25th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

September 27, 2013 Father De Celles Homily

September 22, 2013
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church,
Springfield, Va.

Today’s Gospel is full of practical advice.
Jesus even commends the dishonest steward
because he uses what he’s stolen very well,
from a practical perspective.

But then he gives us practical advice about how
we shouldn’t trust people who are not trustworthy,
like the dishonest steward.
He tells us:
“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones.”
And then he tells us how to discern whether someone is trustworthy:
“No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

So that when we are wondering whether we should trust someone,
we look to see where they’re coming from
—what are their priorities, and, if you will, their principles.
So, we see the dishonest steward, and we see his priorities
are not to serve his master or to pay back what he as stolen,
but to protect himself.
His Mammon is himself, he loved himself and hated his master,
and so the master rightly sees him as untrustworthy and fires him.

Who do you trust?
That’s a broad question, so let me narrow it down.
I presume that, since you’re here,
all of you want to follow Jesus Christ,
and to love God and not Mammon;
and to be good and faithful Catholics.
So, whom should a good and faithful Catholic trust?

Answer: when it comes to knowing right and wrong,
and to following Jesus,
we should be very leery about trusting those
who serve Mammon rather than God.

This would sort of seem obvious.
So I am continually shocked when the opposite happens.
In particular, I’m mystified when Catholics believe
everything they read or hear in the secular media.
I mean, if there’s one place today that does not serve God,
especially as Christians, and Catholics in particular,
have understood him for 2000 years, it’s the media.
After all, they have other priorities than we do.
Of course, they’re out to make a money—nothing wrong with that.
But their priority is money over truth.
They print or report what sells, not necessarily what is true.
So they serve money, not truth.

But more importantly,
they all seem to embrace a common ideological perspective,
that is definitely not Christian:
some call it liberal or progressive;
I tend to call it secular relativism or humanism.
In any case, their ideology basically rejects traditional Christian values.
And so they are “devoted to one and despise the other”:
devoted to their anti-Christian ideology and despise Catholicism.

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

So why would any Catholic trust the media,
especially when it comes to matters related to morality or eternal truths,
or to the Church itself?

We find ourselves with 2 great examples of this just this week.

First, as I write about in my column this week,
earlier this week the Washington Post had an editorial with the headline:
“Virginia’s next governor will determine
whether most abortion clinics close.”
But while the headline may be true,
the editorial went on to twist the truth, and even lie,
to present its case in support of abortion
and keeping these abortion clinics open.
And in the process tearing down the pro-life and faithful Catholic candidate
and promoting the pro-abortion and unfaithful Catholic candidate.

So think about it: when the vehemently
pro-abortion, pro-“gay”, pro-contraception, anti-Catholic Washington Post
says outlandish things about a faithful Catholic
for believing what Catholics believe about abortion,
why would you trust anything they say?

And then you have the second example:
Friday’s reporting throughout the media about
a long interview given by Pope Francis.
Everywhere you looked, the media were spinning the Pope’s words,
taken out of context,
to make it seem as if Francis was being critical
of traditional Catholic teaching and practice.
For example, they quote him saying:
“We cannot insist only on issues related to
abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.
This is not possible….
it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

First of all, what the pope said is true, but the media’s spin was false.
We can’t “only” preach on those topics, and
“it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”
And we don’t: neither the Church as a whole nor any priests I know does that.
But the media presented this as the Pope rejecting Catholics,
especially priest and bishops,
who give these issues priority over other issues,
even suggesting that it meant
the Pope didn’t care that much about these issues,
and thinks other issues have greater priority.

But that is not what he said, and not what he meant.
In fact, the very next day, today/yesterday,
the Holy Father himself spoke out strongly against abortion,
and the Post’s headline read:
“Pope blasts abortion in olive branch of sorts
after denouncing church’s obsession with rules.”

And if you read the actual text of the Pope’s interview itself,
you see something very different.
You see that the pope was saying nothing different
than Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI said before him:
that is, you have to present all Catholic teaching
in the context of the mercy and love of God,
because that’s the only way they can be fully understood.
Isn’t that exactly what John Paul did in his encyclical on abortion,
Evangelium Vitae, “the Gospel of Life”?
Isn’t that exactly what Benedict did in his first encyclical,
Deus Caritas Est, “God is Love,”
where he beautifully explained the love of God,
and explained how abortion as contrary to that love.

But you didn’t get that from the press.

Perhaps the New York Times’ headline summed up the medias spin the best:
“Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control.”

And yet the Francis said no such thing.
What he said is that the Church “cannot be obsessed
with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.”
In other words, we have to present not “disjointed” doctrines,
as if abortion wasn’t intimately related to the radicalness of God’s love,
but explain, simply but clearly how abortion is wrong
because radically it opposes God’s love.
And he spoke of how this cannot “be imposed insistently.”
Which is the same thing both John Paul II and Benedict XVI said before him:
“the Church proposes, it does not impose.”

But in the end, as most of the media had to admit,
though buried near the end of their coverage:
“no doctrine was change.”

Now, one thing we have to remember,
sometimes Pope Francis can be hard to understand, even confusing.
And you might easily misinterpret some of what he says
—especially if you love your own ideology
and hate the teaching of the Catholic Church.

His style, both in speaking and writing is very different from
John Paul II and Benedict,
especially Benedict who was one of them most brilliant
but also clear and concise writers you will ever read.
Francis is also brilliant—if you read the interview you will see that.
But he’s not always very clear, especially when he’s talking off the cuff.
And when he tries to be concise, it often comes out as an oversimplification.

I am not attacking the Pope here, I’m just talking about his style.
The journalist that did the interview described this:
“The pope had spoken earlier about his great difficulty in giving interviews.
He said that he prefers to think
rather than provide answers on the spot in interviews.
…the pope interrupted what he was saying in response to a question
several times, in order to add something to an earlier response.
Talking with Pope Francis is a kind of volcanic flow of ideas
that are bound up with each other.”

And His Holiness says of himself, in the interview:
“I am a really, really undisciplined person”

Another thing to remember is that both John Paul and Pope Benedict believed
they needed to clarify the teachings of the Church,
after the confusion of the 1960s and 70s,
and so they were very careful and precise in how they taught.
But Pope Francis seems to think that they did their job, that the teaching is clear,
and not he wants to emphasize trying to simplify the manner
in which people are invited to learn and experience that teaching.
As he says in the interview:
“The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant.”
Is he criticizing or rejecting his predecessors approach?
No—he’s just proposing his own approach, building on them, today.

Moreover, in an effort to present himself as more accessible,
he does things, as I said before, more off the cuff—like this interview.
But as I wrote in a column several weeks ago:
“This “folksy,” or impromptu approach of Pope Francis
may be leading many people to turn to the Church for a second look,
but it also may carry the risk of causing
some confusion and misunderstanding,
and providing the opportunity for some to try to
set Francis against Benedict and John Paul.”
And that is exactly what happened with this interview.

In that column I also wrote about the need to follow what
Pope Benedict use to call the “hermeneutic of continuity”
—the idea that we must read what one Pope says
in the light of all that came before in the Church,
including his predecessors writings,
assuming continuity between Popes
and rejecting the “hermeneutic of discontinuity”
–trying to set one Pope against another.
So I had to smile at one of Pope Francis’s responses in the interview:
“Yes,” he said, “there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity.”

Today Jesus asks us in the Gospel: “who will trust you with true wealth?”
Who does a Catholic trust nowadays,
especially when we want to know what the Pope is saying or doing,
or what the Church teaches on faith and morals,
or even what is right and what is wrong?
Whether it’s about a papal interview or the race for governor of Virginia.
Do we trust those who love and serve God and His Church?
Or do we trust those who are hate the Church and her teachings,
and love and devotedly serve themselves and their own ideologies?

“No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”