Sunday, September 07, 2008

23rd Sunday - homily

“Go and tell”. This is the theme of today’s readings. Not “show-and-tell”, but go and tell! Go and tell others about our faith in Jesus; go and tell others the Truth. This seems to be one of the hardest things for us Catholics to do, especially when it involves sticky, controversial situations or issues. When I was a student at Maryland, I took a philosophy class which studied issues involving medical ethics. We went through a number of issues and discussed them. Often, these discussions turned into debates. When the issue of abortion was debated, there was only person who argued for life out of about thirty students. Take a wild guess at who the one person was! That was an interesting experience.

I took another class in the seminary which addressed moral issues and our role in speaking out on them. The professor who was one of the best teachers I have ever had was teaching about objective truth. She was making the point that some things are just objectively wrong and we have the obligation to speak out against them. She used a couple of examples to make her point and to point out how society says that we should “go and tell”, but only on certain issues and not others. She used the example of rape, and that everyone knows that rape is objectively wrong. Society rightly says that everyone – men and women – should speak out against it. But, when it comes to abortion, it’s different, society says. It acknowledges that abortion is wrong, but only women have the right to speak out against it. It was a powerful point to all of us about “go and tell” and how society approaches it differently.

I have talked with many Catholics over the years who have said, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I would never tell anyone that they can’t choose to have one”. Today’s readings make it clear, as my seminary professor taught, that we have an obligation to go and tell, to speak the truth. The first reading says that we are to “warn the wicked”; we are to warn those who are doing a wicked act or thinking about doing a wicked act. If we don’t, then we become responsible for it. The moral term for this is “cooperation”; we cooperate in the wicked act.

Jesus says we are to go and tell a friend when they are sinning against us. This is a hard thing to do. How do we go and tell? First, we are to do it appropriately. This command does not mean that we go and tell with any sin that someone commits against us; it has to rise to the level. It has to a be a serious sin. Also, we have to discern that God is calling us to talk to them, that we are the best person to approach them about this. We are to do it privately and with respect. We don’t go looking for these situations, but when they present themselves to us, we are to respond with go and tell.

Second, we are to go and tell in love. If we do it in a way that is self-righteous or shows that we are on our “moral high horse”, then it defeats the purpose. Go and tell is a command of love. Jesus is love and he commands us to go and tell. When it is done in love, it is an act of love. It is to be done with compassion, understanding, and patience. We know that we have been approached by others about our own sin in the same way and have appreciated it; if we are truly humble people, we appreciate when others have told us in love about our sins. It is an act of love and mercy.

Finally, we are to go and tell with the help of love. We can’t do this on our own. We need the help of Christ. We come to the Eucharist every Sunday so that the grace and strength of this sacrament will help us to go and tell others this week. We are sent out from here to go and tell, and to do it appropriately, in love, and with the help of love. When it is done in this way, it is an act of love to go and tell.


At 8:43 PM, Blogger fran said...

In the spirit of "go and tell," and in light of last week's USCCB correction of Nancy Pelosi, I thought it important to comment on an article which appeared in this week's Catholic Standard, "Pro-life Democrat Urges Catholics Not to Base Vote on Any One Issue."

The second paragraph of the article quotes Senator Casey as saying:

"I don't make a determination on how to vote for them [presidential candidates] based upon one issue, even on a very important issue like abortion." Senator Casey is correct in stating that we should not be single-issue voters, but his message is incomplete.

The USCCB document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," tell us that "As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support. Yet a candidate's position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support."

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Second, we are to go and tell in love. If we do it in a way that is self-righteous or shows that we are on our “moral high horse”, then it defeats the purpose. Go and tell is a command of love. Jesus is love and he commands us to go and tell. When it is done in love, it is an act of love. It is to be done with compassion, understanding, and patience."

I understand that the readings for today were about fraternal correction, that we should go to the people who have harmed us multiple times on different levels and only cut them off if they are obstinate in their sin and harm, what do we do when they repent? Even if it is after we have cut them off or to quote the readings today 'treat them as we would a gentile'?

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe Biden was on Meet the Press this weekend and was asked about when conception begins. It’s a GREAT thing that this question has been asked of so many so often in this political season; I don’t remember it being such a large talking point in other elections.

Biden said that he believes life begins at conception but doesn’t think he has the right to impose that belief on another. He went on to talk about Thomas Aquinas to offer different positions people have held. So, I didn’t understand- was he saying he, 100%, believes life begins at conception or maybe life begins at conception? It must be the latter, for how else does someone choose to support another’s actions that would otherwise be clearly wrong? I have more respect for someone who says they don’t know and/or aren’t sure when life begins than one who says they believe life begins at conception but then acts in contradiction to that belief.

At 9:02 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

It certainly can be difficult to decide whether, let alone how, to “go and tell.” One may wonder whether a concern is even worth mentioning, whether it’s one’s place to say something, or one may fear how the other may react. The reading from Matthew tells us how we should approach an offender. We’ve heard that admonishment can be an act of love. The reading from Ezekiel is rather a kick in the pants – if we fail to speak up, it is we who are responsible for the offender’s fate, and indeed we may even share it!

Admonishment isn’t a difficult issue just in the context of the Church or one’s personal life; it’s also problematic in the work environment. Even though they have the express authority to admonish (or “take corrective action”) there is nothing managers hate more than dealing with an employee with a problematic behavior. Despite reading zillions of books and sitting through hours of training on the topic of corrective action, some managers still will stay silent, hoping that the problem will just go away on its own.

Needless to say, the problem usually doesn’t just go away, and instead often leads to a host of other issues. [I need not cite examples, for no doubt each of us has been impacted by an un-admonished colleague]. A silent manager serves no one well…ultimately himself least of all, for if the problem he leaves to fester does enough damage, it is he that ultimately will be held accountable.

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think Jesus “cuts people off” because of their behavior. We cut ourselves off from Him when we make sinful choices. If we, the church members, are to call ourselves followers of Jesus, we have to live, tell and protect our truth. If everyone did whatever they wanted to do, I doubt our church would be a truthful one.

Gentiles or tax collectors are the folks at the bottom of the barrel in terms of respect from the community. They are basically not respected, not considered part of the community; they are the outcasts, the excommunicated, the “deadbeats.” But, we’re not off the hook yet. As followers of Christ, the truth, our job is to help the deadbeats find their way back to the salvation Jesus offers.

So…. “What do we do when they repent? Even if it is after we have cut them off…” We forgive them. Over and over and over. Seventy times seven, plus some. Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan addresses this question beautifully in his inspiring book The Testimony of Hope.

Thuan writes about the five defects Jesus has. Yes, you read correctly, even He is defective – He has horrible memory! “He not only pardons, and pardons every person, he even forgets that he has pardoned” (15). With admission of sin, i.e., you get your butt into the confessional, humbly acknowledge and accept responsibility for your sins and resolve, with the help of His grace, to sin no more, Jesus forgives, again and again and again. He forgets the past and welcomes us home. Pretty amazing.

At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes people don't get it until they hit rock bottom, or something bad happens for them to have a wake-up call. Sometimes, it's too late for a second chance, but at least they can have that "dawning of realization" before they go.

My advice? Stay with the person who is going through this rough time. It may be difficult, it may consume most of your life, but eventually that person will realize you were right, and you were right there through it all.

There will be times that they will be numb and want no one, and other times they are crying out on the inside for help, for someone to understand and be there. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there and listen, or offer a shoulder to cry on.

Katherine (known as Kat to friends)

At 7:26 PM, Blogger fran said...

This is a well written article which centers on the "I am personally opposed, but I would never tell another..." scenario.

Go to:

A quote from the article:
"Love does not offer choices when a life is imperiled, Love screams "STOP."

At 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people are quite clear on the Church's strong stance against preventing pregnancy via artificial means (the use of contraceptives v. natural family planning).

The Church takes an equally strong stance against artificial means of CAUSING pregnancy, such as IVF or the use of donor sperm. This stance is consistent with the concept that a child is a gift, but it gets considerably less press. It's one thing to speak out in defense of life, but another to tell people that having a child isn't an entitlement.


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