Homily Ė 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Readings: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31 – 13:13; Lk4:21-30)
Last week I spoke to you of the dignity of the human person. That is, God has a plan for each and every one of us from all eternity. We have a purpose in life and infinite worth as creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Our first reading from Jeremiah today shows us again this profound truth. God knows us completely. He formed us into who we are deliberately. We have been dedicated and appointed to a purpose for our lives, from the very moment of our conception before we were born. This is what it means when we Catholics speak of the Dignity of the Human person and the persons infinite worth.
Our purpose is unique to each one of us but there are some aspects that are common to all of us. All of us, by virtue of our baptism, are called to holiness. Through baptism we are born again as children of God. We become priests, prophets and kings. We are called to conform every aspect of our lives to Godís law and his image. With Baptism comes not only rights, but also responsibilities. Those responsibilities also include duties toward our neighbor. For the Catholic it is never just Me and Jesus and our relationship. That is a couple, not a family. For Catholics it includes all of Godís children and thus that means our neighbor. One of the duties we have to our neighbor is to speak and share the truth with them. We must share the good news of our Christian faith with them and challenge them if they seem to be wandering from the path.
For many people today this is hard to do. We feel like we should keep our religious beliefs to ourselves. To share our faith is to be a religious fanatic. In the United States we are being convinced, by the powers of the present day, that Freedom of religion means freedom from religion. Who are we, after all, to challenge someone to live a moral life? I answer you with Godís own words. You are a prophet. A prophet is one appointed to speak the word of God to others, and we are all priests, Prophets and Kings by virtue of our baptism. You are appointed and dedicated to this purpose by God himself from all eternity.
I understand the hesitancy to take up this call. I understand the fears. It is nothing new. Jeremiah experienced it himself. Jesus did as well. People can be very hard on prophets. Look to the Gospel today. Jesus stands up to proclaim the word of God and when he does the people all speak highly of him. He goes a little further and challenges them to repent of their lifestyles. This is where they turn on him and try to kill him. In the matter of a few minutes they went from adulation to thoughts of murder and rage? What changed? It wasnít the messenger, but the message. Some people do not like to be challenged to live a better life.
God knows this, and still he asks us to spread the message anyway. Why? Because to speak the truth to someone is to love them. It is not loving to withhold the truth from someone. If someone accidentally puts arsenic in their coffee rather than sugar, you see it but donít tell them, and they die, you are responsible for their death? You can stand before the judge and say you didnít want them to feel bad; you didnít think it was any of your business; maybe they wanted to take arsenicÖ. And in the end you are guilty of withholding information that could have saved their life. In the same way, if we withhold the truth from someone about the poison of sin in their life, and they lose their soul, we will have no excuse on judgment day. We will be guilty of keeping from them information that they needed to save their soul and we will be held accountable for it. Parents, this is why the Church very clearly asks you at the baptism of your children, if you promise to bring them up in the faith. If you do not then you will be held accountable for it.
We are responsible for our neighbor. We are our brothers keeper. We are not responsible for the choices they make of their own free will. But we are responsible if we withhold information from them. In love, we must tell them. Our second reading is clear about this. We are patient, kind, not pompous or inflated. We are not rude when we speak the truth or quick tempered. We do not rejoice over wrongdoing but we rejoice in the truth. Love bears all things, and endures all things, even if it means we are rejected and people hate us for it. We canít control what they do with their choices. We can only control what we do with ours. Fraternal correction is an act of Love, if it is done in love.
In the Gospel and in our first reading we see our models and examples. We speak the truth and put our faith in God. As God says to Jeremiah: ďThey will fight against you, but they will not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.Ē We must put our faith in our Lord. We must seek his approval and not others. We must speak the truth in love to those in danger of losing their souls. To not do so is to fail to treat them with the dignity they have as human persons. We must treat them as if they were formed and appointed for a purpose and when they live contrary to that purpose we must try to help them by correcting them.
These two principles: The dignity of the Human person, and the need to correct someone when they are doing wrong are at the heart of some stories in the media recently concerning some Bishops. Catholic Bishops around the country are warning politicians that they cannot vote for Abortion and still consider themselves a faithful Catholic. They have left the Catholic Church and when they do that they cannot receive communion.
To support abortion in any way shape or form is to support murder. It is to deny the dignity of the human person formed, appointed and dedicated by God in their mothers womb before they were born. Yes, Before they were born. The Unborn are people too. Life begins at conception. Either God is right or God is wrong. For a person to proclaim themselves Catholic and vote to allow people to kill unborn children is a lie.
We cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill Jews because they are Jews. We cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill the elderly because they are no longer in their prime. And we cannot vote to allow people to choose to kill the unborn because they are unborn. People are people and they all have dignity no matter how inconvenient for us that seems to be. We cannot kill the innocent and consider ourselves Christians. We cannot set aside our faith in any aspect of our life. We cannot refrain from speaking the truth in any area of our life. We cannot praise an action that is evil nor can we be silent when evil is in our midst. To do so is not Christian; it is not Catholic; and it is not love.
That is why a Catholic politician cannot Vote to gain the approval of his constituents if it means he has to vote for evil. You cannot promise to vote for murder to win and election. To do so, is to use murder as a tool for your victory and that is evil. If Catholic politicians do this and try to call themselves Catholic a Bishop cannot remain silent if he loves them. He must put his faith in God, as Jeremiah and Christ did, and proclaim the truth even if people hate him for it and try to kill him.
A priest also must do the same with his parishioners if he loves them. We cannot ignore the fact that 138 million Children have been murdered since Roe V. Wade was passed. We cannot ignore the fact that some people we vote for want to continue to allow children to be murdered so they can be in power. If we give them the power to do so through our votes then we too will stand accountable. We must choose where we stand and what we stand for. We South Dakotans have many choices to make this year about what we stand for. What will it be? Winning at any cost, even if it means innocent children are slaughtered? Or, truth, life and the dignity of every human person, even the unborn. The choice is yours. Choose well.