29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 18, 2020
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
We are nearing the end of the 4-year political cycle
—the November Presidential Election.
And today’s gospel tells us that we have a responsibility to be involved.
As the Lord commands us in today’s gospel,
“render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
So it’s time to render to Caesar—to participate in the political process,
specifically by voting.
As I’ve told you before, I’ve always been a political junkie, since I was a little kid.
But not so much anymore.
In fact, I’m pretty sick of it, as our politics have descended
to new lows of indecency and malice.
Not just the last few months, but the last four years,
have sort of broken me of my addiction.
Politics has always involved a certain amount of lies, deceit and rancor,
but certain rules were usually followed or encouraged,
rules of patriotism, fair play, respect.
But no more.
Some blame this on our President:
not only does he not follow the rules set by the past,
but he’s often crass, braggadocios, petty, and hyperbolic.
But let me put on my political junkie hat for a moment.
A lot of people, myself included, think all this crud in politics
really goes back to 1987 and the nomination of Robert Bork
to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan.
Judge Bork was one of the most respected legal scholars in the country.
But he was outspoken, and, God forbid, he was called solidly conservative.
But most importantly, he was an intellectually convinced pro-life judge
who would interpret the laws and constitution as they were written,
and not try to use the court as a super-legislature.
Effectively, for the left, it came down to protecting abortion,
as well as the left’s power to re-write laws by dominating the Court.
So the Democrats decided, as Senator Ted Kennedy said,
“we’ll have to destroy him.”
And that’s what they set about to do.
And to lead the charge, Kennedy, who was called,
“the soul of the Democratic Party; and the lion of the U.S. Senate,”
set the tone of Bork’s hearings, by telling the Senate:
“Robert Bork’s America is a land in
which women would be forced into back-alley abortions,
[and] blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters…”
Of course, that was all a lie, nonsense.
But Bork’s Senate hearings, chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden,
descended into constantly berating and insulting Robert Bork,
a decent, dedicated American public servant and patriot.
Of course, the media at time was also beginning to blatantly expose
its true leftist leanings and piled on with the democrats.
And republicans and conservatives fought back, and things got dirtier and dirty.
But gradually the right found itself outgunned, and with less and less of a voice.
So the left’s cruel charges became the popular mantra:
—and by that I mean simply people holding traditional American values—
conservatives were a bunch of racists, sexists, bigots, haters
and deplorables who
“cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
Conservatives, even when they got elected, couldn’t seem to figure out
how to fight back, and so too often compromised
the traditional values they had been elected to promote:
values like pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and family,
and pro-religion and religious freedom,
And so traditional values voters saw themselves without a voice,
with no one able to defend or promote their values.
That, I believe, is why Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
Because these voters saw him as being able to override and run around the media
and go toe to toe with the muckrakers, liars and name callers of the left.
It didn’t matter that he was a brash, rich, arrogant, New Yorker;
a one-time womanizer and playboy, twice divorced, thrice married.
It didn’t even matter that he used to be pro-abortion.
What mattered was they had found a fighter
to fight for them and their most cherished values.
Of course the left and media would turn this against Trump supporters,
calling them hypocrites for claiming to be Christians,
but supporting someone like Trump.
But many Trump supporters simply responded:
“we’re electing a president, not a pastor.”
And so 2016 really got ugly.
And when Trump won, it got even uglier.
The left could not believe they’d been beat at their own game.
And they became infuriated.
Many refused to attend His inauguration,
and many immediately called for his impeachment.
And for 3 years that drum beat for impeachment
overshadowed everything the president did,
until it reached its crescendo last January—and failed.
And now they warn us, really threaten us:
if he is re-elected there will 4 more years of vindictive chaos in Washington.
[Some even threaten that the leftist violence seen in some cities this summer
will blow up into full-fledged revolution.]
So this is where we are today.
It’s a mess.
Even so, by November 3rd, all of us who can
must “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”
We must take part in the governing process—we must vote.
But who do we vote for? I mean, it’s a bloody mess.
Trump is crude and crass and exaggerates constantly.
But Biden is a bully and confused and an admitted plagiarist.
Maybe Biden will wreck the economy,
but maybe Trump messed up in handling the coronavirus.
Trump uses foul language against his opponents,
But Biden and his supporters call faithful Christians
bigots, haters, racists, and really, stupid.
How can we decide?
In the end it comes down to deciding what the most important issues are.
I mean, is it that important which is worse, plagiarism or hyperbole?
So we go back to today’s gospel:
“render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
“Rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”
means, in part, recognizing the legitimate place of the government
and therefore our role in the governing process, including voting,
But that means we must also recognize that in governing man—each other—
we have to consider what God has to say about governing man,
after all God created man, he knows what will work for man.
And we render to God what belongs to God
by following the truth God’ reveals about what is most essential
to our laws and to our choices.
So what does God reveal about what is most essential?
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love God”
and the second greatest is to “love your neighbor.”
And scripture explains that the most fundamental rule
about loving your neighbor is not to kill him:
“thou shall not kill.”
Or as the constant Judeo-Christian teachings clarify:
“you shall not directly and intentionally kill innocent human life.”
What good are all the laws of our country, if we can’t get this correct?
You don’t have any rights or freedoms or jobs or health care
if you don’t have a life, and a right to that life.
For example, what good would it be to say,
“we need to provide for the needs of all immigrants, legal or illegal,”
if we also say, “we have the right to kill any immigrant we want to.”
Or “we need to have equality for all black Americans”
but “we also have the right to kill them when we want to.”
Or let’s say, “we need to put an end to poverty,”
but then they say, “and the easiest way to do that is to kill poor people.”
The first law of Caesar must be the law of God that “thou shall not kill.”
But in 1987 Catholic Senators Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden
started the all-out political war we find ourselves in
because they denied that commandment;
they demanded the right to kill unborn babies.
And they still demand that, as we saw this last week
in the hearing for the next Justice of the Supreme Court: Amy Barrett.
Over and over again the democrat senators attacked her for being pro-life.
As Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris told Amy, and you and me:
“let’s not make any mistake about it.
Allowing President Trump to determine who fills the seat …
poses a threat to safe and legal abortion in our country.”
“Let’s not make any mistake about it…” this is about legal abortion.
But there is no greater threat to our country and our country’s future
than the threat that the right to choose abortion constitutes.
How many unborn children will live and die under that threat?
How many scientists that could cure Covid and other terrible diseases
will never be born, because of that threat?
How many Black-, Latino- and Asian-Americans
will never be allowed their civil rights because of that threat.
Because they will be killed by a doctor before they can even be born.
It is clear that Democrat Party and their candidates
are in an all-out battle to defend and promote abortion.
None of them would deny that.
I would also argue that they are fighting against other fundamental laws of God.
I’ve argued this before in homilies.
The right of parents to raise and educate their children the way they think fit
and the dignity of traditional marriage as the bedrock of a strong family.
–or as God commands, “honor your father and mother.”
And of course the rights of religious liberty and conscience,
–or as God commands,
“I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.”
But even if you disagree with that,
no one can disagree that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,
and every democratic candidate running for office in Virginia,
are the candidates who strenuously promote abortion,
the killing of almost a million babies a year, or over 2400 every single day.
And that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are fighting hard for the right to life.
And that there is no greater or more unambiguous issue on the ballot.
So that anyone who promotes the killing of innocent babies
is morally disqualified for such a high office.
Think of that: if a candidate says,
“I’m opposed to illegal immigration, and if they come here, we’ll kill them”…
who would vote for him? He’d be disqualified.
And anyone who votes for them is disqualified from calling themselves
a faithful Christian, or a lover of God, or a lover of neighbor.
Still, i understand it when some say,
“but how could you vote for Trump?
He’s obnoxious, narcissistic, ….how could you vote for him?”
First, let me be clear, I endorse no one today.
Trump is obnoxious sometimes.
But then, Biden thinks it’s okay to kill babies.
But let’s go back to today’s first reading and meet King Cyrus the Great.
Cyrus was the pagan king of Persia,
who conquered the Babylonian Kingdom which had enslaved Israel.
Cyrus was a brutal warrior and conquer, an immoral man.
He did not worship the God of Israel, or obey his commandments.
But hear what God tells Cyrus in today’s reading:
“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus,
…For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one,
I have called you by your name, giving you a title,
though you knew me not.”
History records that when King Cyrus conquered the Babylonians,
he sent the Israelites back to Jerusalem and helped them rebuild the Temple.
A pagan, radically opposed to the religion of Israel and the true God,
but that same true God used him, chose him, to free the Jews
and even to restore proper worship.
Sometimes God writes straight with crooked lines.
Sometimes God sends a pagan to free his people to follow His law.
“Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
Render to Caesar by taking part in the political process: vote.
But render to God what belongs to God,
by voting to protect innocent human life, born and unborn:
“you shall not kill!”