33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 18, 2018
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
With all the tumult in the world today,
especially in our own country and in the Church as well,
many people ask me if I think we’re in the end times.
If we will soon see the fulfillment of the prophesy Jesus makes in today’s gospel:
“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,”
My response is simple, and at the same time I suppose, complicated.
I say simply: “who knows?”
Yes, there are lots of strange and ominous catastrophe around us.
But there have been lots of strange and ominous catastrophes in various ages past,
and people then also asked: “is this the end times?”
Think about it.
In the first 3 centuries to be a Christian
was to be under constant threat of martyrdom.
And then think about the invasions of the Huns and Barbarians,
changing the western world order completely.
Then Islam invaded northern Africa, Spain, and the Eastern Roman Empire.
And then the awful “renaissance popes and the Protestant revolt.”
And think of the 650,000 lives lost in our own Civil War,
and then the millions lost in World War I and II.
And all the cataclysmic natural disasters throughout history:
the plagues of the middle ages that wiped out a 1/3 of Europe.
And then think about what Jesus says at the end of his prophesy today:
“But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
So, like Jesus, “I don’t know.”
And besides, I’ve never really understood why people really care so much
about the end times.
Because they could come tomorrow or in 1000 years.
But every single day the end comes for someone.
Every day 150,000 people die in the word.
Every minute, 106 people die.
That’s about 1 every ½ a second: there’s one… and another … and another …
And for each of them the end has come,
and they stand before our Lord and receive his judgment.
And, as we read in today’s first reading,
“some shall live forever…
[and] shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament…”
But at the same time, “others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”
It’s interesting how Scripture often talks about the judgment in terms of
groups of people, not just individuals.
For example, different passages in the Gospel talk about the division between
“the sheep and the goats,” “the righteous and the unrighteous”
and in today’s gospel Jesus says the angels will:
“gather His elect …from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”
Of course, each of us will be judged individually, not as a group.
But in the end, we will be in the group going to hell or the group going to heaven.
And it’s similar with sin.
We sin individually, but so often we do so relating to a group.
I think particularly of sins that come from following the crowd.
Whether it’s accepting the immoral values so prevalent in our culture,
or simply being badly influenced by the group of friends we hang out with,
or even our family.
But in the end, you may be part of a group of sinners,
but you personally, individually chose to sin.
And you, personally and individually will die and face Jesus and his judgment.
And then you can’t use the excuse that, “well everyone else was doing it.
Because Jesus will just say something like your daddy used to say to you:
“if all your friends jumped off a cliff would you jump off a cliff?”
There’s a great scene in the play “Man for all Seasons,”
which I think may be a very accurate account of what actually happened.
The Duke of Norfolk is trying to convince
his longtime and dear friend Sir, or Saint, Thomas More
to sign the Oath of Supremacy of the King over the Church.
A frustrated Norfolk final says to More:
“…but damn it, Thomas, look at these names.
Why can’t you do as I did, and come with us, for fellowship?”
And More looks him in the eye and responds:
“And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience…
…and I am sent to hell for not doing mine,
will you come with me [to hell], for fellowship?”
Following the crowd to hell is easy,
that way you don’t have to make any hard or brave decisions.
Sometimes it even seems the wise thing to do
—2 heads are greater than one, and all that.
Except with they’re choosing to go to hell.
Of course, we all fall into this trap of following the wrong crowd from time to time.
A great example of this was on display last week
at the general assembly of the US Bishops in Baltimore.
If you paid attention to the proceedings you saw how
they all tend to try to always agree with each other;
never offend anyone,
even when the disagree, they usually do so in the way
that will cause the least agitation to their brother bishops.
They call it “collegiality” as in, the fellowship of the “college of bishops,”
or the “group” or “crowd” of bishops.
And so last week no one seemed to want to upset the boat,
or to think or speak ill of any other bishop.
But on Wednesday there were a few fireworks,
as individual bishops began to question the good will of some in their ranks,
especially on the topic they were talking about:
abuse of children and covering up.
One of them, our friend Archbishop Cordileone,
actually said something I’ve been saying for years:
“We do sometimes act as a good old-boys club,”
with problems of “cronyism, favoritism and cover-up.”
But then the voice of the crowd, one of the premier “good old boys”,
an elderly cardinal, stood up and called them back to “fellowship,”
to the follow the crowd in “greater collegiality”:
“we are not bishops alone or separate;
we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”
He urged the bishops to
“not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds
of ecclesial union”
“Responsibility to the college”?
To the crowd.
What about responsibility to the Church, the laity, the priests?
What about responsibility to Christ?
“Outside influences… interfere[ing]”?
Who, the faithful Catholic laity and priests?
Or again, Jesus?
After all, Jesus was never, and is still not, a bishop, so He’s not part of the “club.”
The thing is, the cardinal who said this is the infamous Roger Mahoney,
who was suspended from all public ministry.
Because you see when he retired a few years ago as Archbishop of Los Angeles,
Archbishop Gomez, his successor, came in and read the files and
discovered all the awful things Mahoney had done
to systematically covered up the abusive activity of priests for years.
And so he suspended the cardinal who was still living there,
from saying any public Masses, etc, in the archdiocese.
In other words, this is one of those bad bishops we’re all mad at.
And yet the other bishops let him stand there and lecture them
and about how they should handle abusive and lying bishops—like him!
And he calls them to a greater collegiality, greater fellowship,
with bishops like him,
and I suppose also with former Cardinal McCarrick
—both of whom are still members of the college of American bishops.
And they are not the only bad ones.
Remember as a said a couple of months ago,
11 out of the 12 apostles were good men, faithful to Jesus,
even though most of those, 10,
were still cowards hiding together in the upper room.
Instead of following John to the foot of Cross to stand with Jesus,
they followed the crowd to hide in the upper room.
But 1 of the 12, 1 out of 12 of the first bishops,
was not just a coward, he was a liar a thief and traitor, Judas,
whom Jesus called the “son of hell.”
Now, lest I get in trouble for seeming to say the American Bishops
are all going to hell, let me point out what I said earlier:
that while there are bad crowds, but there are also good crowds.
And let me say, there are also many good bishops,
but like the 10 apostles in the upper room, good men,
but following the crowd.
You can follow the good crowd, or the bad crowd.
The Catholic Church is a great and holy crowd,
and if you follow the Church, you will be in the crowd going to heaven.
But sometimes parts of the Church, individuals in the Church,
form themselves into bad crowds, and they lead others astray.
That can apply to anywhere in the Church:
for example, there are some great bible studies,
like the one we have here at St. Raymond’s,
that sort of follows the crowd of saints and holy teachers
of the Church and help lead people to heaven.
But sometimes you come across a bible study, or a catechism class, whatever,
that leads you to question the teachings of the Church,
and that crowd does not lead to heaven.
The same thing with the bishops: when they, as a group or individually,
follow the Church, and the crowd of great saints and doctors
and especially the holy martyrs who died for the Faith,
they are in the crowd going to heaven.
But when they follow the crowd that is within the visible bounds of the Church
but is following the road of Judas, the road of lying and abusive bishops,
they join the crowd on its way to hell.
And they go along for fellowship.
Today Jesus tells us:
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.”
Read the signs of the times.
See the sin around us, and worry not about the end of time on earth,
but about the end of your time on earth.
We all face death, we all face judgment, and we could face them at any time.
Are you ready for that?
Or are you too busy following the crowd?
And if so, is it the crowd that leads to heaven, or the crowd that leads to hell?
As we continue to move more deeply into this Holy Mass,
take all these things to prayer.
And join your prayers to the great prayer of Christ,
his “one sacrifice” offered on the Cross,
soon to be made present to us miraculously on the altar.
Pray for the conversion of our society, and the crowd that is on its way to hell,
and for the members in the crowd.
And pray for the conversion of all the members of Church,
the crowd that is striving for heaven,
but so often distracted by sin and sinful leaders on the way.
And pray for the conversion of sinful and cowardly bishops and priests,
going along to get along, not rocking the boat,
even when it means following the most vile and disgraceful
liars and abusers in the Church.
And as we meet Jesus face to face in His Body today, remember:
we will all meet Him face to face soon enough in eternal judgment.
And so today accept the grace He offers you today in the Eucharist,
and pray for your own conversion to follow Christ.