Sunday, July 05, 2009

14th Sunday - homily

As we celebrate our nation’s independence and reflect on today’s readings, I have a question for you: who is the greatest prophet in the history of the United States? I know this will probably lead to many debates among you this weekend, but please, just be civil..! We have had many prophetic figures in our nation’s history – religious leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., presidents like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and saints like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who was the first native-born American to be canonized a saint. In a moment, I would like to give a quote from each one of these people to reveal their prophetic nature.

The readings today focus on prophets and how they are treated by their own people. We are all called to be prophets. What is a prophet? One way to describe a prophet is that a prophet speaks the truth. He doesn’t just speak his own truth or opinion – subjective truth – but objective truth. He speaks the truth…he tells it like it is. He says what’s real, and not just what’s real to him. Can someone who speaks only what’s subjectively true be considered a prophet? Well, let’s look at some examples. If someone said constantly that the Redskins were very well run by Daniel Snyder, then, as a lifelong Redskins fan, I would say that person is not a prophet! Or, if someone always taught that 2+2 =3 or 5 or whatever you want it to be, then that person would not be a prophet.

A prophet constantly speaks the truth. A prophet teaches that 2+2=4, that the baby in the womb is a person with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ, and so forth. He teaches the truth – objective truth – even if it’s hard or unpopular to do so. And, from the beginning, the prophets have been “rebelled against”, as the first reading says. People don’t always want to hear the truth.

Jesus was rebelled against as a prophet. It’s so sad that in his own town, people rejected him and he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (well, “apart from curing the sick”!). Our Lord makes it clear that we are a prophet in every town or family but our own. People often don’t want to hear the truth from us, especially those in our families! The reason is that they know us – as Jesus’ townspeople knew him – as the little guys or girls growing up. They see us as their siblings or children and not as prophets, just like they didn’t see Jesus as a prophet.

Our Lord was rebelled against in specific ways and in general ways as a prophet. Specifically, he was rejected when he taught about the Eucharist in John 6. Today’s Gospel reminds me so much of that scene: people are basically saying there, ‘aren’t you the son of a carpenter, and you want to give us your flesh to eat?’ Even though they had been following him every day and thinking he was the one to follow, they rejected him when he taught the truth about the Eucharist. They rebelled against him…they left him. They did this is general when they put him on a cross. Every time we look at a Crucifix, we see that Jesus was rejected in general as a prophet. Speaking the truth is what got him killed.

Finally, the freedom that we celebrate is based in truth. Our founders even called them “self-evident truths”. We have had many prophets speak the truth to us in our history. Here are the quotes from some of them that give us a taste of their prophetic natures. Martin Luther King: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it”. Abraham Lincoln: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves”. George Washington: “Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected”. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: (to the children that she taught in her schools) “Love God, children, and you can forget Hell”. Let us pray for our current leaders, that they might be prophets – that they might be people who speak the truth..not just subjective truth, but objective truth. Real freedom is based in truth. Where there’s freedom, there’s Christ. Where there’s Christ, there’s love.


At 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When challenged, are today's leaders capable of defining truth? An interesting, easy to read article that discusses truth as it applies to Christianity can be found at: .

My conclusion from the article: I must read and study the bible; there in lies the truth.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As another lifelong Redskins fan, I won't touch the Daniel Snyder comment, however much tempted!

Another quote I'd like to add to FG's list is from Pope John Paul II, "Young people are threatened... by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire."

Please pray for our youth. I realize that this is subjective, as not all our youth are threatened by some of this and all will not respond to our cultural pressures in negative ways. I'm quickly realizing what a confusing culture our kids are inheriting. Please pray that our kids will distinguish and follow Truth.

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Fr. Greg for this intriguing question on the greatest prophet.
There are many in Americas history as you mentioned.
One of the interesting ones is Fr. Solanus Casey. Born in 1870 on a Wisconsin Farm and died in 1957 at age 86. Fr. Solanus was a capuchin friar who had the ability to heal the sick and prophesize the future. Stories abound of how his prayers made miracles happen. He is a candidate for Sainthood. More information is available in the book "The Healing Prophet"
Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos and St. John Neumann were also Prophets in America.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

FG used the example of same-sex marriage in talking about what is truth. I realize some may take issue with what I have to say, thinking I’m discriminating, but the whole PC nature regarding this expected acceptance of the political homosexual agenda bothers me.

Recently I had a discussion with a man who was raised Catholic and had a difficult time “embracing” his homosexuality. It was difficult for me to speak what I believe is truth, but I did in the most compassionate way I could. In doing so, I got to thinking about how conflicting all the PC commentary (even within the church) can be. My friend was quite informed about many of the documents put out by the Church regarding his understanding of their so-called teachings on homosexuality. A while back, the US Bishop’s Committee on Family and Marriage issued a document called, “Always Our Children.” His take on what was written stunned me, and I wondered what on earth the Bishops had written, so I read it. I think this is a good example of how truth gets distorted. There was much in that document that the Bishops did NOT say. In a nutshell, this is how my friend expressed his understanding of the Church’s statements to justify his life choices and still be Catholic (it’s my recap of what he said)-

“Gays are created by God. They are His children- like every one else. They are to express love like all human beings. Sexual identity is from God (although many experts commonly agree that genetic, hormonal, and psychological factors are significant factors- note, that's my point) and homosexuals do not select orientation.” He thought, because homosexuals suffered prejudice in the church, he felt offended, unwelcome and rejected because of his “God given” sexual orientation. It seemed (seems) like there is an expectation (from him and others) that the Church must have dialogue with homosexuals to accept and even celebrate their sexuality and develop an attitude of tolerance. In doing so, he believes, the Church should respect and even bless partners in committed relationships.

I agree that the Church should do all it can to eliminate discrimination against gays and even accept aspects of diversity in the Church, but they must also speak the truth regarding Catholic sexuality. Sexuality has to do with gender and all that is appropriate to do with that- biologically, spiritually, socially and emotionally. It's about self giving, procreation and union of "man and woman" only. I believe each of us is called to accept our sexual identity and live chastely. Homosexuals are no different. I believe homosexuality itself is disordered, but the human should not be called so. Rejection of homosexuality is not rejection of a person, but rather a reaction to what is not created by God. Diversity and tolerance do not include tolerance to behaviors. Christ stands and suffers with homosexuals, teaching them chastity. He supports them with counsel, love and inclusion and seeks to protect them from the those who try to lead to live according to disordered sexual feelings. I honestly don’t think the Church is loud enough in THAT truth.

At 1:03 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

On a lighter note-

As one who really loves sports (although I’m now mostly of the spectator age), sports can be a great metaphor for a spiritual life. Both involve strategy, a plan if you will. Both also involve active implementation of that plan. Vince Lombardi said many great things. He talked to football players, but he could have been speaking to all the disciples of Christ. He said, "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." He said, "It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up." He also said, "The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it."

My son is on this “being a man” kick (he’s almost 11), and he just soaks up these ideals. I get such a kick out of him. His newest life motto is, “I’m a lover, but I’m a fighter when I need to be.” It cracks me up, but it is seriously the way he thinks.

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You really cleared up some issues I had about homosexuality. Especially not rejecting the person, but rather a reaction to what is not created by God.
Your whole explanation was very clear and I think you are right, that the Church should speak out more in this area. This will help me in speaking with a friend that was raised Catholic and now feels rejected by the Catholic church. The last conversation did not go very well. Thanks!

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

To the anon of 8:29-

In our culture especially, it can be hard to wrap one’s brain around the idea that expressing one’s sexuality does not always mean expressing oneself sexually. THAT is only one aspect of our sexuality. For a number of reasons, some will be called to live a celibate life, but that’s hard in a culture that tells you that it’s “unnatural.” The simple fact is that being called to live a chaste life which may include celibacy IS something Godly-ordered. That was the point I tried to make to my friend. I think the Church should (and does) accept people who “embrace” their sexuality but can only encourage and support chastity regardless of what we may want.

Oddly enough, the conversation with this one particular man came about because he told me that most of his life he hated that he was a gay man. He wanted (in his words) to be “normal.” However, he met others who taught him that it was okay to be gay. He met a man with whom he fell in love and has been in a committed relationship with him for a number of years. Recently, for reasons I won’t go into, he has still been in this relationship but has been living celibately within it for some time- and has been happier. He still loves his partner but is more “at peace” right now. I suggested it was because, in his heart of hearts, he knows the right thing and is living it now. But, I suspect, the debate with us will continue…..

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chapter 18

The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I, the LORD, am your God....

Keep, then, my statutes and decrees, for the man who carries them out will find life through them. I am the LORD.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.
Heed my charge, then, not to defile yourselves by observing the abominable customs that have been observed before you. I, the LORD, am your God."


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