TEXT: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 8, 2023

October 8, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

The 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 8, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

Last Wednesday the Church throughout the world celebrated

         the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi,

         one of the most beloved saints of the Church,

         and, of course, one who has received a lot of renewed attention

         under the papacy of Pope Francis.

There are probably two things St. Francis

         is most popularly remembered for today:

                  his love of creation and his love of the poor and poverty itself.

Maybe that’s three things.

When it comes to his love for creation, we remember

         how he preached to the animals,

         and his famous Canticle of Creation in which he spoke of

                  “Brother Sun…Sister Moon…Brothers Wind and Air…Sister Water…

                           Brother fire…”

As a result, unfortunately, many sort of see him as a medieval environmentalist,

         sort of the patron saint of Greenpeace.

But that was not really St. Francis.

         His love was not for creation and creatures in or by themselves,

         but because he saw in creatures the creative love of God–

                  acts of God’s love revealed.

And he saw that to love creatures without loving God

         opens us to all sorts of troubles,

         and is closely related to one of the oldest and most eloquent definitions

         of sin itself: to love creatures more than we love God.

God, the Creator, was the reason St. Francis loved creation and creatures.

We see this in his love for poverty

         —which he called “Sister Poverty” and even “his bride.”

He saw that it was so easy to get caught up in or become “attached” to

          created things, and that this was an obstacle to loving God

         —whether that meant a beautiful sunset or garden,

                  or a diamond ring, or even warm clothes.

But at the same time, he saw the wonder of God’s creative love in created things,         and so he didn’t despise them, but cherished them.

He spoke eloquently about the sun and moon,

         and spoke tenderly to the animals.

And he even cherished created things that men had made using God’s creation:

         He gave food to the poor, gave clothes to the naked,

         and built beautiful churches in which men could worship God.

But he always combined this with his radical insistence on the right ordering of love:

         loving God the Creator first,

         but at the same time loving the creatures all the more

                  because of that love for their Creator.

And this, in turn, led him to a unique love for his fellow man.

Because he saw in his fellow man not a mere work of the Creator

         but a living breathing image and likeness of the Creator,

         created by God specifically to share in God’s life and love.

So, he saw things in their proper order:

         God as the Creator over all;

         Man created to share in God’s life and love;

         and creation as a gift from God to man,

                  created to give glory to God

                  and to delight man and provide for his every need.

And in all this, St. Francis came to recognize another aspect of poverty

         in which he could find a deeper reason to love those who lived in poverty,

                   “the poor.”

In the poverty of the poor man, he saw man

         clearly set apart from the other creatures,

         stripped of all things and standing alone in his unique dignity.

A God-given, innate dignity which is in no way dependent on the rest of creation–

         not on what he owns, nor where he lives, nor what he eats, nor what he wears.


This is a rather different St. Francis than the one the world likes to think of

because we live in a world that is so confused about

         creation and created things,

         how to love them,

         and how they relate to man and to God.

This confusion leads to all sorts of terrible problems

which, during October (designated as “Respect Life Month”),

         has particular meaning to us.

To begin with, there are some who love the environment,

         but reject the God who created it all;

         they stand in awe of the incredible complexity of it all,

         but deny the divine intellect that designed and made it all from nothing.

Then there are some who march and protest to save small insignificant creatures

         like the snail darter or a rare species of bird,

         but don’t give a moment’s reflection to the lives of unborn human beings.

They argue about interdependence of the environment,

         fragile ecosystems, and the butterfly effect:

         They protest and make all sorts of fuss about climate change,

worried it will set off a chain reaction of events

which will threaten the existence of some animal and plant species.

But they don’t think about what will happen if a baby is killed in the womb–

         that that baby might have been the next

         Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, or St. Francis.

What catastrophic chain of events in human society—and the environment—

         will be set off by the death of one unborn baby,

         much less one-third of all babies conceived over the last two generations

         (63 million babies) in America alone?

And then there are those who talk a lot about loving the poor,

but they reduce the expression of this love to merely giving things to the poor,

                  created things.

         Often times this effectively teaches the poor that their dignity comes

                  from what they own or can use,

                  not from being creatures created to share in God’s life and love.

Many preach class rivalry:

         The rich have more stuff, and until you have that stuff, you are oppressed.

All this leads us not to appreciate the dignity of every human being, rich or poor,

         but to measure every human being by the stuff they have.

It leads not to true love, genuine respect, lasting peace, and enduring wellbeing,

         but to envy, greed, lust, pride, avarice, sloth, and anger.

It leads not to life, but to death.

What good are you if you don’t have stuff,

         or if you stand in the way of me getting my stuff?

Your life is worthless to the extent it interferes with what I want.

And so a mother is encouraged to choose to abort her unborn baby

         because it will interfere with her goals in life

                  —getting all that stuff she wants, whether it’s an education,

                           or a husband, or a career, whatever….

Or daughters and sons are encouraged to end the life of their aged father

         because he has become a burden to doing as they please.


What would St. Francis have to say about this?

Abortion wasn’t a problem in his time,

         but I think he would probably say something along the lines

         of the words of another great saint of our own time,

         St. Teresa of Calcutta.

She once said,

         “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die

                  so that you may live as you wish.”

And many times she reminded us,

         “Unborn children are among the poorest of the poor.”

St. Francis would also surely tell us to consider the words of our Lord Himself.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the story of the tenants

         who cling to the created things of this world so much

         that that they can’t see the dignity of an innocent human being.

And so eventually they say, “Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”

God gives us so much–even to the poorest walking among us. He gives us

         our lives and Brother Sun and Sister Moon

                  —the good things of the world around us.

But all too often, that is not enough.

We forget the giver and want only the gift.

         We love the created things but not the Creator

         or the ones created to be His true sons and daughters.

We even kill His most innocent children, and our own, to get more.


Now many who promote and defend abortion claim to be

         defending the mothers of these unborn babies.

But the reality is that most often these women don’t want to abort;

         something in their souls tells them that this is a gift,

         that human life is precious, and that their baby is precious.

But then people lie to them, and confuse them,

         and encourage them to think it is good to do what they know is wrong.

But no matter how rich or successful they might go on to be,

         the truth remains:

                  Their children have been stolen from them,

                  and they have been robbed of their motherhood,

                  leaving them in the ranks of the poorest of the poor.


We now prepare to move more deeply into the Holy Mass.

While most people today remember St. Francis’ love of poverty and creation,

         they forget that, above all, he loved what we do here today:

                  he loved the Eucharist.

In fact, he was the one who popularized Eucharistic adoration

         and made it the widespread custom it eventually became.

Because he understood that the Eucharist is the living and real presence among us

         of the Creator of all things, who became a creature like us.

He stripped himself of all the riches of the glory of heaven

         and came among us in poverty

         —reminding us that man’s dignity depends not on what he owns

                  or what he does for a living,

                  but in being created in God’s image, capable of loving as He loves.

St. Francis looked at what seems to be bread

         and recognized that poverty of Christ,

         and he saw Him hanging on the Cross,

                  not clinging to the created comforts of this world,

                  but loving His father—His co-Creator—and loving mankind.

Let us turn now, with St. Francis, and all the saints and angels of heaven,

         and recognize the God who loved us so much

         that He not only created us and gave us all the good things of the world,

         but He showed His love by becoming poor and dying for us.

Let us pray for an end of abortion,

         for the babies who have been aborted or are in danger,

         and for their dear mothers.

And may this sacrament give us the grace

         not to cling to created things, but to love the Creator with our whole life,

         and to love our fellow human beings, born and unborn, saints and sinners,

         even as He loves us.