Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily
5th Sunday Ordinary Time, February 8, 2015
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
This last week when talking about the evil of the Islamist terrorists,
such as ISIS and Al Qaeda,
President Obama said the following:
“…remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition,
people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ…”
I don’t want to get into the political implications of this.
Or even to try to figure out some hidden agenda here.
But as a Christian pastor of souls, I do have a few things I think I should say
about the confusion his words have spread.
And to set the record straight a bit.
First: it is ridiculous to compare Christianity today
to the Islamist barbarian armies and their supporters today.
Especially by using the Crusades and Inquisition.
Laying aside the fact that the Crusades were a response to 400 years of Muslim aggression, invasions and atrocities against Christian peoples,
the Crusades ended 700 years ago,
and the Inquisition he’s talking about ended 400 years ago.
What does that have to do with us, or with ISIS?
But, even if we do go back 4 or 7 centuries to the Crusades and Inquisition,
to the extent terrible things were actually done,
were they actually done in the name of Christ?
Some may have used Christ’s name,
but they did not and could not cite one word from the New Testament
to justify ignoring Christ’s call to love our enemy or be peacemakers.
But ISIS and their ilk can and does cite dozens of verses,
from the Quran and other mainstream Islamic holy books
to clearly justify their violence and disregard for human life.
And even if you could say terrible deeds were actually
done in Christ’s name 4 or 7 centuries ago,
didn’t Christians radically condemn them long ago,
so that virtually all Christians today are ashamed of them?
But today polls tell us that huge numbers of Muslims are not ashamed
the tactics of Islamic terrorists:
a 2013 Pew Poll tells us at least 13% of Muslims around the world support Al Qaeda, and another 30% refuse to condemn them.
If that 13% is correct, it translates to 200 million Muslims supporting Al Qaeda.
And isn’t it true that Christians reject the terrible deeds of centuries past
because of they directly contradict
the specific example and teaching of Jesus Christ
who laid down his life out of love, even for those who rejected his teaching?
And is it not true that Muslims struggle to reject the terrible deeds of the present
because they directly reflect
the specific example and teaching of Muhammad
who personally took up a sword to threaten and kill those
who rejected his teaching?
The President also went on to say:
“In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow
all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
It is true that some Christians did try to do that,
but it is also true that at the same time the name of Christ
was vigorously invoked to condemn both practices.
It was Christian preachers, like John Brown,
who started and led the abolitionist movement,
and it was Christian preachers, like Martin Luther King,
who led the movement to end Jim Crow.
And it was the unambiguous teachings of Christianity
that eventually led Americans to see the sinfulness of both.
And even to take up arms and lay down lives to eradicate them.
It is true that both individual Christians and Muslims, and groups of both,
are capable of terrible sins.
And it is true that many claim justification in their religion for doing so.
But thereby to imply or infer a moral equivalency
between Christianity and Islam is another thing
—a gross and utter falsehood.
There are many Muslims of goodwill
who do not embrace the violence that Muhammad did and preached.
God bless them: let us pray they may find to the fullness of the truth of Jesus.
But as Christians we can never allow others to confuse us about the righteousness of our faith,
or to somehow think that all religions are equally good and moral, and true.
Because if we do, we will no longer set our hearts solely on Jesus Christ,
the prince of peace, the God who is love.
And we will open ourselves up to be misled by every false prophet
who comes along, appealing to the sinful weaknesses we all have.
In today’s Gospel we find this Jesus, healing the sick and driving out demons.
And he’s preaching: probably things like love your enemy,
and turn the other cheek.
This is the God we follow.
Yes, sometimes we must fight, even to kill,
in self-defense and defense of the innocent.
But always guided and restrained
by the moral teaching of mercy and forgiveness that flow
from the unique and perfect life of Jesus Christ.
Let us set our minds and hearts on him today.
And let us beg him to heal us from our sins,
and to drive out the demons that oppress us:
especially the demons that confuse us,
and the demons that drive men to terrorize their neighbor.