serving God and our fellow men.

 

____

St. Michael defends us from Satan,

but perhaps the greatest thing he does for us is lead us to Christ.

And there’s no way he does this more importantly than in the Eucharist.

Many of the great saints have speculated that St. Michael was the angel

“assigned” as the guardian angel of Jesus when he was on earth.

And so the theory goes, after the Ascension, St. Michael was “assigned”

to stay as the guardian angel of Jesus on earth—in the Eucharist.

In fact, some wonder if he is not the angel referred to in the Eucharistic Prayer,

when we pray,

“command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel

to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty…”

In any case, it seems that whether in the tabernacle or on the altar

or in Holy Communion,

St. Michael is right there next to Jesus in the Eucharist,

not merely protecting and guarding him, but adoring him.

Because that is what all angels to first and foremost—they love and adore God.

 

___

“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…”

Today, be aware of the devil and all his minions that seek to harm you.

But do not be afraid.

Call on the gift God has given us to drive away all demons:

St. Michael and his angelic hosts.

And let the great Archangel not only protect you,

but also lead you to Jesus.

And as we join Michael in adoring and worshipping Our Lord

in the most Blessed Sacrament,

may we be open to receive the Eucharist grace, the true power of God,

to join the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts

in loving and serving God and our fellow man as we were created to.