Saturday, October 15, 2011

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 16th, 2011

Today’s Gospel brings out the darkness of the hearts of those who opposed Jesus’ intrusion into their lives—they were religious in appearance but in their hearts they sought to live a life far apart from God—they refused to give to God what belonged to Him, namely their lives, their hearts and wills; in other words they refuse to adore Him, they refused to accept Him and his teachings and open their lives to His Divine Grace in order to begin to conform their lives in obedience to His Truth and His Will.

And so to justify themselves, these so-called religious tried to trap Jesus in catch 22. They pose a very clever question. If Jesus would answer “that the tax should be paid, the Pharisees would accuse Him to the people of collaborating with the Romans. Because the people saw paying taxes as nothing less than financing Rome’s continual domination of the nation of Israel, the people would then turn against Jesus and no longer follow Him. If Jesus would answer, “not to pay the taxes,” then the ill-willed Herodians would have grounds to turn Jesus over to the Romans and have Him arrested for His opposition to the state, for his trying to stir up rebellion among the people.

In response, Jesus gives His enemies a very clever and profound answer, an answer which goes far beyond their twisted expectations. He doesn’t just give them a yes or no answer, He gives them the true perspective—“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. In other words, Jesus teaches them and us the proper relationship between church and state, and of our obligation to support both the Church and the state. Jesus puts back into order what was out of order. First and foremost, Jesus taught the Herodians and all those who were listening, that God is first, and so God alone is the determiner of truth, not man, collectively or individually.

Today, Jesus continues to teach us that the state does not enjoy absolute power and dominion. Yes it has its own sphere of dominion, but it is limited. As a consequence, the rights of the state cannot usurp the rights of God, and go against the rights of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.
God has revealed to man what is right and wrong; He has even written it on the heart of man. And so, no man is free to decide for himself what is right or wrong; to call virtue vice and vice virtue; to reject the truth about sin as an offense against God and against man. The government for its part is called to uphold this proper order between Creator and creature; to uphold the rights of God.

And so, the laws of the state, if they are to be just, can never contradict the Laws of God. Instead, the principles of God and the sacredness of human life, should be the guiding light for the enactment of the laws of state. By the way, the political debate should be the means, the method we use to ensure God’s law is respected and human life is protected; and this is why we are obliged to promote the truth and fight unjust laws-laws which go against the common good of all. Like paying taxes, this is a duty we Christians owe to the state.

The notion that we Christians should not and may not participate in the public forum and make our voices known is to exclude God Himself from the public square. Ultimately, it is man literally ignoring the existence of God, at its heart this is what communism and secularism does. In the words of the Second Vatican it is a practical atheism.

When man tries to create a society devoid of God and his truth and laws, the collapse of the society is inevitable, but not before a great increase of evil, tyranny and the resulting catastrophic suffering and death. One would think we have enough examples from history to prove this point. If we Catholics don’t do everything we can to end this current trend of Godlessness and its resulting holocaust against human life by our own turning more from sin, repenting, and turning more to God through intense prayer and penance, then the very least of our worries will be the economy, I can assure you.

With regard to taxes, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, Christians have a duty to give to the state whatever material and personal services they are able in order to support the common good. But the state then has the corresponding responsibility to enact laws and govern with the greatest respect for the common good of all people including, and most especially, the most vulnerable, those that cannot protect themselves. This obligation of the state includes the protection of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, the defense of the family and consequently, the protection of marriage as an in-dissolvable union between one man and one woman as define by God and by natural law as a means to bring new life into the world to adore God, the protection of religious liberty and the rights of parents, not the state, to be the primary educators of their children.

So we must support the state so it can fulfill its earthly natural purpose or end--which is domestic peace and harmony; but even more so, Jesus points out today as well, our higher obligation to support the Church so that it may carry out its supernatural purpose or end: which is to bring about eternal peace and harmony-better known as the kingdom of God, that kingdom for which man was created and for which he is to be saved. Politics alone cannot save society or man. According to the Code of Cannon Law, which is the internal law of the Church, the law necessary for her to exist as a visible society, and the law that every single Catholic is obliged in conscience to obey in order to show their love for Jesus, according to Canon law:

“Christ’s faithful have the obligation to provide for the temporal needs of the Church, so that the Church has available to it those things which are necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity and for the worthy support of the ministers.” (code of Canon Law n. 222).

However, this duty of ours goes far beyond just the gift of treasure or tax to the support of Christ’s Church. We must also support the Church with our time and talent, and most especially support it spiritually. We must always remember that the collection at the offertory only represents our offering of ourselves to the Father in union with Christ’s Sacrifice on the Altar. This is why the priest says, “Pray brethren that our sacrifice, mine and yours, may be acceptable to God our Father.” We are not asking the Father to accept the Sacrifice of the Mass, that is Jesus’ sacrifice, of course that’s acceptable. We are asking Him to accept our individual sacrifice, not just our money but more importantly ourselves, all that we have and are, especially our will. WE are to offer our lives for the love of God and for the mission of the Church (including the church in our midst-St. Patrick’s parish family. Love of God must be shown by our love for our parish family and support of it’s mission) and what is the mission of the church? The evangelization of the world to the truth of the Gospel message for the spread of the Kingdom of God and for the conversion and salvation of souls for Christ..

This points out very clearly what Christ does not mean by this verse, “give to Caesar what belong to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” Christ doesn’t, does not, mean that we relegate our service to God, that is our faith to the private sphere. Christ did not intend to relegate religion to a private affair only carried out in the temple, but not in daily life in the world, as if the world could somehow develop apart from God’s law and Christian law and morality. Of course, that is an illusion; as we have said, the world trying to go along without God’s law is doomed to failure and collapse—God is God, he pervades the entire world—it is His and without Him it cannot exist. Religion is the necessary element that forms the consciences of its citizens and brings about the “creation of an ethical consensus in society” (Pope Benedict). Religion is the conscience of a country and faithful Catholics are it’s soul, it fact they are the anima mundi—the soul of the world!

Every Christian, each one of us is called and challenged to be light and salt in the middle of the world. We are all called to love God, have an intimate and loving prayer with Him through prayer, study, and the Sacraments. And because of this love, we are call to go live our mission; to take the truth about God and man, and the truth about God’s love for man, out into the public arena, to all our neighbors. We are called to live as children of God in order to bring his light, his truth and his way into the halls of our schools, of our governments, our jobs as well as in the living rooms of our friends, and yes, a resounding yes, into the voting booth.

Ite missa est!!!, Not the Mass is ended go in peace, but go forth, fulfill your mission, take what you have received in the Holy Eucharist, namely Jesus, the God who is Love, and through Him, with Him and in Him, transform the world in which you live and work, transform it through Love. By our holiness of life, and with God’s love in us, we can transform the world, we can make it more humane, more human, changing our current culture of death into a culture of light and life, then and only then will we have peace and security.

Us Catholics truly do have the answer for our modern age’s terrible moral and religious void and consequently its spiritual darkness, which is the very source of its current woes. Let us with the help of the blessed Virgin Mary mother of all nations, give unto God what belongs to God, our obedience to his truth in love and our entire life and everything in it for His honor and glory. Let us ask her to help us to pray in order to make reparation for the exclusion of God and His truth from our society. Ultimately to give to God what is God's means to give Him ourselves, for we are His and to Him we belong and are called to return; may we indeed be counted among those he has chosen and be instruments of salvations for others as well. Amen.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our love of God is to actually first to receive His love and mercy.

Homily for Matthew 22: 34-40 Thirtieth Sunday (Extra-Ordinary Form).

In our Gospel today, we continue with more testing of Jesus by the chief priests and elders. Their intentions are of course not pure. They don’t care about the truth, they are just trying to trip Jesus up…get something they can use against him. As we heard last week, Jesus silenced them regarding the question about healing on the Sabbath.

Today, Jesus is asked which of the 613 laws are most important. It would seem to be a fairly hard question. Out of the 613, if I ignore one, how will that affect the others? Often, such as last week, Jesus does not answer the question directly. Jesus is very clever; he usually turns the question back on the chief priest and elders. He does this however, not just to trip them up but to answer the question in way that would lead those who are open to His grace closer to God; in other words, to lead them closer to Himself.

Today however, Jesus does answers the question directly: What is the greatest commandment? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

Love God and love neighbor. We hear something we hear so often, and yet we find it so hard to do. Jesus says something so simple and we really want to love God and love our neighbor, but we really struggle; especially we want to love our family fully, yet it seems the more we try the more we fail. We have to ask ourselves why we fail; why can we love the way we ought or the way we want?

I think we often can accuse ourselves of a lack of effort as the reason for your failure to love:

-we have not loved God with all our mind- we have failed to diligently study our faith by reading the Scriptures or the Catechism or other resources for our faith.

-We have failed to love God with our whole heart: we have not put enough effort in our prayer live. We have failed in prayer by failing to make it a priority in our lives; perhaps this is because of our busy schedules or the children or we become so distracted in our prayers that it seems futile or we just don’t “feel” like it.

-We have failed to love God with all our strength because we have put our own will before His. We have put our comfort before really doing what God wants us to do.

I would like to suggest perhaps something you might not think. Perhaps we have failed to love God because we have not placed first things first. If Jesus says we have to love God, what does Scripture say about loving God? “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” Our love of God is to actually first to receive His love and mercy. This is what Jesus is trying to do with his hearers today…He is trying to lead them to Himself, to recognize in faith His divinity so that they can adore Him and open themselves to His Divine Love and Mercy.

The fact that we fail to love Him and fail to love our neighbors is because we are not full of His love, but full of our own self-love. The more we open ourselves to the love of God the more his love overcomes our selfish love, purifies us for love, and strengthens us to, for love. We just cannot love our neighbor, especially our family members, unless we first open ourselves to God’s love and mercy in our own lives. But we can love God and Neighbor, if we allow God to love us first. We do this most fully by our adoration of God.

The first Commandment is really first and foremost a commandment to adore God. Adoration places us as humble creature before God recognizing our complete and absolute dependency on God our Loving Creator. Adoration places us in contact with this Creator God who is Love Itself. We adore God not for God’s sake, but for our own. Adoration opens us to God’s love in our lives and in our families.

Our adoration of God can occur any time, but primarily it must occur before God incarnate truly present in the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the God who is Love become Man before us in order that we can be in the presence of He who is Love. Jesus, as I said wants to lead us to Himself. In His True Presence we can experience Love of God is way like no other, we can receive His mercy in order open ourselves up more fully to His love. And by opening ourselves to His love we can offer ourselves to Him in order to become one with Him. This oneness can then occur sacramentally as we literally receive our Love in Holy Communion.

Adoration of God in the Holy Eucharist is not always easy especially for us moderns who have to be “doing” something. And so, just being present before the Holy Eucharist in silent adoration can seem like we are wasting our time. However nothing can be further from the case, time spend before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament can be the most active time we can spend on this earth…Heart speaking to Heart, Love making us one with Himself, us allowing Him do to so, so that we can love Him and love our neighbor, our friends, parishioners and family members as we ought as we desire; even more so we can love them for Jesus, with Jesus’ love.

Let us ask make a new priority in our prayer-Jesus today, just like in our Gospel wants to lead us who are open, more and more to His divinity by leading us more and more to His Humanity in the Holy Eucharist. Through the intercession of the Blessed Mother may we be given the grace to be open to God’s love in our lives, especially during our adoration the God-Man Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. May the Adoration of Jesus truly present in the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar be the priority of our lives and the lives of our families, including our parish family as well. Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

This week in place of my regular homily I am reading the following statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities United States Conference of Catholic Bishops September 26, 2011
This October the Catholic Church throughout the United States will observe Respect Life Month, an annual tradition now in its fortieth year.

Beginning on October 2, 2011—Respect Life Sunday—Catholics across the nation will join together to witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.

In countless liturgies and events we will give thanks to God for the gift of human life, and pray for his guidance and blessings on our efforts to defend the most vulnerable members of the human family.

We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced. At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion—the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child—that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin, and that healing and peace can be theirs through the sacrament of reconciliation and the Church’s Project Rachel Ministry.

The theme chosen for this year’s Respect Life Program is I came so that all might have life and have it to the full. In this brief explanation of his mission (cf. John 10:10), Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world.

By following Jesus’ new Commandment of unselfish love, our lives can be richly fulfilling, and marked by joy and peace. In contrast, treating others as either means or obstacles to one’s self- serving goals, while never learning to love generously, is an impoverished way to live.

Viewing life as a “zero sum” game, in which advancing one’s interests requires putting aside the needs of others, can lead to callous unconcern for anyone who is especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help. The unborn child, the aging parent who some call a “burden” on our medical system, the allegedly “excess” embryo in the fertility clinic, the person with a disability, the cognitively impaired accident victim who needs assistance in receiving food and water to live—each today is at risk of being dismissed as a “life unworthy of life.”

Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” is especially poignant today, when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society. We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity. Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy.

The same forces, aided by advertising and entertainment media, promote a selfish and demeaning view of human sexuality, by extolling the alleged good of sexual activity without love or commitment. This view of sex as “free” of commitment or consequences has no place for openness to new life. Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the “necessary” back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do. Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

Both these trends—a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion—are exhibited by the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the “preventive services” to be mandated in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law. The Department ruled that such mandated services will include surgical sterilization and all FDA- approved contraceptive drugs and devices—including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486.

The decision is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease. It is the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world. Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS, increasing the risk of breast cancer from excess estrogen, and of blood clots that can lead to stroke from synthetic progestin. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives.

The “religious employer” exemption offered by the Department is so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one. Catholic institutions providing health care and other services to the needy could be forced to fire their non-Catholic employees and cease serving the poor and vulnerable of other faiths—or stop providing health coverage at all. It has been said that Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as “religious enough” for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.

All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer.

The founders of our nation understood that religion and morality are essential to the survival of a freedom-loving society. John Adams expressed this conviction, stating: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.

As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us last year in one of his Ad Limina addresses to visiting bishops, “a society can be built only by tirelessly respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.” That common nature transcends all accidental differences of age, race, strength, or conditions of dependency, preparing us to be one human family under God.

During this Respect Life Month, as we celebrate God’s great gift of life, let us pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to “respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person,” thereby shoring up the foundations of a society sorely in need of this guidance.