Homily begins at timestamp 18:33
3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 24, 2021
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
This week was a very sad week for our nation, for many reasons.
The reason at the top of my list is Wednesday’s inauguration of a new President,
who is an avid supporter of abortion on demand,
an opponent traditional marriage, family and sexuality,
and wants to curtail of freedom of speech and religion.
And all of this in the shadow of Friday’s observance of
the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
establishing the so-called “right to abortion”.
The idea of facing 4 years of corruption of our laws and culture
is almost overwhelming.
But as I’ve said so many times, we don’t trust in men to give us happiness.
No, we trust in Jesus and the great gifts He gives us through His Church.
And to be clear, as I’ve also said many times, when I talk about the Church,
I mean the Sacred Scripture, Tradition, Sacraments, and the life of grace
handed down to us through the authentic magisterium.
And we should never confuse that “Church” we trust in,
with the men, and women, that belong and even lead the Church.
This has always been the case, but it became very clear 19 years ago
in the priest and bishop abuse and coverup scandals.
And then, in case you forgot, we saw it again 2 years ago
in the Cardinal McCarrick scandal, as we came to recognize the filth
even in almost the highest levels of the hierarchy and the Vatican.
And then, sadly, we saw it last week, with the widely reported actions
of 3 current American Cardinals,
all of whom seem to owe their rise in the hierarchy to
their old mentor and friend, the former Cardinal McCarrick.
You may have read, or seen on tv,
that on Wednesday morning before his inauguration,
the self-proclaimed devout Catholic Joe Biden
went to Mass at the Cathedral in Washington, St. Matthews,
the seat of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington.
I can’t find anything to confirm this,
but I presume Mr. Biden received Communion at the Mass,
because he regularly does receive,
and the Cardinal has specifically given him “permission” to receive.
But no matter what anyone says, Mr. Biden is forbidden by the Church
—through Canon Law and Holy Scripture—to receive Communion,
because of his well-known positions on issues
like abortion, homosexuality and transgenderism,
not to mention his intention to restrict religious freedom,
for example, his promise to force the Little Sisters of the Poor
to pay for employee contraception.
All this makes him what the Church calls, a person who
“obstinately persevere[s] in manifest grave sin.”
This means no one—not even the Pope—can give him Communion
until he publicly repents his sinful positions on those issues.
The reason for this law is simple and 3-fold.
Fist and foremost, to make the sinner repent.
Second, to save the Eucharist from public desecration.
To receive the host in this state is not merely sacrilegious,
but it’s worse than throwing the Consecrated Host on the ground
and stepping on it.
Third, to save God’s people from being confused about what is good and evil:
if an unrepentant public sinner receives Communion,
it might lead other Catholics to think it’s okay to do that,
or even that the sins themselves aren’t really sins,
or even that the Eucharist is not the true Body of Jesus.
This is the sin called “scandal”—confusing people about what is right and wrong.
And even if brother Biden didn’t receive Communion on Wednesday,
there is the scandal of the Cardinalpublicly giving him permission to do so.
That was the first of the 3 Cardinals to remind us last week that
while we should always trust Jesus and His Church,
that is not the same thing as placing our trust in princes of the Church.
On Wednesday morning the good Archbishop of Los Angeles,
Archbishop Jose Gomez, in his role as
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
was preparing issue a statement about the inauguration.
In that statement he gave charitable and patriotic remarks
celebrating the inauguration of a new president, but then added:
“I must point out that our new President
has pledged to pursue certain policies
that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity,
most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage,
Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church
and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
But before he could issue that statement,
he got a call from someone in the Vatican,
obviously someone with more authority than him,
telling him, to postpone publishing the statement.
It seems, according to multiple press reports,
that the two Cardinals from Chicago and Newark,
didn’t like the negative tone of the statement,
and had been on the phone all day trying to get the statement cancelled
—and they succeeded, at least in postponing it.
And when it was published after the inauguration,
one of those cardinals blasted Archbishop Gomez on Twitter,
something unheard of among American bishops.
Think of this: Archbishop Gomez, Bishop of the largest diocese in America,
and duly-elected by the other American Bishops to be their president
was silenced and then criticized for reminding a Catholic
about his moral responsibilities.
Now, Cardinal McCarrick was not a child abuser
—he abused seminarians and priests.
This reminds us that there are lots of forms of very serious abuse in the Church,
a whole lot of which has been covered up by members of the hierarchy.
There’s the abuse of children,
by supporting the psychological abuse of confusing them
with false notion of sexuality and family.
And the abuse of average Catholics,
by but teaching them false or watered down doctrine,
or not supporting them when they suffer for living by the true teaching.
And the abuse of the sacraments,
especially the abuse of the Body of Christ Himself,
by supporting sacrilegious Communions,
that drive the nails deeper into the flesh of our Crucified Savior.
And then there’s the coverup.
Some of this coverup is based on pure evil intent:
they either support the evil conduct, or don’t care about it.
A lot of it, I think, is based on an internal culture
that seeks to protect the status quo:
that thinks that if one member of the hierarchy
—whether a priest, bishop or cardinal—
is exposed for some terrible act, then the whole Church will suffer.
Better to cover up the sins than allow the good name of the Church to be sullied.
But in the end, most of the cover ups is based on fear.
Fear of reprisal from the folks in the pew, or from the media or from politicians,
but especially fear of reprisal from someone above them in the Church.
And this fear may be well founded, even prudent:
better I pick my fights than lose my opportunity to do the good I can.
All this creates a culture that all too many buy into
—again, many for the best of reasons.
But Jesus doesn’t agree with that.
As he once said,
“Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no
—anything else is from the devil.”
And as he said over and over again, “be not afraid.”
And he also said,
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.”
There he wasn’t just talking about abusing a child,
he was also talking about the sin of scandal: causing someone else to sin.
So, it was a very very sad week this week.
We must acknowledge that.
But we must not wallow in that sadness and become depressed or discouraged.
Because, again, our hope is in Jesus and His Church!
We must get angry about it—outraged.
But with an anger not fueled by hatred, hysteria or lies,
but by charity, reason and truth.
Several people have told me in the last few weeks how tired they are of fighting.
I get that, I’ve felt that too.
So, take a little rest if you need to—and you probably do.
Keep in touch with the basics of new developments,
but take a few days or even weeks, to let go of the frustration and fatigue.
And then get back to work.
But work wisely—be clever as serpents, and innocent as doves.
Not wasting energy on foolish and evil things like violence or riots.
But by taking time and effort to write letters, march, protest, donate money,
and join and actively participate organizations
that stand up for true Christian values.
And of course, use our greatest weapon: prayer.
For it is a fundamental part of our faith, foundational:
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
First, pray for yourself and your family,
that you be strong and wise going forward.
And, of course, pray for our fellow country men, especially our political leaders,
that they may turn their hearts away from foolishness ideologies
and turn toward the wisdom of God.
And pray specifically for our brother in Christ, Joe Biden:
perhaps, perhaps, there is an opening to the truth somewhere in his heart.
As Saint Paul once wrote:
“where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”
And finally pray for priests.
In today’s gospel, Jesus calls fishermen to be his first 4 apostles:
Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.
I think he chose fishermen because he knew they were men of character.
They were courageous men, who had experienced violent storms at sea
and risked their lives to feed their families.
They were dedicated and persevering men,
who often worked all through the nights to make their catch,
and often came up empty.
They were self-discipled and masculine men, not pampered men:
the work of a fisherman is rugged and hard.
But Jesus didn’t choose just any fishermen.
As St. John tells us elsewhere “he knew everything,”
so he knew these four before he even met them.
And chose and called these four men in particular.
So today, pray for priests—and bishops and cardinals.
That they be strong, courageous, dedicated, persevering and masculine men.
That they be truly men whose only goal and ambition
is to follow Jesus and catch other followers for him.
Men with the courage and faith to do as Jesus commands elsewhere:
“What I tell you in the dark, say in the light,
and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
And pray for and encourage vocations to the priesthood.
Being a priest isn’t that hard, unless you want to be a good priest.
In which case it can sometimes be very hard,
requiring strong, courageous, dedicated, persevering and masculine men.
Do you know someone like that?
Maybe your son or nephew, or brother, or a friend?
Or maybe someone you’ve just seen around the parish?
Or may that someone is you?
If you know a young man like this, pray for them,
that they will listen for the voice of Jesus,
and if they hear Him calling,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
they may have the faith, love and above all courage
to imitate Ss. Peter, Andrew, James and John,
and “abandon[e] their nets and follo[w] him.”
That they may become the courageous and bold priests, bishops and cardinals
who will lead us all, in Christ, in the fight for the future of our nation.
It was a sad week—in our nation and in our Church.
But we can’t wallow in that sadness.
Lift up your head, take a moment to catch your breath and clear your head.
And then “Come follow” Jesus, as He casts his net over our beloved nation
so He may make her the great nation we all want her to be.