Homilies for October 2013

For Sunday Liturgies and Feasts
Homilies for October 2013

 

Respect Life Sunday, October 6, 2013

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time-October 6, 2013

RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY

Purpose: On this first Sunday of October, Respect Life Sunday, we can make the words of Habakkuk our own in light of the violence which continues to be perpetrated upon innocent preborn children in our country through abortion. This past January 22nd, we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the horrible Roe v. Wade decision which, as the current law of our land, permits the brutal murder of children in the womb of their mothers throughout the full nine months of pregnancy.

Readings: Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4 ● Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 ●  2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14● Lk 17:5-10
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100613.cfm

“How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ But you do not intervene.” These are the words of the Prophet Habakkuk who prophesied in the southern Kingdom of Judah in the years prior to the Babylonian invasion, and who condemned the idolatry in the land, which included the sacrifice of children to pagan gods who really were devils (cf. Ps. 95{96}:5, Douay-Rheims trans.).

Whether it be ancient Israel or modern-day America, ideas have consequences.  Today, we live in a land where we are legally guided by our Supreme Court, their decisions, and the laws they interpret. The majority in Roe v. Wade claimed to find a constitutional right for a woman to kill the child within her womb, based upon a so-called “right to privacy” which, in fact, is found nowhere in the Constitution. In decisions decided in the decades following Roe, the Supreme Court upheld the so-called “right to abortion” – and this in the face of mounting scientific evidence which proves, without a doubt, that human life begins at the moment of conception.

Justices Byron White, in his dissenting opinion in Roe, called the majority’s ruling an exercise of “raw judicial power.” Truly, it was just that, for it not only overturned every state law in our country, but also reversed 2,500 years of medical ethics which, beginning with Hippocrates and the oath he formulated, assured that medical doctors would not abort an unborn child.

This “collision,” so to speak, between the Court’s decision in Roe and reality has resulted in schizophrenic thinking: after a child is born our law recognizes that it is a human being with a constitutional right to life; but one minute before birth, or even when the child is only partially born, it is legal to kill the child.  Upon what basis can a mother kill her child before birth? Simply by her subjective decision that she does not want to bring another child into the world, or that she considers this human life not worthy of living (e.g., if the child has some deformity, or has Downs syndrome). Justice Anthony Kennedy’s frightening words in the Supreme Court’s 1993 Planned Parenthood v. Casey abortion decision are worth repeating here: “At the heart of human liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Ah, yes, we are now like gods; we are the ultimate arbiters of good and evil, of who shall live and who shall die.

Some time ago, I recall driving behind someone who had two bumper stickers, side by side. One said “I support Planned Parenthood” (the largest provider of abortion in the U.S.); the other portrayed a panda bear – in other words, protect the lives of these cute animals who (it seems) are an endangered species. Why is it that so many, if not most, of those who champion protecting the environment – the earth, its natural resources, its fish and animals, etc. – are strident supporters of abortion?

Perhaps, the answer lies in the words of our Psalm (95) today, which extends to us this invitation: “Come, bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.” The willingness of those in our society to permit the killing of unborn children under the banner of “choice” – like the willingness of those who would allow marriage to be redefined so as to allow legal unions between people of the same sex – is rooted in a failure to accord to God the worship due to him, and the obedience which flows from that worship. One of the marks of a pagan society, of a paganized culture, is child sacrifice. Today, children are sacrificed to the golden idols of self-worship and self-love.

State sanctioned abortion is nothing else than legalized murder, performed for the convenience of those who do not wish to be burdened with children. Abortion violates the rights of God, who creates human life in his image and likeness, thereby endowing it with an eminent dignity and value. No one but God has the right to take an innocent human life. And, as the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, S.J., points out, a great evil of abortion is that God is denied the glory he would have received from the love that would have been given to children aborted.

In our battle to defend the rights of God and innocent human life, we must turn to Our Lady, who is both Virgin all-pure, and Mother – Mother of Christ Our Savior, and our spiritual Mother in the order of grace. Satan’s attack today is directed especially against both virginity and motherhood: against virginity and purity of mind, heart and body, as seen with rampant promiscuity, immodesty, pornography, and assaults on marriage and moral values in general; and against motherhood, especially with the killing of innocent children in the womb. Satan, Jesus tells us, “was a murderer from the beginning.” I am convinced that the fastest, easiest, and most effective way to overcome the culture of death, and bring about victory with a culture of life, is through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, by praying her Rosary. Mary leads us to Jesus, the Author of all human life; the Immaculate Heart of the Mother is the gateway to the Sacred Heart of her Son, that Heart of the Redeemer which overflows with love for us.

In the Gospel today, the Apostles plead with Jesus, “Increase our faith.” As Bl. Pope John Paul II teaches in Redemptoris Mater, Mary is the great woman of faith who, on the one hand, is our supreme model in believing, in giving God the worship he deserves, and in that obedience which flows from authentic faith. On the other hand, she is our Advocate and our Mediatrix before God, who intercedes on our behalf and, thereby, obtains for us the graces we need to be faithful followers of her Son, and examples to others in the obedience of faith that God demands of us.

Let us turn to Mary in this Respect Life Month, asking her to mould us, more and more, into the image of her Son, that we may be examples to others, leading  them to true, authentic worship of God as found and as lived in his One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, which Christ founded on Peter, the Rock. Let us petition the Mother of God to intercede for all the people of these United States, that they may come to a knowledge of the true Faith,  thereby giving God the worship due to him, being his obedient servants, and respecting  human life from conception until natural death.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church §2770; 2270-75

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time—October 13

True Faith: Adoration and Thanksgiving

Purpose: Our readings today invite us to compare and contrast the response of people to God’s gifts and graces in their lives, and the invitation He extends to make an act of faith in Him.

Readings: 2 Kgs 5:14-17 ● Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4 ● 2 Tm 2:8-13 ● Lk 17:11-19
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101313.cfm

In our first reading, we see faith elicited in the pagan Naaman, the Syrian, when he is healed from leprosy after plunging into the waters of the Jordan River seven times, at the command of the Prophet Elisha. Before entering into the Jordan, his faith is weak and uncertain. It is only after he is healed that Naaman makes an act of faith in the true God: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” He then offers a gift to Elisha in thanksgiving, which the Prophet refuses.

The Fathers of the Church see in this miracle a prefiguring of the Gentiles being called to the faith, and being cleansed from their sins (signified outwardly by leprosy) through Baptism into the life of Christ, which will be offered to all peoples of all nations. Christ himself, we know, was baptized in the Jordan. The Holy Spirit descended upon him to signify the sanctification of our souls through baptism. The refusal by Elisha to accept the gift offered by Naaman shows that faith is itself a gift from God, a gift that, while requiring our freely-willed cooperation, cannot be earned.

In the Gospel, we see ten lepers who beg Jesus to be cured of their leprosy. Before curing them, Our Lord commands them to “Go show yourselves to the priests,” in order to fulfill the Mosaic prescript that lepers, who ordinarily must live apart from the community so as not to spread their dreaded disease, must obtain a certification from the priests that they have been cured in order to return to the community (Lev. 14:2 ff.). They obey, and on their way, they are healed. However, of the ten who were healed, only one returns to Jesus to give him thanks, and this one is a Samaritan, a “foreigner,” as Our Lord calls him.

How shall we interpret this event? We can say that the other nine were healed, but only bodily. The Samaritan, however, underwent a far more efficacious experience: a true, interior, spiritual healing due to his faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, which redounded to his salvation, as indicated by Our Lord’s words to him: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Neither Christ, nor Saint Luke, speaks of the others as having faith or as being saved. Great has their miracle was, they were not promised salvation.

The Samaritan was assured of salvation by Our Lord, not merely because he returned and gave thanks. Rather, we are told that when he came back he “glorified God” and “fell at the feet of Jesus.” Another, perhaps better translation says that the Samaritan “fell on his face at the feet of Jesus” – an act of deep humility and total, unquestioning faith.

While it appears that the other nine lepers, who likely were all Jews, did believe Jesus somehow had power to work a miraculous cure, they did not put faith in him as the Son of God. Thus, they saw no reason to return and fall on their faces before his feet, adoring him as the Word made flesh, the longed-for Messiah who was to win salvation for souls, the One to whom they must submit the entirety of their hearts, minds and souls. Instead, they returned to their normal, worldly lives and business.

In light of these readings, we can ask ourselves: What is my response to Jesus Christ, and to the many gifts and graces God has granted to me? Do I follow the nine lepers, and go about my daily business without acknowledging that Jesus suffered and died for me, and paid the price for my sins? Or, am I like Naaman, and acknowledge God, profess belief in him, and pray to him only after having received some favor or benefit from him? Or, do I strive to be like the Samaritan and humbly throw myself at Our Lord’s feet every day, giving thanks for all he has granted to me? This alone is true faith.

The saints, of course, are our models in practicing a living, active faith. In fact, with many, the whole of their lives were acts of adoration and thanksgiving to God. And supreme among the saints in this regard was the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect adorer of God and of her Son, Our Savior. Her life on earth was a pilgrimage of faith which, like her charity, grew and deepened, from her “Fiat” at the Annunciation when, through the power of the Holy Spirit, she conceived the Word made flesh; to her “Fiat” at the foot of the Cross when, with a heart filled with love for her Son and for all of us, she associated herself with Christ’s Sacrifice, freely offering him to the Father to redeem us from our sins.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin, the Mediatrix of all the grace of Christ, and our Advocate with the Father, to pray for us that we may imitate the deep and unshakeable faith she exhibited during her earthly life, so as to become more perfect followers of her Son, and adorers of God, always giving thanks to him for all that he gives to us.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church §1167; 1333; 2062; 2637-38

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time—October 20, 2013

Perseverance in Prayer

Purpose: In this Sunday’s Gospel, Our Lord reminds of us the necessity to pray continually without becoming weary and never losing heart. To do this, we must be transformed in how we define prayer and how we allow the Lord into each and every aspect of our daily lives.

Readings: Ex 17:8-13 ● Ps 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 ● 2 Tm 3:14-4:2 ● Lk 18:1-8
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102013.cfm

To bring his point home with his listeners, Jesus tells a parable about a dishonest judge who neither fears God nor respects man, to whom a widow comes to request a just decision against her adversary. The judge has no time for this bothersome woman’s petition and repeatedly ignores her request, but the woman perseveres. Finally, to get her off his back, he renders to her a just decision. Jesus then asks a rhetorical question: “Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night, and see that justice is done for them speedily?” We must answer, of course, he will. We know he is an all-good and all-loving Father, and if we persevere in our prayers, like the widow in the parable, and continue to knock at the door of God’s heart, he will open his heart to us and grant our petitions.

But after asking this question, Jesus then asks another: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Why does Jesus follow up with this question? Because perseverance in prayer requires great faith, and a corresponding confidence that God always hears our prayers and answers them – though maybe not in the way we want. For God knows what is good for us, and what will, or will not, redound to our salvation. Great faith and unwavering confidence in God’s infinite goodness and loving providence is absolutely necessary in order to persevere in prayer.

The skeptic will object, of course, saying that if God knows everything, then he knows what we need, even before we ask for it. So, there is no need to pray; that prayer is, in this sense, “useless.” But the person with faith responds: It is true that God knows what we need before we ask him; but the fact is that we do not always know what we need, and the very act of praying helps us to clarify our thoughts and intentions, and to better know for what we should be asking. In the very act of praying, we may come to know God’s will for us when we did not know it – or, at least, know it clearly – beforehand.

Moreover, the person of faith knows that God’s will, and its operations in the world and in our lives, is a mystery. Sometimes, the answer to our prayers will be “no,” because God, as a loving Father, knows that what we are asking for would not benefit us or others. At other times, God may want us to pray harder and longer and more intensely before answering our prayers, because by persevering in prayer, our faith deepens and grows stronger. The mystery of God’s will in response to our prayers is brought home in Tertullian’s famous dictum: “Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God.” Our fervent prayer can change the very will of God!

In prayer of petition to God, we must also keep in mind the order that God has established in his Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, in which there exists a Communion of the Saints; i.e., an exchange of prayer and spiritual goods among the members of the Body through Christ, the Head. What this means is that we can call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and other saints, to intercede for us before the throne of God. God is never upset, but most pleased, when we follow his divine order.

Listen to the words of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, in a talk during his apostolic visit to Germany: “When Christians of all times and places turn to Mary, they are acting on the spontaneous conviction that Jesus cannot refuse his Mother what she asks; and they are relying on the unshakable trust that Mary is also our Mother – a Mother who has experienced the greatest of all sorrows, who feels all our griefs with us, and ponders, in a maternal way, how to overcome them.” Jesus “cannot refuse his Mother what she asks.” How beautiful! What confidence this should give us in going to Jesus through Mary!

Here is the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the Communion of the Saints:

Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.  . . . They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus (CCC §956).

Of course, the saints themselves offer us striking examples of perseverance in prayer, even during the darkest moments. At the foot of the Cross, the Blessed Virgin Mary “stood,  . . .  enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim, born of her” (CCC §964). Our Lady’s steadfast perseverance was rewarded with nothing less than our redemption!

We have all learned, after her death through her letters, that Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta underwent nearly 50 years of profound spiritual darkness, devoid of all consolations from God. But observing her, one would never have known this; for she heroically persevered in her prayer, relying confidently on God through it all.

The Catechism teaches that, in the end, perseverance in prayer comes down to perseverance in love:

{W}e are to pray without ceasing. This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love (CCC §2742).

Let us persevere, with unbounded confidence, in our prayer by imitating Mary and the saints who persevered in their love for God and neighbor. And let us pray always, never becoming weary, never losing heart!

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church §1174; 2742; 2757

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time—October 27

Humility: Simply Telling the Truth 

Purpose: Today, Jesus leaves no doubt: he is very clear, that he condemns those who are convinced of their own righteousness, and look down upon others. If we act in this manner, says Jesus, we are not just in God’s eyes.  Above all, humility is telling the ultimate truth about ourselves: that all is gift, and all the good and gifts we have are acts of God’s goodness towards us.

Readings: Sir 35:12-14, 16-18 ● Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23 ● 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18 ● Lk 18:9-14
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102713.cfm

A marvelous thing about the parables of Jesus is that we are always able to apply them to ourselves, to our own life situation.

St. Luke tells us that: “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.”

All of us, I think, at one time or another, are like the Pharisee in this parable, convinced of how good and just and righteous we are, and how bad and unjust other people are: “Thank you, Lord, that I’m not like those folks down the street, or like Uncle Harry, or like my mother-in-law, {or like that priest in the neighboring parish} . . . I go to church every Sunday, I pray every day, I give money to charity, I volunteer at community events.  . . .”  But, as long as our attention is on “I” and not on “Thou,” we lack true humility.

The only way to become “just” in the eyes of God is through our humility – like the tax collector who, with head bowed, struck his breast and prayed, “Oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  His focus is not on his own accomplishments or shortcomings, but on the mercy of God.  He is not turned inward selfishly on himself, but outward on a God, who longs to unite this soul to himself.

So, what then, precisely is humility? It is a virtue, i.e., a good habit, or habitual disposition of mind and heart, in which we acknowledge our littleness, our creatureliness, our total dependence upon God – even for our very existence. God wills us into being and maintains us in existence – a truly humbling thought!

Humility helps us to acknowledge our nothingness, as creatures, in relation to God, our Creator. God reminded St. Catherine of Siena: “I AM HE WHO IS; you are she who is not.” In other words, we are as nothing in comparison with God WHO IS, Who is the ground of our very being, our existence.

By humility, we disappear, as it were, in order to let our Lord show himself. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Humility helps us to acknowledge that we are sinners – all of us – and in constant need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Only the humble person confesses his sins; in fact, going to confession is an excellent exercise in humility, in which we point the finger, not at others, but rather at ourselves.

Humility helps us to look at the sins of others and say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” St. Thomas Aquinas offers us sound advice to help us to think of others as better than ourselves. He suggests that, when we see others sin, that we say to ourselves: “If that person were given the graces I’ve been given, he would make much better use of them.”

Humility, like love, must be continually practiced, because we need constantly to subdue our sinful pride, to overcome our inclination by reason of our fallen nature, to exalt ourselves over others.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the hobbits are the smallest and most insignificant of all people in Middle Earth. Hobbits live among humans, elves, wizards, and dwarves, who are bigger and more powerful then they; yet, it is a little hobbit, Frodo Baggins, who is chosen for the great mission to destroy the ring.

Only the humble person prays in a way acceptable to God. This is really the point of today’s Gospel parable. The prideful person either sees no need to pray – he has an overblown sense of self sufficiency and puts too much trust in himself; or he prays only to pat himself on the back and confirm in his own mind how good and holy he is in comparison with others, like the Pharisee.

The humble person, on the other hand, prays because he realizes his total dependence on God, that any good he does is because of God’s grace. “Without me, you can do nothing,” says Jesus. In our second reading today, from the Book of Sirach, we are told that God hears the humble when they pray: “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.”

Without humility, there can be no genuine piety, no authentic prayer. We need humility especially before Jesus in the Eucharist. He humbles himself in this great sacrament by being continually present, with his divine glory hidden under the appearance of ordinary bread.

But the truly humble person is not timid; rather, he prays with great confidence. This was the secret of the saints. They believed that God could do immeasurably more than they asked for or imagined, and believed that if they were faithful to Christ and his teachings, they would receive the crown of everlasting life. The words of St. Paul, from our second reading, attest to this fact. Writing to his companion, St. Timothy, Paul says:

I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

Let us pray with hearts contrite and humble, that we may never exalt ourselves over others, knowing that it is through humbling ourselves, that God will raise us up and seat us with his Son, in glory.

Suggestions for Further Reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church §2559; 2631; 2713

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avatar About Fr. Dwight Campbell

Fr. Dwight P. Campbell earned a J.D. in 1982 from Loyola University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois, and after practicing law for four years entered the seminary and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Peoria Illinois, in 1991. In 2009, he earned an S.T.D. in Mariology from the International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio. A few years ago, he and Fr. Ben Reese, S.T.D. (Cand.), founded a society for diocesan priests, The Apostles of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim. At present, they are an in-solidum team serving at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Therese of Lisieux Parishes in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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