Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

(This is a shortened version of my homily from Sunday, July 7. I thought I would share it with all of you.)
PATRIOTISM. The 4th of July is a day on which Americans celebrate patriotism. But not all Americans. As one newspaper headline read: “American patriotism is at a record low,” as it cited a new Gallup poll that shows a dramatic decrease when people are asked how proud they are to be American.
That may anger or sadden some of us, but is it wrong? Does God command us to be patriotic? The answer is, yes.
Jesus tells us that the 2 greatest commandments are first, to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains that our first neighbor is our parents (family), but after that our second neighbor, is our country, or our “patria” in Latin, and our fellow countrymen.
So that the 2nd great commandment applies first to parents and family and second to country and countrymen. We see this specified, if you will, in the 4th commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” God gives you parents and family to love and care for you, and in return calls you to love and care for them—to “honor” them. And in the same way, God gives us our country and fellow countrymen to love and care for us, and so we in turn must love and care for our country and countrymen.
Of course, the people in other countries are also our neighbors, and God commands us to love them also. But it’s a matter of priorities: we should love and help the people next door, but clearly before that we should take care of our families first: it’s a simple rule, “charity begins at home.”
And it’s the same thing with patriotism. We should love people in other countries, but first we should love, honor and care for our country and our countrymen.
Now, some today would equate, or conflate, “patriotism” with what has been historically called “nationalism.” Even good patriots use the term “nationalism” when I think what they really mean is “patriotism”. I wish they wouldn’t confuse the two.
Because historically “nationalism” is different from patriotism, in that historical nationalism would say not, “America first,” but “American, first, last and only.” Historical nationalism would even allow us to conquer foreign lands just because we think our nation is better and has a right to take whatever we want. That’s wrong—that is sinful.
But a patriot would not say, “American, first, last and only,” but rather, “America first, but then everyone else is second,” or better yet, “God, first, family second, and America third…and everyone else fourth.”
What about people who aren’t citizens, maybe they’re law-abiding non-citizen residents? Well, perhaps the term “fellow countryman” might include them, but even if it doesn’t, then it would simply mean that after citizens, these good people would come next in priority over all others.
But what about people who come to or remain in our country illegally —don’t we owe them honor and love, too? Yes, of course! But in order of nature and nature’s God, our priorities are family, countrymen, and then others.
Now we have to be careful. Just as patriotism isn’t historical nationalism, it also isn’t historical “nativism” —prioritizing people who are born here, so excluding immigrants. Patriotism, on the other hand, extends priority to all who share the same commitment to be part of the fabric of our country—including those whom God has moved here from other countries, and who are sincerely committed to Patriotism.
And Patriotism also isn’t the same as loving the government per se, but rather honoring the government to the extend it is part of the country and at the service of the people of the country. For example, we don’t honor the president because he’s in charge, or even because we like him as a person, but because he holds an office that is an important part of our country, and even a symbol of our country as a whole.
The thing is, Patriotism is not just an ideal, but has a practical everyday application. First of all, it means learning the history of our country, both the good and bad. But like a family that embraces the good memories and works to fix the bad, patriots celebrate the greatness in our history, even as we learn from and work to overcome our failures. But a patriot does not allow past failures to cause us to dishonor our country.
Patriotism also involves participation in the life of our nation. This includes everything from working productively in school or at a job, to raising a good and healthy family, to paying taxes. But it especially involves participating in the public square, including voting whenever there is an election, and even campaigning for candidates who truly want the best for our country.
Patriotism also means defending our country. So many of you have taken up arms to defend our country: thank you for your service, you are true patriots. But defending America also includes simply standing up for the good of our country, not being silenced by the politically correct crowd but speaking out publicly to promote what you believe is genuinely good for our country.
And Patriotism means truly striving for the good of each other. This means both providing opportunities for everyone to provide for their own well-being, primarily through just laws and a sound economic system, but also providing necessities for those who truly cannot provide for themselves.
And it means respecting each other in word and action. Like a family, we can argue, but also like a family, there are lines we know we should never cross, because we know that would be too much. Too often today our public discourse crosses those lines of respect and honor, and as patriots we cannot participate in this.
And Patriotism means honoring the symbols of our country. I have pictures of my family all over the rectory; they are just images on paper, but they remind me of my family and help me to honor and love them. It’s the same thing with the symbols of America. So, when the American flag passes or the National Anthem is played it is important to be patriotic and honor America by standing and maybe placing our hands over our hearts. When I look at a picture of my mother or father, I don’t think of the times they might have been too harsh with me—no, I focus on what made them so good, and the love between us.
So when we see the original American flag with 13 stars we shouldn’t see it as a sign of the injustices tolerated at our founding, but as a sign of the great and noble ideals enshrined in the founding—ideals like “all men are created equal”—that have propelled us to work to overcome those errors.
To some today, it seems patriotism is a dirty word, or a sign of partisanship. It should not be. Patriotism is an essential part of what it means to be a virtuous person, and a true Christian.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

TEXT: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 14, 2019

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 14, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

For many people that may happen with today’s Gospel,

as Jesus tells us that “to inherit eternal life”, to go to heaven,

we must first,

“love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,…[soul],…strength, and …mind,

and second, “…[love] your neighbor as yourself.”

 

At first glance, at least to many, Jesus seems to be giving 2 new moral laws

that sort of overrule the moral laws of the Old Testament,

in particular, the 10 Commandments.

But a more careful reading shows something very different.

Notice, it’s not Jesus who says “love the Lord your God with all your heart” etc,

it’s the other guy in the reading, the one called the “scholar of the law.”

And he does that in response to Jesus’ question: “what does the law say?”

 

And he is not a scholar of some supposedly NEW law of Jesus,

he’s a scholar of the OLD law of Moses:

he is an expert on the old moral code

that some people think Jesus is wiping out.

In fact, again, if we look a little closer

we see that the scholar is actually quoting the old law.

If we go back to the Old Testament

in chapters 5 and 6 of Deuteronomy and 19 of Leviticus

where the 10 commandments are actually listed and explained,

right at the end of those passages you find the very words

the scholar quotes to Jesus today:

“love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,…[soul],…strength, and …mind.”

and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

In short, these 2 “great commandments of love” don’t override

the 10 commandments, they summarize them;

they don’t set love in opposition to the commandments,

but show that the commandments concretely define and explain

what love of God and love of neighbor actually require.

How can you love me, God says, if you worship other gods?

And how can you love your neighbor if you kill them?

 

So what seems at first to be a new law of love,

turns out to be a re-affirmation of the old law of law of love

called “the commandments.”

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

But all this begs the question: who is my neighbor, that I’m supposed to love?

To some, in both Jesus’ time and our own,

the answer to this is not what it might at first seem.

In particular, some try to narrow down the definition of “neighbor”

to include only a few people they like.

Many of the Jews in Jesus’ time had great regard for people

like the priests and Levites, but couldn’t stand the Samaritans.

So Jesus points out, in effect:

“no, no, even the people you might otherwise despise are your neighbor.”

Or as he says elsewhere:

“You have heard that it was said,

‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

But I say to you, Love your enemies.”

 

Essentially Jesus makes it clear that your neighbor is…everyone.

And this is imbedded in the 10 commandments themselves:

notice, they say don’t say “you shall not steal from people you like,”

but simply “you shall not steal”—period.

 

On the other hand, some people effectively limit the definition of “neighbor”

to those who are strangers to us

—they like to think of their neighbor as the man

you find begging for money on the street,

or living in the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural disaster.

In some ways it’s easy to love those folks:

you hand them a 20, or you write them a check,

and you’re done with your duty to love your neighbor.

And then you can ignore

the guy sitting in the next desk at work,

whose life is a shambles after his wife left him;

or the kid in the next bunk at summer camp who no one will play with.

 

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

Somehow it’s much easier to “love” our neighbor

when we can see them as an impersonal charity case

we can throw money at,

rather than a real person we know and have to live with.

 

The bottom line is that your neighbor is

whatever person Jesus brings into your life and says, “here, help him.”

 

____

But (again,) sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

 

In fact, first impressions of today’s parable lead many to think that

love of neighbor involves sort an egalitarianism:

that we should show no partiality or priority

in loving the different neighbors in our lives.

After all, in today’s parable the Jewish Jesus shows no partiality

to His fellow Jews, the priest and the levite:

it’s the non-Jew, the Samaritan, who He identifies as “neighbor.”

 

But here again, if we put this all into the context

of the way of love rooted in the commandments,

you get a different perspective:

there is a certain priority in who you are to love and how.

If you notice in the commandments, there’s a sort of a subtle shift

between the first three commandments and the next seven:

The first 3 are directly connected to loving God:

no false gods, no taking God’s name in vain, and rest on the Lord’s Day.

But the last seven are more directly about loving your neighbor:

do not kill your neighbor, etc.

And the very first of these 7 commandments about loving your neighbor

lays out a clear priority in loving,

as it tells us: “Honor you father and mother.”

 

Right there, Almightily God tells us, love your parents first:

these are the ones He brings to you

right from the beginning of your life and says,

“here, love them,

and learn from them how to love Me

and all your other neighbors.”

 

But the thing is, this isn’t just about loving our parents:

our parents are the beginning and root of the whole family:

from moms and dads come sons and daughters and brothers and sisters.

So that this commandment is also about the priority of loving your family,

and requires not only children honoring parents,

but also parents honoring their children,

and brothers and sisters, sons and daughters,

honoring, loving, each other.

 

Who is my neighbor that I must love?

First, Jesus says, love your family.

 

And yet, how often we fail to do that.

How often do families snipe at each other, or neglect each other?

How often do children think of some cultural figure as their hero or role-model,

and ignore the truly heroic efforts and great example

of their own parents?

How many times do brothers and sisters fight and argue with each other?

How many ways do parents find time to dedicate to some great charitable cause

and but have no time for the child God has personally entrusted to them?

How many times are husband or wives

too tired from helping out at school or church

to spend even a few minutes listening to their spouses’ problems

at the end of the day?

 

Unfortunately, all too often that’s the way it is with families.

And not just natural families.

By our baptism we have been given a share in Christ’s own life,

and so in everything He has–including his sonship.

As St. Paul says: “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God.”

 

So, then, as brothers and sisters in Christ we owe each other

a love that has a certain priority over others.

If Christians can’t love one another other as Christ has loved us,

how can we love unbelievers?

 

So, yes, we must love everyone

even if they hate us, or we find the way they think or act or believe

to be strange or even repugnant,

[even if they’re terrorists or Muslims or homosexuals],

we have to love everyone.

 

But loving begins with our families, and with our family of faith.

As St. Paul says:

“let us do good to all men,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Look around you: you, we, are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

And by the grace of God, I am your spiritual father, you my sons and daughters.

 

From all this, we can see that the love rooted in the commandments

is like a seed that blossoms into a beautiful rose bush:

in the context of “love,” “honoring” a parent or a child

means so much more than we might first think.

And so, Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.”

And He explained that the fulfillment of the law rests in this:

“no greater love has a man than this,

to lay down his life for his friends.”

And He personally did that by laying down His life on the Cross,

for love of us, His friends and his family,

and love for all the world: His neighbors.

 

_____

Sometimes first impressions can be deceiving.

Sometimes we think someone is not our neighbor,

and then we discover, yes they are.

Sometimes we think we’ve been loving our neighbor,

and then we discover, no we haven’t.

Sometimes we think other people are just strangers in a crowd,

and then we discover no, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

My dear neighbors, my dear sons and daughters in Christ,

as we kneel before the Lord who lays down His life for us in this Eucharist,

let us recognize and learn from His example of love:

the love of keeping His commandments, and the love of the Cross.

And as He comes to us in Holy Communion,

let us pray that the grace of this sacrament of the love of Jesus may

transform each of your families in His love,

unite all in this parish, and all Christians,

in the love of the one family of Christ, His Church,

and give each of us the courage to love everyone God brings

to us to care for, whether family, friend, foe or stranger.

 

And let us begin anew to dedicate our lives to our most high calling in Christ, to

“love the Lord, our God,

with all our hearts,…[souls],…strength, and …minds,

….and our neighbor as ourselves.”

TEXT: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 7, 2019

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 7, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

Last Thursday we remembered July 4th, 1776,

Independence Day, the birthday of our Country.

And we rightly celebrated with cookouts, parades, speeches and fireworks.

It is a day of great national love and pride,

and mutual goodwill among Americans.

A day celebrating patriotism.

 

But not for everyone.

As one newspaper headline read: “American patriotism is at a record low,”

as it cited a new Gallup poll that shows dramatic decreases

when people are asked how proud they are to be American.

We see this same sentiment expressed by the actions

of some NFL players and members of the US Women’s Soccer team

during the playing of the national anthem.

And we see it when Nike cancels a line of shoes with the original American flag.

 

That may anger some of us, but is it wrong?

Does God command us to be patriotic?

The answer is, yes.

 

Jesus tells us that the 2 greatest commandments are

first, to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,

and second, to love your neighbor as yourself.

As St. Thomas Aquinas explains that our first neighbor is our family,

especially our parents,

but after that our second neighbor, so to speak,

is our country, or our “patria” in Latin, and our fellow countrymen.

 

So that the 2nd great commandment applies first to parents and family

and second to country and countrymen.

We see this specified, if you will, in the 4th commandment:

“Honor your father and mother.”

God gives you parents and family to love and care for you,

and in return calls you to love and care for them—to “honor” them.

And in the same way, God gives us our country and fellow countrymen

to love and care for us,

and so we in turn must love and care for our country and countrymen

—we must honor it and them.

 

So, for example, we read in today’s first reading:

“Thus says the LORD: Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,

all you who love her…”

This is talking about the virtue of love of country:

Jerusalem stood for the whole country of Israel.

This is Patriotism.

And we see the same virtue in Jesus Himself.

Once when Jesus was going to Jerusalem, the gospels tell us:

“when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it,”

because He saw how Jerusalem would reject Him,

and how this would lead to her destruction at the hands of Rome.

Loving our neighbor demands love of patria, country.

 

___

Of course, the people in other countries are also our neighbors,

and God commands us to love them also.

But it’s a matter of priorities:

we should love and help the people next door,

but clearly before that we should take care of our families first:

it’s a simple rule, “charity begins at home.”

 

And it’s the same thing with patriotism.

We should love people in other countries,

but first we should love, honor and care for our country

and our countrymen,

and then love and help folks in other countries.

 

__

Now, some today say that this is wrongheaded.

Many would equate, or conflate, “patriotism

with what has been historically called “nationalism.”

Even good patriots do this

—use the term “nationalism

when I think what they really mean is “patriotism”.

I wish they wouldn’t confuse the two.

 

Because historically “nationalism” is different from patriotism,

in that historical nationalism would say

not, “America first,” but “American, first, last and only.”

Historical nationalism would even allow us to conquer foreign lands

just because we think our nation is better

and has a right to take whatever we wants.

That’s nationalism, and that is wrong—that is sinful.

 

Patriotism does not do that.

A Patriot would not say, “American, first, last and only,

but rather, “American first, but then everyone else is second,”

or better yet,

“God, first, family second, and America third…and everyone else fourth.”

 

__

Now, some might say, but Father, what about people who aren’t citizens,

maybe they’re law-abiding non-citizen residents,

but not technically “American”?

Well, perhaps the meaning of the term “fellow countryman” might include them,

but even if it doesn’t, then it would simply mean that after citizens,

these good people would come next in priority over all others.

 

But what about people who come to or remain in our country illegally

—don’t we owe them honor and love too?

Yes, of course!

But in order of nature and nature’s God,

our priorities are family, countrymen, and then others.

 

___

Now we have to be careful.

First, as I said, I wish people would stop using the term “nationalism”

when they mean “patriotism.”

 

But also, just as patriotism isn’t historical nationalism,

patriotism also isn’t historical “nativism

—“nativism” means placing priority on people who are born here,

or even who’s great-grandparents were born here,

so they’d been here for generations,

and that would exclude immigrants.

Patriotism, on the other hand,

extends priority to all who share the same commitment

to be part of the fabric of our country

—including those whom God has moved here from other countries,

immigrants,

and who are sincerely committed to patriotism.

 

And Patriotism also isn’t the same as loving the government per se,

but rather honoring the government to the extend it is part of the country

and at the service of the people of the country.

For example, we don’t honor the president because he’s in charge,

or even because we like him as a person,

but because he holds an office that is an important part of our country,

and even a symbol of our country as a whole.

 

____

The thing is, patriotism is not just an ideal,

but has a practical everyday application.

 

First of all, it means learning the history of our country, both the good and bad.

But like a family that embraces the good memories and works to fix the bad,

patriots celebrate the greatness in our history,

even as we learn from and work to overcome our failures.

But a patriot does not allow past failures to cause us to dishonor our country.

 

Patriotism also involves participation in the life of our nation.

This includes everything from

working productively in school or at a job,

to raising a good and healthy family,

to paying taxes.

But it especially involves participating in the public square,

including voting whenever there is an election,

and even campaigning for candidates who truly want the best for our country.

 

Patriotism also means defending our country.

So many of you have dedicated your lives, or part of your lives, to this,

taking up arms and uniforms for our country:

thank you for your service, you are true patriots.

But defending America also includes simply standing up and speaking out

for the good of our country,

not being silenced by the politically correct crowd,

but using your God-given and constitutionally protected

freedom of speech and assembly to publicly promote

what you believe is genuinely good for our country.

 

And patriotism means truly striving for the good of each other.

This means both providing opportunities

for everyone to provide for their own well-being,

primarily through just laws and a sound economic system,

but also providing necessities for those

who truly cannot provide for themselves.

 

And it means respecting each other in word and action.

Like a family, we can argue, we can even call each other names.

But also like a family, there are lines we know we should never cross,

words we should never use,

because we know that would be too much, that would be a dishonor.

Too often today our public discourse crosses those lines of respect and honor,

and as patriots we cannot condone this.

 

And Patriotism means honoring the symbols our country.

I have pictures of my family all over the rectory;

they are just images on paper,

but they remind me of my family and help me to honor and love them.

It’s the same thing with the symbols of America.

So, when the American flag passes or the National Anthem is played

it is important to be patriotic and honor America

by standing and maybe placing our hands over our hearts,

whatever the custom is.

When I look at a picture of my mother or father,

I don’t think of the times they might have been unjust or too harsh with me

—no, I focus on what made them so good, and the love between us.

 

So we don’t burn the American flag, but salute it.

And when we see the original American flag that has 13 stars

—the so called “Betsy Ross Flag”—

we shouldn’t choose to see it as a sign

of the injustices that were tolerated at our founding,

but as a sign of the great and noble ideals enshrined in the founding

–ideas like “all men are created equal”–

that have propelled us to work to overcome those errors.

 

______

To some today, it seems patriotism is a dirty word, or a sign of partisanship.

It is not.

Patriotism is an essential part of what it means to be a virtuous person,

and a true Christian.

And to fail to strive to be a patriot is to sin.

 

As we now enter more deeply into this Holy Mass, let us pray for America.

And let us pray that all who live in our great country may join together as patriots

to cherish and honor her for the good she has done,

and work together to correct her faults.

And as we receive Our Lord Jesus in Holy Communion,

may give us the grace to love our neighbor as we ought,

and increase in us the noble and necessary virtue of patriotism.

 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

God bless America! Oremus pro invicem, et pro patria nostrum.
Fr. De Celles

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

TEXT: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 30, 2019

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 30, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

This Thursday we celebrate the Fourth of July,

commemorating that great day in 1776

when our founders signed their names

to the Declaration of Independence,

giving birth to a new nation conceived in the radical notion that:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty

and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

A very simple statement, but a very profound ideal.

 

A few years later, having won their War of Independence,

some of those same men, along with other patriots,

came up with a plan to make that ideal of a nation become a reality.

The Constitution they gave us began with the words stating their purpose:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to

form a more perfect Union, establish Justice,

ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,

promote the general Welfare,

and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

 

Both of these foundational documents set an ambitious plan for the new nation,

that has led us to become perhaps the greatest nation

the earth has ever seen.

And at the heart of this greatness is the one key ideal

enshrined in both documents: Liberty.

 

Liberty—a precious word, a noble ideal, a principle to fight and die for.

But with all that, what does it mean?

 

Does it mean freedom to do whatever you want?

Freedom from any constraints—legal, social, economic, moral or religious?

 

But how could a nation survive like that

—if everyone just did whatever they wanted?

 

And on the other hand, if we put constraints on freedom

how could we really live in liberty?

 

The answer is that some constraints, which seem at first to take away freedom,

actually enhance freedom.

So, while, for example, self-discipline

seems to be an act against freedom to do as you feel like,

in reality it allows you to control your irrational emotions and appetites

so that you can make a rational choice of what is best for you.

As St. Paul reminds us today:

“do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;

….For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,

…these are opposed to each other,

so that you may not do what you want.”

 

It’s the same with all social disciplines—rules, laws, norms—

that help control passions and impulses

so that “we the people” can live together in

“a more perfect Union”, with “Justice,” and “domestic Tranquility,

and in all this “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”

 

But all of this presupposes that we can all agree on basic principles,

that we share a fundamental set of common values

that help define and even limit the laws we enact to discipline ourselves.

 

And from the very beginning Americans have shared a common set of values.

And they begin with two principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

First: the idea that there are some “self-evident truths”

          –truths that we just know, that are obvious either at first sight,

or after careful rational consideration.

And second: that one of these self-evident truths is that there is a “Creator,” God,

who gives us not only certain unalienable rights,

but also gives us all the self-evident truths

that he writes into all creation: certain natural laws.

As the Declaration calls them, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

 

So we begin with these 2 most fundamental American values,

and from them flow all sorts of other American values

about the way things ought to be.

 

But nowadays, people blush or even get angry

if you talk about God ordering things.

But there it is, right in beginning of our nation.

And without that idea that God determines what is right and wrong

—not kings or lords or congressmen or presidents or judges—

without that there never would have been an America,

and America couldn’t have grown to be the great nation it became.

 

And the thing is, right from the beginning it wasn’t just a vague notion of

“a supreme being” or “creator” or nameless-“god” out there somewhere

that America looked to for guidance.

It was the God that almost every American worshiped and believed in.

The God that George Washington spoke of in 1783,

when he wrote the Governors of the States as he disbanded his Army, about:

“the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion,

…without an humble imitation of whose example in these things,

we can never hope to be a happy nation.”

 

He was speaking of Jesus Christ, and the “blessed religion” he founded,

that we call “Christianity.”

 

At the same time, Washington knew

that many Christians disagreed on certain tenets of the faith:

Catholics, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists

—they each had their own unique ideas about certain things.

Nevertheless, he called for us to tolerate those differences,

while at the same time recognizing and building

our United States of America

on the fundamental values we all held in common,

what he called, “the pure spirit of Christianity.”

Let’s be clear—the differences are important,

but the point is, so are the basic Christian values held in common.

 

Nowadays the different Christian denominations and Churches

have a lot of radical differences in their teachings, especially about morals.

But that’s not the way it was in 1776.

All Christians shared basically the same set of fundamental moral beliefs.

And those Christian beliefs formed the fundamental Common “American values.”

 

____

Unfortunately, our founding was imperfect

—because while it was founded on solid Christian principles,

it was also founded by men.

As Virginia’s James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, No. 51,

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

 

So, for example,

while professing the basic Christian value “that all men are created equal,”

and holding that, as St. Paul says, “For freedom Christ set us free,”

the founders wound up tolerating a terrible exception to that norm:

slavery.

Eventually, it was devout Christians who organized the Abolitionist Movement.

But in the end the evil of slavery had to be cut out by force, by bloody Civil War.

As President Lincoln would admonish his fellow Americans, north and south,

after the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in that war:

“we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain

that this nation, under God,

                                      shall have a new birth of freedom

                             —and that government of the people, by the people,

for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

A nation under God, given a new birth in freedom,

but this time even more closely aligned to the fundamental Christian values

“of the people”—“American values.”

 

____

Sadly, today, most Americans have lost any sense

of our foundation on Christian values.

And so the question must be asked:

can a nation founded on Christian values

survive if it casts off those Christian values?

 

If it replaces those Christian values

with Secular Humanist, Marxist or Atheistic values?

Values based on the false notion of liberty

as a freedom to do whatever you want, or whatever you’re told.

Values not ordered by self-evident truths that God wrote into our very nature,

but in the dictates from relativistic laws and even lies

that change almost from day to day.

Values that allow our feelings and impulses to dominate our reason

and blind us to ignore “self-evident truths,”

and so enslave us to our base desires and ignorance.

 

As St. Paul reminds us:

“For freedom Christ set us free;

so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

How can the nation conceived in liberty survive

if the values that keep liberty from becoming chaos and slavery

are ignored or cast aside?

 

____

Yet some Americans continue to do just that.

For example, some argue passionately that so-called “gay marriage”

is a matter of equal rights.

But from since 1776, and for over 200 years, in the same way

Americans believed it was a self-evident truth that

God created us all equal in dignity and rights,

Americans also believed that it was a self-evident truth

that God also created men and women different in their bodies,

so that, by their nature, they could be joined together

in a union ordered toward producing and raising children

–a union they called “marriage,”

a union which self-evidently excludes homosexual couples.

 

It’s absurd to say that what almost all Americans have believed for 2 centuries

is somehow inconsistent with the values enshrined in the Constitution.

 

You can see the same thing with those who promote “transgenderism.”

The way you feel dictates how others have to treat you,

even if that directly contradicts the absolutely clear “self-evident truth”

that boys are boys and girls are girls.

 

Or think about all the rhetoric about a woman’s absolute “right to choose.”

But since modern science clearly tells us what most Americans have always known,

that an unborn baby is a human life,

how does a woman have an absolute right to kill that baby?

How does that work—what about the equal rights of the baby?

 

And consider religious liberty.

Today leading politicians try to argue that “freedom of religion”

is actually “freedom from religion.”

And Christians who hold the same basic moral values as our founders,

are called “haters,” “bigots,” and even “immoral” and “un-American.”

They’re even questioned as being suitable for public office,

especially judgeships: remember, “the dogma lives loud within you.”

 

I could go on, but I won’t.

 

____

How can this be in America?

Are these the values George Washington and Abraham Lincoln proclaimed?

Are these the values Frederick Douglas or Martin Luther King proclaimed?

Are these the values hundreds of thousands of Americans,

including so many of you in this church today,

have fought, sacrificed and even died for on battlefields around the world?

Are these the American values

that so many of you who are immigrants to our country

left home and family to pursue as you came to the “land of liberty”?

 

Yet it that’s where we are at today.

How can we survive this, especially if our Christian values are replaced by values

that directly contradict those Christian values?

We did that once, with slavery, when we tried to say

that mere human laws could redefine what it means to be a human.

For four score and seven years it ate at the fiber of our nation

until it almost destroyed it.

We can’t compromise the self-evident truth about the order that God created.

And we cannot maintain a nation that rose above all others

based on the common Christian values it embraced,

if we discard those values or embrace their opposites.

 

____

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July

we rightly thank God for the many gifts

he has bestowed upon our nation for these last 243 years.

But let us also pray for a renewal and rediscovery

of the fundamental American values

that for 2 centuries allowed us to use those gifts wisely

to become a truly great nation.

Values that are nothing less than the fundamental values of Christianity.

 

So that those values may, by the grace of Jesus Christ,

once again lead our nation to recognize the self-evident truths

written in nature by the God who created us all.

 

“For freedom Christ set us free;

so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Lead us not into temptation.” Last week I explained that the Italian Bishops had
changed the Italian translation of the “sixth petition” of the “Our Father” from, “and lead
us not into temptation,” to, “and do not abandon us in temptation,” arguing that the
ancient translation is too confusing.
Fortunately, the American Bishops have not even discussed adopting a similar
change. Which is a good thing, since noted experts in ancient Greek argue the new
translation is inaccurate, and the ancient translation—which we use—is correct.
Moreover, as noted theologian Monsignor Nicola Bux has observed, the Italian change
has caused many to “wonder whether the Church, for two thousand years, was not
mistaken in ‘obeying the Savior’s command,’ and whether it ‘conformed to His divine
teaching.’” He concluded: “If the petition in question was considered incomprehensible,
was it not enough to explain it in a catechesis?”
So let’s explain it in a catechesis, borrowing from the greatest catechist of the last
50 years, Pope Benedict XVI, writing in Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the
Jordan to the Transfiguration, pp. 160-164.
“The way this petition is phrased is shocking for many people: God certainly does
not lead us into temptation. In fact, as St. James tells us: “Let no one say when he is
tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself
tempts no one.” (Jas 1:13).
“We are helped a further step along when we recall the words of the Gospel:
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Mt
:1) [my emphasis added]. Temptations come from the devil, but part of Jesus’ messianic
task is to withstand the great temptations that have led man away from God and continue
to do so. As we have seen, Jesus must suffer through these temptations to the point of
dying on the Cross, which is how He opens the way of redemption for us. Thus it is not
only after His death, but already by His death and during His whole life, that Jesus
“descends into hell,” as it were, into the domain of our temptations and defeats in order
to take us by the hand and carry us out….
“A brief look at the Book of Job… can help us clarify things further. Satan derides
man in order to deride God: God’s creature, whom He has formed in His own image, is a
pitiful creature. ….God gives Satan the freedom to test Job, though within precisely
defined boundaries. God does not abandon man, but He does Him allow to be tried.
“….In order to mature, in order to make real progress on the path leading from a
superficial piety into a profound oneness with God’s will, man needs to be tried. Just as
the juice of a grape has to ferment in order to become a fine wine, so too man needs
purifications and transformations; they are dangerous for him, because they present an
opportunity for him to fall, and yet they are indispensable as paths on which he comes to
himself and to God…
“Now we are in a position to interpret the sixth petition … in a more practical
way. When we pray it, we are saying to God: I know that I need trials so that my nature
can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room
to maneuver, … then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don’t
overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be

tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.
It was in this sense that Saint Cyprian interpreted the sixth petition. He says that when we
pray, “And lead us not into temptation,” we are expressing our awareness “that the
enemy can do nothing against us unless God has allowed it beforehand, so that our fear,
our devotion and our worship may be directed to God—because the Evil One is not
permitted to do anything unless he is given authorization” (De dominica oration 25…).
“And then pondering the psychological patter of temptation, he explains that there
can be two different reasons why God grants the Evil One a limited power. It can be a
penance for us, in order to dampen our pride…. Let us think of the Pharisee who
recounts his own works to God and imagines he is not in need of grace.
“…. When we pray the sixth petition of the Our Father, we must therefore, on one
hand, be ready to take upon ourselves the burden of trials that is meted out to us. On the
other hand, the object of the petition is to ask God not to mete out more than we can
bear, not to let us slip from His hands. We make this prayer in the trustful certainty that
Saint Paul has articulated for us: "God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted
beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that
you may be able to endure it." (1 Cor 10:13)”

Independence Day. This Thursday is the 4 th of July, Independence Day, or we might say
“Liberty Day.” “Liberty” does not mean a freedom from responsibility, quite the
contrary. Liberty is a demanding servant and master—it both benefits us, and places
demands on us. Liberty demands that we defend it—that we sacrifice and fight to
preserve it. True liberty is a freedom to become the good men and women we have the
potential to be, that God calls us to be. As such, the most fundamental type or aspect of
liberty is Religious Liberty. So this Thursday, take time to give thanks to God for the
liberty He has given our nation, and to recommit yourself to both use your freedoms well,
and to continue to fight to preserve them.

Choir Takes the Summer Off. With Corpus Christi Sunday behind us, the choir will
take the rest of the summer off. I’m sure you join me in appreciation for all the beautiful
music they have provided us with this last year. The Mass is not about the music, but the
music our choir provides is definitely about the Mass, and helps us to more deeply enter
into the solemnity and reverence of the Holy Sacrifice. Thank you, choir members, and
especially Elisabeth Turco (director) and Denise Anezin (organist), and have a great and
restful summer.

Steve Adragna, Pro-Life Candidate. I do not publicly support or endorse any candidate
for public office. But I can tell you that pro-abortion extremist Kathy Tran is being
challenged for re-election as State Delegate for District 42 (our district) by pro-life Steve
Adragna, who is one of our parishoners. The election will be on November 5, 2019.
God bless them both. I beg you to consider being active in this election, primarily by
voting, but also with your checkbooks and volunteering to actively work for the defense
of human life in the Commonwealth.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Corpus Christi Sunday. Today Holy Mother Church calls us to appreciate more fully the rich meaning of the Most Holy Eucharist. While we also do this on Holy Thursday, the other great mysteries we remember during Holy Week and the Triduum may cause us to not spend as much time focusing on the Sacrament as we might. So today’s feast was established to pause and look at the mystery more carefully.
How much of the truth about the Eucharist do we take for granted, or forget? How much do we not even know? Over the last 50 years many of the truths about the Eucharist have been downplayed, ignored, or even denied in preaching and catechesis. Thanks be to God, St. Raymond’s parishioners have developed a strong devotion to the Eucharist. Our beautiful church building testifies to this, saying: “this is the house of the Lord, where He is worshipped adored and loved, and where He remains truly, bodily, present.”
Even so, there is still much work to do for all of us. As St. John Paul II use to say, “the body speaks.” The bodily Eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ speaks to us saying, “This is My body given up for you.” But how do our bodies speak back to Him? Our bodily expressions of faith and devotion toward the Eucharist speak volumes, both to others and to ourselves. So please consider the following. DO WE:
— genuflect before Our Lord present in the tabernacle?
— chat loudly in church as if the Lord of Heaven were not present?
— spend time with Our Lord during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament?
— dress modestly and respectfully at Mass?
— focus prayerfully on the miracle transpiring on the altar during Mass?
— receive Holy Communion reverently?
— observe the Eucharistic fast for one hour before Communion?
— examine our consciences so we don’t receive unworthily?
— approach Communion prayerfully, not looking around or laughing?
— show some sign of reverence immediately before receiving Holy Communion: bowing or genuflecting, or even kneeling?
— If we receive in our hands:
— Do we extend both hands, one on top of the other?
— Do we immediately reverently consume the Host?
— Do we stay after Mass to give thanks?
— Do we teach our children to do these things?

I am always moved and edified by the level of reverence our parish displays at Mass and during Communion. But we can all use a reminder now and again.

New Altar Rail and Pulpit. In February I told you that I was considering installing a permanent marble communion rail, and perhaps a new pulpit, and requested your input/feedback. Although I hoped to hear from more of you, I did receive emails from 50 parishioners concerning the rail: 37 were in favor, 11 opposed, 1 deferred to my opinion and 1 was undecided. I also received 42 emails concerning the new pulpit: 21 in favor, 9 deferring to my opinion, 10 opposed, and 2 undecided. In sum, 78% of respondents either want a permanent rail or defer to my opinion, and 70% want (or to defer my opinion) a new pulpit.
Now, this was not a vote, nor was it a scientific poll. And as I said, I wish I had more responses. But it seems reasonable for me to conclude that I can proceed according to my best judgment. So, I have decided to install a permanent communion rail and a new pulpit.
I have looked at several preliminary sketches prepared by a church designer, I have decided on a marble rail with pillars matching the reddish/orangish pillars on the main and high altars and current pulpit. The rail will have small arches between the pillars, reflecting the arches throughout the church. Accepting the advice of many emailers we will not remove any pews to make room for the rail, so we will have to slightly reconfigure the steps in the front of the sanctuary, moving the second step back about 4 or 5 feet. Also, we will install communion rails in front of the statues of Mary and Joseph, so that folks sitting in the side transepts will also receive at the rail. We will also replace the carpeting in front of those statues with marble.
We will replace our pulpit with one that is slightly smaller but less confining for the reader, and more firmly constructed. It will however incorporate much of the current design, so that it will look like the “son of” our current pulpit.
The designer is working on a final plan for both the altar rail and pulpit. When it is available I will make it available to you. The installation will not be done until next summer, June of 2020. We won’t have to close the church, but we will have to be creative in configuring things for Mass.
Simple Pledge Drive. But two things have to happen before I can do this: 1) I must get approval of the Bishop, and 2) we must raise the money: the cost is estimated to be about $60,000 for the rail and $15,000 for the pulpit. In the coming weeks we will send out an email to all parishioners providing them with the opportunity to pledge. If you want the rail and new pulpit, please join me in paying for them. I will begin by pledging $500 myself. But if we don’t raise the money through these pledges, we will not move forward—the offertory collection will not be used to pay for this.

Scholarships to Catholic Schools. School is out, but this is the time when parents should look ahead to consider where their children will attend school next year. I truly regret that we don’t have a parish school that would provide an affordable quality education in a truly Catholic culture for all our children. But we don’t.
So, as an alternative the parish offers scholarships to our parish children to attend local Catholic grade and high schools. These scholarships are conditioned on the active involvement of the families in the life of the parish and are usually $500 for grade school students (or the difference between “in parish” and “out of parish” tuition rates) and $1000 to high school students. However, where the situation warrants, we will gladly give additional tuition aid—just ask. I PROMISE: If you want your kids in Catholic schools, I will do my best to help make that happen. Please contact me if you want to discuss this.
Please also remember our long-term special relationship with Angelus Academy, where I am Chaplain. Also, we also offer financial assistance to families who choose to homeschool.

“Religious Freedom Week.” “Religious Freedom Week” began yesterday, June 22, and will continue to next Saturday, June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. St. Raymond’s will keep this “Week” by:
· praying the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” after every Mass;
encouraging all parishioners to pray the “Prayer for Religious Freedom” daily at home, and perhaps also making the Novena to St. Thomas More.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles