Homily – 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

Our Gospel contains a very unpopular message for our modern culture. Christ says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Many today would like the first part of this to read “Indulge yourself, lay down your cross, and go where you want. In the End Jesus will love you no matter what you do and there will be no consequences to your actions. The devil opens the door with the truth in order to get us to let in the lie. The truth is that God will love us no matter what we do. The lie is that there are no consequences of our actions.
A life of indulgence doesn’t lead God to stop loving us but it leads us to stop loving God. We become turned in on ourselves instead of turned outward toward others. To love someone is to will their good. We can not do that if we are completely turned in on ourselves. The consequences of indulging every appetite, desire, philosophy or belief that we wish is that we stop loving God and others and only love ourselves. How many people have we met like this? How many of them think they don’t love God or others. That is part of the indulgence. They indulge themselves into thinking that there is nothing wrong with them. The problems lie with others. This allows them to continue to do as they wish even if it means that they contradict the laws of nature or the laws of God as he has revealed them through is Holy Scripture and Holy Catholic Church. Their indulgence cannot be corrected by anyone. Who are you to tell me what I can do? Or Who are you to judge me? Or the Catholic Church has no place in the Bedroom or the voting booth. The devil has many tools to get us to turn our ears and hearts from God’s voice. God established the Church and told them to go and teach and correct. Yet some people say God speaking through the Church cannot teach them about certain areas of their life. God’s authority has no place there. God respects that and he leaves. People choose to indulge themselves rather than deny themselves. They become the Master and they push God’s authority out of certain areas of their life. We must deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily. Not just on Sundays and not just in some areas of our life. God is Lord of all or not at all.
This attitude of indulgence and materialism has dominated our culture for over 40 years. We have seen it affect not only individuals but institutions and culture as well. Marriage is considered interchangeable to be discarded whenever one is forced to deny oneself. Indulge yourself with finding a new one that “meets your needs”. Marriage has become optional for some and living together outside of wedlock is common. Some will say “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free.” Or they have a trial marriage and if it doesn’t indulge their desires then they don’t have to deny themselves. Just find someone that gives you more than what you want. Marriage has become about what you get not what you give. It is not a covenant with God for life but a partnership to be dissolved if more profitable ventures arise elsewhere.
You see it the size of our families. Large families are practically non-existent in this day and age and some choose to live without children. But Father it is too expensive. Yet our parents and grandparents raised families of 8 or more children during a depression. We would rather spend our money on other things rather than children. We indulge ourselves rather than having large families or letting God decide how large our family should be.
We see it in the voting booth. People choose to indulge themselves and vote for the things that benefit them even if it costs innocent children to be murdered. They choose their pleasure over the lives of innocent children.
We see it even among priests as some call for the lifting of the discipline of celibacy. They would rather indulge themselves than deny themselves and lay down their life for the Christ and the sake of the kingdom. This is a trap I almost succumbed to. If there was an option for a married clergy I would have entered the priesthood a lot earlier. I did not want to die to my desires to follow God’s call for my life. I wanted things on my terms and not on God’s. I didn’t want to deny my desires to follow God’s will. Ultimately in this case, with God’s grace, I was able to choose his will over mine. I think a lot of credit though, goes to my Father.
My Father was loving but not indulgent. The spring I turned 14 he asked me if I wanted a car when I turned 16. I said yes. He told me “Then you had better get a job this summer.”. At that time I thought my Dad was something aweful and not very loving. Many of my friends were being given cars, and credit cards for their gas etc. My Father made me work for mine and for that I am deeply grateful. Looking back I see it as one of the things that shaped who I am the most and in a positive way. My Father knew that I would appreciate things a lot more if I worked for them. He knew I would take better care of them. He also knew the dangers of indulging my every whim. He firmly but lovingly set boundaries for me in accordance with the Catholic Faith. He made me attend religious Ed and put God and academics above sports and extra curricular activities. He laid a foundation that has served me well in the spiritual life. He did what a Father is supposed to do.
There are two truths we need to keep in mind if we want to have a healthy spiritual life. If either one is missing our spiritual lives become deformed and perverted. We need to understand that God loves us but we also need to have a healthy fear of God. That is a gift of the Holy spirit and scripture tells us it is the beginning of wisdom. This is the one that is out of balance in our culture and with many Catholics today. Just look at the lines in the Church. The lines for communion, where we receive the body and blood of Christ, are long. The lines for confession: where we say we are sinners, where we plead for repentance, where we deny ourselves and humble ourselves are short or non-existent.
God does love us but that does not mean we can take him for granted. We have no right to heaven, happiness or existence. We were created. When we relate to God we don’t relate to another creature. We relate to the creator. That demands reverence and respect. It demands obedience. It demands that we deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him. It demands that we lose our lives for his sake. Then and only then will we save it. When we give our life and our will to God, when we put him first, when we fear offending him above all else, then and only then will we save our life.
This weekend we celebrate our Fathers. I also want to call them clearly wage war against the devil. The Enemy is coming for your children. He wants them to have a materialistic and indulgent spirit. God has called you in the vocation of Fatherhood to shepherd them. When the wolf comes for your sheep you are to kill it or die trying. This demands self denial even to the point of laying down your life. To do this demands often times that you will be unpopular with your children and especially in this day and age when our culture is so terrible. Guard their lives. Guard their eyes. Know who their friends are and set boundaries if necessary. Set limits on them firm but lovingly. Raise them according to the ways of God and his Church as you promised you would do at their baptism. I can’t promise that your children will ever thank you. I can promise you that when they look back with a sincere heart they will be thankful or the limits you set.


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