November 6, 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.
In the way the Church counts time, November is the last month of the year,
and the Church.s new year begins with Advent.
And as we come to the end of the year, we consider the end of our time on earth,
in particular we consider the “Last Things”:
death, judgment, heaven and hell.
So we began the month of November with All Saints. Day,
remembering all those who have died and gone to heaven.
And then the next day we celebrated All Souls. Day,
remembering all those who have died and are purgatory.
But both of these days also call us to look at ourselves,
and ask the questions:
am I ready to die?
have I prepared to be judged by Christ?
have I prepared myself for heaven…or for hell?
This theme continues throughout this month
and so today the gospel focuses us on preparing for the end, or death.
Think about these 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins.
Jesus tells us:
“The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”
In other words, both had their lamps filled with oil,
but the wise brought extra oil, preparing for the worst
—in case the bridegroom arrived late.
They looked not at just the short-term,
but also at the long-term effects of burning their lamps.
They were planning ahead, taking care of the now, but with eyes on the future.
But the foolish virgins were not thinking ahead, but focused on the short-term.
And so when the bridegroom came and they weren.t prepared,
he locked the door and said to them:
“Amen… I do not know you.”
This reminds us that we all need to be prepared, looking to the future
and not just being concerned with problems that will soon pass away.
Now, some of you might say, “but Father, Jesus also tells us:
„do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself…”
But actually this makes my point.
Because in that passage Jesus is telling his disciples
not to worry about material goods…
“what you are to wear,” or “what you are to eat…”
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….”
He makes the point, as he so often does,
that we must be morally and spiritually prepared for God.s judgment,
when the time comes for each of us.
So how do we prepare for judgment?
First of all, you begin by learning about God,
by reading the Scriptures, the Catechism, and other good Catholic books.
And then you add prayer,
talking with and listening to God.
And then we have the sacraments,
especially confession and the Eucharist, fonts of grace.
All this brings you close to God and strengthens your friendship with Him,
so that you can always resist sin and be prepared for heaven.
And that leads us to the final way to prepare:
we must avoid sin and live the righteous life Jesus calls us to.
Remember the rich young man asked Jesus
“what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
And Jesus responded without hesitation: “Keep the Commandments.”
All these—learning, prayer, grace, and righteous living—
prepare us for the final judgment
—they are the oil in our lamps when the bridegroom comes.
But sometimes we have a hard time seeing the importance of all this preparation,
usually because we tend, like the foolish virgins,
to focus on the short-term, rather than the long-term.
We think praying or reading a holy book is a good idea,
but we.ll do it later;
right now we.d rather watch TV, or play a game, or make some money.
Short-term thinking, so often dominated by our passions
like fear, greed, envy or lust,
doesn.t prepare us for the long-term “problem” of judgment.
On the other hand, sometimes,
we do recognize the long-term “problem” of God.s judgment,
but we think we.ll have time between now and then to straighten up,
to pray and read more, and to repent sin.
But there are a couple of problems with that.
First of all, today.s parable says:
“Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”
We.ve lived for 20 or 50 or 80 years and we haven.t died yet,
so we start to think it will be another 20 or 50 or 80 years before we do die.
Like the foolish virgins, we.ve been lulled to sleep.
But then one day we.ll wake up from this foolish dream and—surprise!:
“Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
The second problem with thinking we can deal with long-term problems later
is that by ignoring them today they can get worse as time goes on.
For example, a new husband knows marriage must be based on mutual trust,
but early on he discovers that telling little lies
can save him a lot of troubles with his wife.
After awhile, though, big lies become even more handy than little lies,
and soon the wife loses all trust in him,
and their marriage falls apart altogether.
Focusing on the short-term problems,
can often make the long-term problems into long-term disasters.
I could go on and on with examples of this.
But there.s one very important example I.d like to focus on now,
something coming up this week.
That is this Tuesday.s elections of our state and local leaders.
A recent poll tells us that when Americans were asked
what the most important problem facing the country today is,
first on the list, at 57%, was the “economy and jobs”1,
1 CBS News Poll. Oct. 19-24, 2011. N=1,650 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3. http://www.pollingreport.com/prioriti.htm; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/17/us/politics/20110917_poll_results.html?ref=publicopinion
while second on the list,
but with only 5% saying it was most important,
was the budget deficit and national debt.
Now, without being political here, isn.t it interesting
that the immediate fears about the economy
so completely overshadow the long-term problem of the national debt
—57 to 5%?
I think we can all agree it is an extremely bad idea
to vote based strictly on short-term problems
while ignoring long-term problems,
—especially when they might eventually be much more devastating.
But that.s exactly what we tend to do.
At the moment, Americans seem to be focused
on short-term economic problems.
Some are driven by envy, some by greed.
But most are driven by fear,
fear of economic hardship and job losses,
of losing life savings, or retirement funds.
With all those passions in play,
is it any wonder folks can.t see the forest for the trees
—can.t see long-term catastrophes for the short-term problems in the way.
Unfortunately, this maxim seems to apply particularly
with regard to 2 other huge problems facing our country
that didn.t even make it to 1% in the poll:
the problems of abortion and same-sex marriage.
Folks tend to see abortion and same-sex marriage as long-term problems.
In the case of abortion, for example, they think,
“we.ve been making slow but steady progress for 40 years,
but it.s going to take years more to change hearts, minds and laws….
So right now let.s take care of the economy and deal with abortion later.”
But we can.t afford this kind of thinking.
Because for one thing, it.s driven by our passions, not logic.
How can a society based on fear, greed, and envy,
much less lust, hatred and laziness,
For another thing, it ignores the fact
that what we see as merely long-term problems
actually include real and important short-term problems.
For example, some look at abortion and see a long-term problem
that may take years to solve.
But it.s estimated that 1 to 1.4 million unborn babies
will be aborted this year alone:
that is real and terrible short-term problem.
Think about it: what would we do if terrorists threatened
to explode a nuclear bomb killing a million Americans?
Would we say, “well the War on Terrorism is a long drawn out process,
but the economy—that.s today.s problem?”
I don.t think so.
We.d drop everything else
and focus on protecting the lives of those million Americans?
But beyond that,
this kind of thinking focusing on the short-term and ignoring the long term,
ignores the fact that if we don.t address the long-term problem right now
it will only become worse…in the long-term.
Part of our problem here is we don.t see what terrible long-term consequences
that abortion and same-sex marriage will have for our society.
We see the short-term problem and think this is as bad as it gets.
But that.s not how it works.
The 40 years of waiting to end abortion
have seen some progress in changing hearts and minds,
but in the meantime
it has also fostered a growing basic disrespect for human life
throughout our society.
We see this as the creation of human life is reduced
to manufacturing an embryo in a Petri-dish as if it were a commodity,
and then we treat it like a commodity
by freezing “it” or using “it” in medical experiments.
And we see it in the way women are treated as objects,
especially in the rise in pornography, rape and abuse.
And we see it in a rise in human trafficking, drug use, suicide, and euthanasia.
The same can be said for same-sex marriage.
After decades of compromising in the name of tolerance
somehow we.ve moved from tolerance of same-sex attraction
to forced acceptance
to mandatory approval—even of “gay marriage.”
Not to mention the ostracizing of traditional Christians as “bigots.”
This is where focusing on the short-term and ignoring the long-term has led us:
where will it lead us in the even longer term?
What are the long-term effects of saying marriage is whatever you want it to be?
Even now we see movements pushing to legitimize polygamy, incest, bestiality,
and even pedophilia.
And if the government can completely redefine what marriage is,
they can completely redefine what parenting is, and the rights of parents.
15 years ago people called me crazy when I warned them
same sex marriage was on its way.
Where will we be 15 years from now?
All this because we ignored the long-term
in favor of focusing on short-term.
But there.s an even greater problem with this wrong notion
short-term vs. long-term.
The ultimate long-term problem is… our death, and God.s judgment.
You may think it.s okay to take care of the economy today,
and worry about abortion and marriage tomorrow.
But God doesn.t think so.
It.s really very simple.
Remember Jesus tells the rich young that “to inherit eternal life”
he must, “keep the Commandments.”
And when the rich man says, “which [ones]” Jesus immediately responds:
“You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery…”
Without these 2 basic rules about respecting life and marriage-and-family,
what other rules make any sense?
And so as Pope Benedict wrote in 2007:
“…respect for human life…from conception to natural death,
[and] the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman…
These values are not negotiable.”
And as our own Bishop Loverde wrote last week, with the bishop of Richmond
“protecting life …should be our highest consideration when we vote.
…the fundamental right to life, … outweighs other matters.”
Because of this, it is almost never morally acceptable to vote for or support
a candidate who is not clearly pro-life and pro-tradition marriage,
when there is a viable pro-life and pro-marriage alternative candidate.
Now I say “almost,” because there might be a case someday,
where, for example, some pro-life candidate comes out in favor of
unprovoked nuclear war….
Maybe that would be the exception.
But there.s nothing remotely like that in this election.
Unfortunately, sometimes it.s hard to figure out
who the pro-life/pro-marriage candidates are.
So if you need help, I suggest you go to the website of
the Virginia Catholic Conference where there.s lots of information
— the address in today.s bulletin insert,
and there.s a link on the parish website.
I.d like to be more directly helpful in this regard,
but I.m pretty restricted by IRS rules and diocesan policies.
But let me say this:
according to their party platforms,
the Virginia Democrat party,
is officially supportive
of both abortion and “gay marriage.”
while the Virginia Republican party
is officially pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.
And, according to the information on the Virginia Catholic Conference website
the Republican and Democrat candidates
for senator and delegate
in the districts within our parish boundaries,
all seem to support their own party’s positions
on abortion and marriage.
I have neither endorsed, nor rejected any candidate.
In this month of November, the Church calls us to think about our lives,
and to think about our deaths.
Are we ready for the final judgment, that can come at any time for any of us?
If we are prepared, we have nothing to fear
as the Lord Jesus will welcome us with joy
into the perfect happiness of heaven.
But if we are not prepared,
if we.ve gotten all caught up in the passions of here and now,
and lost sight of the important long term problems we must face…
Well, then, we should change.
Lest we become like the fools
who stand outside the locked door of heaven crying:
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
While the Lord says to us in reply: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.”