16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2011
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort, Springfield, Va.
July 17, 2011
Last week a group of over 300 priests in Austria signed a letter
they called a “Call to Disobedience,”
in which the publicly dissented from a long list of Catholic teachings,
and announced that they are going to completely disregard
several important disciplinary laws of the Church.
This, unfortunately, is nothing new.
For several decades now there have been a lot of people
publicly demanding changes to Church teaching
—even when those teachings are divine truths,
not changeable by any man, even a pope.
Of course this can be extremely confusing to Catholics,
and particularly when it.s our fellow Catholics demanding these changes,
and especially when it.s Catholic priests, and even bishops.
Sometimes Catholics, including myself,
wonder why Church authorities delay
in correcting or disciplining Catholics
who publicly dissent from Church teaching.
It doesn.t seem fair to regular Catholics, much less the rest of the world,
to let this confusion continue.
Personally, I can tell you it makes a priests job
a whole lot more difficult than it has to be;
when you teach a difficult truth, or support some action of the Pope,
and have to deal with all sorts of ugly criticism,
only to have some bishop somewhere confuse everything
by doing the exact opposite.
And nothing happens to them: the rest of the hierarchy seems to be silent.
Why does the Church—especially the pope and his helpers in Rome—
allow this to go on without doing something about it?
Sometimes because of misplaced caution.
Sometimes it.s because cowardice.
Sometimes it.s because they just don.t know what.s going on.
And in the case of some Church officials, unfortunately,
sometimes it.s because they agree with dissenters.
But sometimes, sometimes, the delay is necessary,
and even part of God.s will.
In today.s Gospel text Jesus tells us:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed
.…[H]is enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat….
When the crop grew …the weeds appeared as well.”
And when the man.s servants wanted to pull up the weeds he replied simply:
“„No, ….Let them grow together until harvest.”
How can it ever be acceptable to patiently let weeds grow with the wheat,
to allow confusing false doctrines
to grow and spread throughout the Church and society?
Today.s text gives two good reasons.
First, Jesus says:
“if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”
How many times do we try to accomplish something good
only to have the unintended negative consequences
overwhelmingly offset the good we achieve?
You know how this works.
I was at a family.s house one night having an enjoyable dinner,
when one of the children, a 6 year old, acted up and daddy scolded her.
He was the right thing to do it, only one problem:
the 6 year old started to cry and scream,
And then the 3 younger children started to cry too.
Dad did the right thing, but the evening was ruined.
This happens in the Church too.
For 20 years Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
was in charge of correcting and disciplining Catholics
who publicly who misled their brothers and sisters with false teaching.
He very seldom acted harshly or with haste.
But he did act and speak clearly and decisively.
Most of the time his actions weren.t in the headlines
—at least not the headlines of the secular media:
But when the media did take notice
it seldom failed to paint him with the harsh brush of his critics.
who called him “divisive,” “heavy handed,” “the Grand inquisitor,”
and the ‘Panzer Kardinal’.
And those were the nicer names they called him.
Think back to the reaction to Cardinal Ratzinger.s public letter in June of 2003,
condemning the legalization of so called “gay marriage,”
and reminding Catholic politicians that voting for these laws
would be “gravely immoral.”
Or to his very private letter sent to guide the American bishops
in July of 2004
in which he reminded them that pro-abortion politicians
must be denied Holy Communion.
Both these letters were intended
to protect Catholics from being misled about the Church.s teaching,
and to lead people to repentance and God.s forgiveness.
But many people, particularly the press, reacted as if Ratzinger wanted
to burn homosexuals at the stake,
dictate policy to the American government,
and force women to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen.
So that when this good and brave man,
an intellectual giant,
and yet the most humble and kindest man you.d ever what to meet,
was elected pope 6 years ago, the headlines in some cities read:
“From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi,”
and “„God.s Rottweiler’ is the new Pope.”
Some articles called him a “radical extremist”
—making him sound like a terrorist—
and a chorus rose up calling him a
“misogynist,” “homophobe”, “bigot”, “hatemonger”, and “Nazi”.
Now as “Pope Benedict XVI”
he has to overcome the negative ramifications and effects
of the brave and good work he did as “Cardinal Ratzinger”
in pulling weeds for the sake of the wheat.
So, while his interventions were necessary and well worth the negative press,
and while we should never fear upholding the truth,
we can see how it is “prudent” to be careful
not to unnecessarily diminish the good we hope to accomplish,
and therefore sometimes necessary
not to pull every weed that grows in the wheat.
But there is also a second reason for not always immediately pulling the weeds:
“The kingdom of heaven is like
yeast….mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”
One reason the hierarchy doesn.t act quickly in every problem case,
is that it waits for us to act:
while we may have to live like wheat surrounded by weeds,
we also need to live as leaven to the society we live in:
by truly and clearly living our Christian lives in the day to day world
we can and will raise up the faith in those around us.
How many of us take the time to educate ourselves on the Church.s teaching
on the issues of the day
–how many of us have actually read those letters
from Cardinal Ratzinger that I was talking about earlier
–and I don.t mean read the articles in the press,
but the actual words of Ratzinger, now Benedict, himself?
And how many of us act on these teachings,
by putting them into practice
and proclaiming them to the world we live in every day?
Is it Rome, or is it us, who fails to act?
Think about it:
at the party you went to last night, or at work last week,
when someone brought up the Church.s “harsh” treatment of gays,
–or some other misunderstood teaching of the Church—
did you explain to them what the Church really intends and teaches?
Or at home: parents,
when you saw something on television
that showed ignorance about or hostility toward the Church,
did you bother take a moment to point it out and clarify it for your children?
And children, how about you?
When someone at school, maybe a classmate or even a teacher,
says something about the Church that doesn.t sound right
do you take the time to do something about it,
at least by talking to Mom and Dad about it?
Some would say: but what can I do, what difference can I make?
How can tiny little me change the world around me?
Again, Jesus addresses this in today.s Gospel. He says:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed …..
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.”
The mustard seed is like the leaven:
only a tiny bit of leaven is used to raise a large loaf of bread.
Maybe prudence, limits what you can do.
Maybe you honestly discern that the good you want to accomplish
will be overshadowed by the misunderstanding that will result.
Maybe you.re just being careful not to pull the weeds out
lest you pull the wheat out with it.
Maybe you.re acting with clemency, leniency and mercy
as today.s 1st reading tells us the Lord does.
Still, if you do act in prudence, and in mercy,
you must also remember that the Lord says:
“…[at] the end of the age, …. [the] weeds are collected and
…. throw[n] into the fiery furnace.”
In mercy for the weeds mixed with the wheat,
we—you and I—must do something for them
to keep them from the furnace.
We must tell them the truth.
Yes, perhaps slowly, and gently, and always with kindness,
as the book of Wisdom says today:
“those who are just must be kind.”
And warning them not just about the prospect of “the fiery furnace”
but also offering them Our Lord.s wonderful promise that:
“the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
But we must tell them the truth.
Today, as we continue to prepare ourselves for the Eucharist,
let us pray for our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, that he may have
the prudence and wisdom to discern,
and the courage and mercy to act,
how, where and when the Lord wants him to
in either pulling or leaving the weeds in the Church.
And let us pray for ourselves
that words of the Gospel and the grace of this sacrament
may bear great fruit in us,
so that we may be the wheat of the harvest,
and not the weeds bundled for burning.
And that our Lord may give us
the patience to live as wheat among the weeds,
and the prudence, mercy, and courage to
to act as the leaven that transforms the world into Christ’s Kingdom.