TEXT: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2016

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 16, 2016

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

 

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

These words echo over the last 2000 years,

reverberating in each age from then till now.

Every generation of the church has caused us to repeat this question,

as we’ve seen persecutions, schisms, heresies, laxity and immorality

plague the Church

Not to mention periods where decadence and ignorance

dominated the life of Christian societies.

 

This is our history: the history of Christianity and Christians.

And today is no exception, in fact it seems, to many, to be the worst of all.

We see Christian societies racing to abandon Christ at every turn.

And we see so many blaming Christianity for their problems.

On and on.

 

But what troubles me more than anything

is supposedly faithful Catholics and Protestants participating in all this.

We’re all sinners, but more and more Christians

are embracing sins and infidelity to Christ as normal.

We allow others to degrade our religion and faith, to call us bigots,

to take away our rights and liberty.

We allow government officials to tell us we can’t even teach

our values to our children in our schools.

We allow them to threaten churches and Christians with reprisals

for following their faith in Christ.

And we nominate a presidential candidate who says:

Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will.

And deep-seated …religious beliefs … have to be changed.”

 

And we allow ourselves and our children

to be immersed in this and even accept this

without recognizing and opposing the injustice and lies of it all.

 

Are we surprised that Jesus asks:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

 

____

Okay, so what to do?

First, we have to strengthen our own faith.

Faith itself is believing in something.

As St. Paul tells us today:

“Remain faithful to what you have learned…!”

So we have to learn: go to talks, read the Catechism and good books.

But above all read the Bible: as St. Paul continues today:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation,

for correction, and for training in righteousness…”

 

Then you have to be righteousinternalize what you learn and live your faith:

you learn your faith, in part, so you can be, as St. Paul says,

“equipped for every good work.”

“Good works” meaning not just acts of charity,

but doing good by being just and keeping the commandments.

But to really make all this come together, we have to pray.

Even if you memorize every word of the Bible,

you can’t really know God if you refuse to listen to Him or talk to Him

—and that’s what prayer is.

Which is why, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples about:

“the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

So we pray, we talk and listen to God all the time

—he’s here, with us, he loves us, and has not abandoned us,

so turn to him and recognize that…always.

 

And tell him your problems, and ask for his help:

he wants you to ask so he can respond and show you his love.

Think of the power of prayer.

Look at Moses in today’s first reading.

He lifted his hands in prayer all day long for victory in battle,

and God responded with power, as it says:

“And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people.”

And look at Jesus’ parable today.

If the unjust judge responds to the pleading of the widow just to shut her up,

won’t God, who is the just judge who loves us,

also respond to our prayers?

And is this not especially true when we pray for defense against persecution?

As Jesus says today:

“Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones

who call out to him day and night?

 

And finally, we need to be faithful by proclaiming our faith openly,

first in our families, in our parishes and in our communities.

Even when it’s embarrassing or even painful to do:

“proclaim the word,” St. Paul tells us today,

“be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;

convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”

 

We must remain faithful, even while others don’t.

Even when like the widow nagging the unjust judge,

our neighbors and friends keep nagging us,

trying to wear us down to be unfaithful.

 

___

Now, speaking of the unjust judge,

a lot of the unfaithfulness surrounding us today

comes through the work of similar unjust public officials today.

All the corruption is pushed forward by leaders

leading us to injustice and away from faith.

 

But they are not just leading, they are also being led:

they are a reflection of the culture and people.

 

There’s that old saying: societies get the leaders they deserve.

If you look around at our society,

is there any surprise we often have such poor leadership?

And don’t just look around: look at yourself, and myself.

Have we been faithful as we should?

Are these the faithless leaders we deserve?

 

I can’t help but look at our current presidential election.

Both of the major candidates are nearly a perfect reflection of our society.

The lies, greed, sexual immorality and degradation….

 

And yet…. we have to choose one to lead and represent us.

But when we vote, we must remember the words

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Will we vote like faithful Catholics?

 

Ah… There’s the problem for many Catholics.

They ask, how can you vote for either of these two candidates?

Many people say they just can’t vote for either.

I get that, and they might be right.

 

But, one of these two will be chosen, whether we vote or not.

And if we vote for another candidate, by the way, one of the smaller party

candidates, still, one of these two will be chosen.

So the question is:

as revoltingly reflective of the ills of our faithless society as they are,

is one of these in some way worse or better than the other?

And if by my vote I can, in a small but important and real way,

suppress the worse and promote the better,

shouldn’t I?

 

Now, we can argue about who would be marginally better or worse,

going through it issue by issue, or even fault by fault.

But this October, Respect Life Month,

we remember we must always consider that the most important issue

is always the right to life,

because if you don’t have life, you automatically lose all your other rights.

And so the Catholic Church has persistently,

whether it is convenient or inconvenient,

taught, in the words of the Great St. John Paul II:

“the right to life [is] the most basic and fundamental right

and the condition for all other human rights…

[which must be] defended with maximum determination.”.”

And along with that right comes the first subsequent right,

as Pope Francis has stated:

“Children have a right to grow up in a family with

a father and a mother….”

 

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.”

 

The right to life, and traditional marriage: not negotiable.

 

____

If it is true that we get the leaders we deserve,

then it seems to me that our country would deserve bad leaders

because we have sinned greatly.

But when I look at the political landscape I see one group who has not sinned,

who definitely does not deserve bad leaders.

Our unborn babies.

We have sinned, either by active participation in or complacent acceptance of

the decline of our faithless society.

But unborn babies are innocent!

And they are sign of hope for innocence for all of us.

And we must protect their right to life.

And we must protect their right to live

as part of a family with their married mom and dad.

 

____

Unfortunately, these rights now rest largely in the hands of public officials.

So when we look at our choices in any election, we have to ask ourselves,

who will protect these “most basic and fundamental” rights?

 

As I look at our dismal choices this year,

the words of Shakespeare’s Mercutio come to mind:

“A plague on both your houses.”

But in trying to figure if there is any good that can be brought from this mess

we can ask:

who has promised to defend life,

and who has promised to kill babies?

 

Which brings us back to our unjust judge in today’s gospel.

As I’ve said before, the Judges, or Justices, on our Supreme Court

are now, in many ways, the most powerful people in our government.

It was the vote of one Judge (on a 5 to 4 vote),

that established a right to “same-sex marriage”

and for decades it has been the vote of one Judge

who has kept abortion as a fundamental right.

The next President will select up to 4 members of the Supreme Court,

including the replacement for the good Catholic Justice Antonin Scalia,

who died last February.

And one of the candidates for President has repeatedly and forcefully promised:

“I want a Supreme Court that will

stick with …a woman’s right to choose [i.e., abortion],

and …marriage equality [i.e., “same-sex marriage”].

The other candidate, however, has repeatedly promised

to appoint pro-life and pro-marriage judges.

 

___

There’s a lot of talk about certain issues

completely disqualifying either candidate from the presidency.

But given the moral state of our nation, I have a hard time understanding that,

except when it comes to the right to life and marriage:

how in the world can someone who is determined

to defend and fund the killing of innocent human beings

—a million sweet little babies every year—

how is that person not absolutely disqualified

from the presidency?

If they are not disqualified, no one is.

 

____

Our presidential alternatives reflect the decadence in our society.

But perhaps they also present the glimmer of God’s mercy shining through,

offering faithful Christians, and all people of goodwill,

the possibility of bringing some good out of all this mess,

by defending these most basic rights of man.

___

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

I pray that he does.

But in this depraved and faithless time in history,

what are we doing, with his grace, to make that happen?

Are we “remain[ing] faithful to what [we] have learned and believed”,

especially the teaching on life and marriage?

Are we praying “always without becoming weary”,

especially, are we praying that God will

give us the leaders we need, and not that we deserve?

Are we “proclaim[ing] the word” persistently

“whether it is convenient or inconvenient”,

whether in our homes, workplace, playgrounds—or in the voting booth.

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

 

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