32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 10, 2019
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Last Tuesday was election day.
And all the candidates I hoped would win lost, except for one.
These were, as you probably know,
the candidates who opposed the killing of babies
and maiming of mothers in abortion,
and who opposed the abuse of our children through
the promotion of radically perverse ideologies in our schools.
It seemed like a virtual tsunami of evil.
In the face of all this I was washed with a series of ominous feelings:
disappointment, devastation, sadness, anger, depression.
But I think the predominant feeling, the one that lingers, is fear.
I was, and am, afraid.
Now, there are different senses or meanings, of the words fear and afraid.
First, there’s the fear that is an awareness of present danger and evil,
or of the troubles and iniquity ahead.
This is the fear that Jesus talks about when he warns us to,
“…fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell…”
And this is the fear that leads St. Paul to write to the Thessalonians
in today’s 2nd reading:
“pray for us, …that we may be delivered
from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith.”
And it is this fear I experience when I think of the terrible things
that will happen to Virginia now that
the pro-abortion and anti-Christian party has control
of both the legislative and executive branches of state government.
Free to pass, enact and enforce laws that will not only
attack the right to life of the unborn and the sick,
but corrupt our children by forcing their ideological indoctrination
and denying parents the right to form their children
with their own religious beliefs.
These can surely destroy both soul and body, and lead our children to hell.
And I am afraid of them.
That’s one kind of fear, a practical awareness of evil, the fear I have now.
But there’s another kind of fear, fear we must never have.
That is the kind of fear that leads us to cower and run
from those who publicly oppose us and threaten us.
The fear of those who would, as Jesus once said,
“insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil
against you because of” your faith in Him.
This is the kind of fear Jesus talks about when he says,
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
Because, as St. Paul tells us today:
“The Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.”
In today’s first reading from the second book of Maccabees
it tells a story that takes place
during what was called Maccabees’ Revolt in the 2nd century BC.
The Maccabees were Jews who revolted against the attempt by their Greek rulers
to destroy the beliefs and practices of Judaism,
by making it more in line with the beliefs and practices of the Greeks
–really trying to secularize Judaism.
The similarities with today are uncanny.
The Greek government merely wanted the Jews to abandon their religion,
and follow the religion of the government,
and there were many Jews who did just that.
Today, the secular government wants Christians to abandon our religion,
and follow the secular ideology of our government,
and there are many Christians, even Catholics, who are doing just that.
And we must react in a similar way as the Maccabees:
we must resist, we must fight.
But not with violence, as the Maccabees had to, things have not yet come to that.
But like the Maccabees we must fight by refusing to abandon our God given rights,
and make any sacrifices necessary to cling to our God.
The Maccabees give us a great example of that today,
as we see a whole family tortured to death for their faith.
If you notice in your missalettes, a lot of the verses have been skipped.
If we read those verses we’d see the way they were tortured and killed:
first they cut out their tongues,
then they scalped them,
then they cut off their hands and feet,
and finally they fried them alive in boiling caldrons of oil.
One after the other, 7 brothers and finally their mother.
And all during that, they kept encouraging each other
to accept the sacrifice rather than abandon God’s law.
WE must do the same.
And we must have confidence that we will win.
Not without sacrifice, and not right away.
The Maccabees fought for years to gain back their Temple,
and many were tortured and died.
But in the end, they won
–that’s what the Jews today celebrate on the feast of Hanukkah.
The Church has faced many similar hard times and battles in our past.
Look back to the first three centuries of the Church
when it was a crime to be a Christian,
and Christians often died for their faith and way of life in Christ:
look at the 12 apostles, 11 of them were executed for their faith,
and 28 of the first 32 popes were martyrs.
But in the 4th century the Emperor himself became a Christian,
and the persecution stopped.
But then it returned in a new way, as in the late 4th century
the Barbarians from northern Europe began to invade the Roman Empire.
The most famous of these is probably Attila the Hun.
Attila swept across northern Europe into Christian France,
and then the East into Christian Greece and Turkey,
killing, torturing, looting, burning and raping along the way.
And then in the year 452 he came South into Italy, and camped outside of Rome.
And there the Christians marched out to meet him.
But not with a huge army with swords,
but a small group of Romans coming in peace.
And at leading them was one of history’s most noble figures:
Pope Leo the Great.
As one eyewitness would later write:
“Then Leo …went to meet Attila.
The old man of harmless simplicity, …
ready of his own will to give himself entirely for the defense of his flock,
went forth to meet the tyrant who was destroying all things.”
And after Leo had courageously exhorting the ruthless conqueror of nations
to ” conquer thyself,” the witness went on to write:
“Attila stood looking upon his venerable garb and aspect,
silent, as if thinking deeply.
And lo, suddenly there were seen the apostles Peter and Paul,
clad like bishops,
standing by Leo, the one on the right hand, the other on the left.
They held swords stretched out over his head,
and threatened Attila with death
if he did not obey the pope’s command.
Wherefore Attila … straightway promised a lasting peace
and withdrew beyond the Danube.”
Today, November 10, is the Feast day of Pope Saint Leo the Great.
And today we must have the courage to go out and meet the foe,
not with violence, but with the truth of Jesus.
To be, like Leo, “of harmless simplicity…ready …to give [ourselves]
entirely for the defense of [our] flock”—our families, our children.
The last two weeks I told you one way we can fight is to vote.
Well, we fought that battle on Tuesday, and lost.
But we must not give up the war, but will live to fight on with the same weapon
a year from now.
And the battle for next year’s election begins today.
But besides that, we must look for every way we can to stand up
for Jesus and His Church, and to protect His and our children and families.
There are many ways we can do this.
First of all, if your children are in public schools,
make sure you watch like a hawk what they’re learning every day.
And then make sure that you’re bringing them to CCD,
and that they take it very seriously,
and that you reinforce what the learn at home.
….But more than that, I think it’s time these parents
must now very seriously consider, or reconsider a radical change.
That is: take your children out of the Fairfax County Public Schools.
If I could, I would open a school here that would be free of charge to all of you.
But I can’t: I don’t have the money, and the County probably wouldn’t let me.
But there are Catholic schools nearby,
and our parish and the Bishop both offer scholarships to help.
Or maybe you can homeschool
—we have 50 or so homeschool families in the parish now.
Now, this will probably involve sacrifice by the families.
Maybe giving up vacations, or dramatically changing your lifestyle.
Maybe working a second job.
But in the end, none of those sacrifices compares to what
St. Leo was ready to give up when he went out to preach to the Attila.
or to the tortures the 7 Maccabees brothers and their mother went through.
And none even come close to the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us on the Cross.
What sacrifice will you make?
What sacrifice is necessary to make sure your children
know the faith and keep the faith?
Because I can promise you, if you don’t do something,
5, or 10 or 15 years from now you will come back to me and ask,
“why don’t my children believe anymore?”
As we now enter more deeply in this Holy Mass,
the re-presentation of Our Savior’s Sacrifice on the Cross for us,
let us pray for our county, our state and our nation,
that Christ may bring us back from falling into the abyss.
And let us pray that God grant us the grace
to fear the real dangers that surround us,
but to never be afraid to resist those dangers.
May Christ give us the courage He once gave to the Maccabees and St. Leo
for the glory of His Name and the salvation of His children.