TEXT: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 2, 2018
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 2, 2018
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us:
“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly…”
And He adds,
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
Sad to say, that sounds like a list drawn up to describe
certain cardinals and bishops and priests caught up
in the abuses, lies and unchastity reported in the news the last few weeks.
As we continue to struggle with that scandal,
I was hoping not to have to address that this week,
but to preach about something a little more spiritual or uplifting this week.
But then came Archbishop Vigano’s statement and all uproar about that.
So, I’m back to square one.
For those of you who aren’t keeping up with the news,
about a week ago the former papal nuncio, or the Pope’s Ambassador,
to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano,
issued an 11-page statement that proports
to shed new light today’s scandals.
Included in this, were accusations that top Vatican officials, whom he named,
are involved in what he calls a ‘homosexual current” in the hierarchy,
and that they knew about McCarrick’s abuses for over a decade.
He also stated that in 2010 Pope Benedict secretly punished
the retired McCarrick by prohibiting him from exercising public ministry
and requiring him to live a life of seclusion and penance.
But then, Vigano says, when Pope Francis was elected
Francis lifted those sanctions and made McCarrick his trusted advisor,
in spite of the fact that he, Vigano,
had personally told Pope Francis all about McCarrick’s abuses.
So, he says, Pope Francis knew about McCarrick’s’ behavior for five years,
and not only didn’t punish him, but effectively promoted him.
Now, these are just accusations, they’re not proven.
And such accusations against Pope is almost unprecedent in modern times.
And, if this were just some rumor, it would quickly be dismissed.
But this accusation is coming from an archbishop who before his retirement
had held numerous high offices in the Vatican,
he was the governor of the Vatican City State,
and sort of the head of all the papal ambassadors in the world,
before coming to the United States.
And when he was here, he was revered by American bishops
as a man of integrity and truthfulness—and he still is.
And he states that most of what he says is documented
in the files in the Vatican and Washington,
and can be corroborated by others.
So the charges are credible:
in fact, if an accusation with this level of credibility were leveled at a priest
he would be immediately suspended from office, pending investigation.
So, even if, hopefully, they’re wrong, they cannot be ignored,
even though the Holy Father seems to be trying to do just that.
So what do we do?
First, as I I’ve said before, we rally together, we do not run away.
We stand and fight for Jesus and the Church He founded—the Catholic Church. Because we place our faith and hope in them,
not in the mere men who are the princes of the Church.
But we also try to see all this in the context of the fullness of our Catholic faith.
In fact, we try to see how our faith has prepared us
specifically for moments like this.
Since many of us were babies, every time we’ve entered the Church
the first thing we’ve done is to make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves.
And almost every time we’ve prayed as Catholics, we’ve done the same thing:
made the Sign of the Cross.
And every time we begin Mass and end Mass, the same thing.
And every Catholic Church, and almost every Catholic home has a Crucifix in it.
In fact, the center of the whole Mass, and so the center of our Sunday worship,
the Eucharist, which we believe is
first and foremost a re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Cross.
So St. Paul tells us:
“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
but we preach Christ crucified….”
The Cross, and more clearly, the Crucified Body of Jesus,
is at the center of our faith.
Now, of course, we know that Jesus Rose and Ascended to Heaven.
But all that comes from the Cross: the Crucifixion changed everything.
The thing is… the Crucifixion took place at a specific point in historical time,
from noon to 3 o’clock on a particular date in March or April
around the year 30AD.
But in another sense, it also took place in eternity.
Because in Jesus, the Eternal God became man,
He is the nexus or meeting of earthly time and heavenly eternity.
So that while the Cross took place in time,
but it is also eternal and timeless.
Which why we are able to benefit from it 2000 years later.
And it’s how Jesus could die not just for the sins of people alive at His time,
but the sins of all people of all times,
the sins of Adam and Eve in the beginning,
and the sins of you and me in 2018.
And so we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus
and in the wounds and the blood and the spittle
we see the effects of all the sins of all times and places.
But when we look to the Crucified Body of Jesus we also see something else:
we remember what St. Paul repeatedly tells us:
that the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.
So in the bloody, beaten, and pierced Body of Jesus, we see His Church as well.
And not just today, but everyday for the last 2000 years.
For ever since Calvary the Church has been persecuted
from both within and without, just as Jesus was.
And so, few months after the Crucifixion and Ascension,
when St. Paul was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians there,
a voice spoke to him saying:
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?…
I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
So we see ourselves, and the whole Church, as the Body of Christ,
always on the Cross.
Now let’s think, who was there at the Crucifixion 2000 years ago?
One of the saddest truths of that day was that
there was only 1 of the 12 Apostles standing there—St. John.
Even sadder and more terrible still, was that one of the 12 was not there
because he’d killed himself after he had betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot.
Think about that: 1/12th of the apostles, about 8%.
So 8% betrayed Jesus completely,
but also, only 8% stood with Jesus completely.
So why would we be surprised today if as many as 8% of the cardinals,
or 17 cardinals,
would betray Jesus today,
or if only 17 stood solidly, bravely with Him?
I’m not saying this is the case today numerically,
just that it shouldn’t completely surprise us, if it was.
It should make us angry and maybe depressed
—just as the thought of the betrayal of Judas
and the solitariness of John does at the Cross.
But, it could happen, despite God’s best laid plans.
And why isn’t St. Peter, the first pope, there at the Cross?
Even though he didn’t betray Jesus, he did deny Him after the fact.
So why should it surprise us that in the last 2000 years
we’ve even had popes who went bad.
I think of Pope St. Stephen VI;
newly elected he ordered that his predecessor’s body
should be dug up from his grave, dressed up as pope,
put on the papal throne and tried for all sorts of crimes and heresies;
and then he dumped his body in the Tiber River.
That’s a bad pope.
Or of Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope, who had several mistresses,
and 9 illegitimate children, one of whom he made a cardinal.
Or of Pope Leo X, whose decadence was so bad,
the whole Church,
it set off Martin Luther and the whole Protestant Revolt, or “Reformation,”
in the 16th century.
Now, I’m not trying to scandalize you, but it’s there.
And popes sin, right from the beginning
—some popes obviously worse than others.
And where were the other apostles?
They hadn’t betrayed or denied Jesus, but they were afraid of suffering with Him.
So they kept their heads down, safe in the locked doors of the upper room.
So, why should we be surprised today
if many otherwise good cardinals and bishops and priests,
also choose to keep their heads down,
and say and do nothing that would cause them to suffer with Jesus.
Again, that should make us angry, and disappoint us,
but it should not surprise us:
in the beginning 84% of the bishops and priests did that.
So only John was there, and the other 11 apostles were not.
But who else was there?
Scripture tells us that the faithful women were also there at the foot of the Cross.
In particular Mary Magdalene, the great sinner who became the great saint.
To me, she represents all the lay people of the Church today,
who despite being sinners, truly strive to be saints,
and when in their weakness they fail, repent and constantly try again.
That doesn’t make them hypocrites;
hypocrites are people who say, “you do this, but I can do that.”
This just makes them Catholics who want to be saints.
Magdalene and the holy women did not run
from the suffering of the Body of Christ, even when 11 apostles did.
They were not afraid or embarrassed by the wounds in his precious flesh,
they did not hide in shame in the face of mockery.
They wept and moaned, and perhaps they felt angry and confused,
You weep and moan and are angry and confused today.
But you must not run and hide in embarrassment or shame,
but rather, like the Magdalene and the others,
stand with Jesus and His Church, on the Cross.
So we look at the Cross, and we see today’s Church.
The bloody, torn and spit upon Body of Christ.
But for Christians, whenever we see the Crucifixion,
we should also always see and understand it
in the light of the Resurrection and Ascension.
Just as part of the Church suffers on earth,
another part of the Church is already glorified in Heaven.
And just as the Body of Christ rose from the dead and walked the earth,
we also see the Body of Christ gloried even on earth today,
as it preaches of the truth about God and man
and struggles to live out that truth in the lives of ordinary Catholics.
And we see it glorified in the sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist,
as the Crucified Jesus pours out his strength, peace and forgiveness
on the members of his Body.
And we see that glory as sinners, like Mary Magdalen,
become devoutly in love with Jesus.
And we see it as a few cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests
are not afraid to publicly stand with Christ and the Truth,
at the foot of Cross even when it means suffering.
Who else is at the foot of the Cross, standing with Jesus?
Of course, Mary, His Mother.
Mary is always with Jesus when He needs her.
She was there when He was a needy baby and growing boy.
And she was there when He needed her on the Cross.
And she is with Him now bodily, in the glory of heaven,
and she is here with us, as His body continues to suffer on earth.
She would never abandon Jesus, and she would never abandon us.
As I mentioned before, the Church teaches that
the Eucharist is first and foremost the sacrifice of the Cross.
And so we come here every Sunday, not simply to pray or to hear God’s word,
but to stand at the foot of the Cross
—and to be united with the Body of Christ Crucified in the Eucharist.
With Mary, we unite our suffering to Jesus’s suffering on the Cross:
as St. Paul tells us elsewhere:
“offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God
–this is your true and proper worship.”
All the suffering we endure, and all the good we do.
And he unites ours to His, and His to ours.
My dear brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters in Christ,
today we can’t get past the suffering inflicted on us
by too many bad priests, bishops and cardinals.
And we are confused and frightened by the accusations against our Holy Father,
and pray they are not true.
But no matter what, we will not give up hope or faith,
we will not turn and run and hide.
And as we now move more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass,
and kneel at the foot of the Cross of Christ
made really substantially present on the altar,
let us stand with John, and Magdalen and Our Mother Mary,
and join them in uniting all our sufferings to His.
And in Holy Communion,
let our unity with Jesus and His Church be strengthened,
as one Body of Christ, suffering and glorified,
filled with every grace and blessing, every peace and virtue,
that flows from the pierced Heart of Jesus.