The HOMILY I Did Not Preach Sunday, August 26, 2018

by Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

Having prepared the text that appears several pages hence, I arrived at Saint Barnabas to find that a Propagation of the Faith Missionary was preaching at all the Masses. So instead, I offered a condensed version of what I had prepared to the congregation after we prayed the Closing Prayer.  This is what I said:

“Not having the opportunity to preach you to you today, I feel obliged to say that after all we have heard and seen in the news these past two weeks, I wish –and I’m sure I speak for your parish priests here –we all wish to say we care about your feelings and what you must be thinking in response  to Pennsylvania report. The scandal of child and teen abuse is something we’ve been living with for years now, but the Pennsylvania report gives numbers of cases and egregious accounts that accentuates the severity of the Church’s sins.  The Gospel today asks if we wish to return to a former way of life, and many of us wish we could.  We must remember Christ is with us through all things and that faith will get us through this scandal if we let it. Prayer is needed but so is action on our part to hold our leadership to greater accountability. I invite you to consider some of the following:

  1. Shall we urge our bishops in all Catholic diocese worldwide to release the secret papers listing the guilty priests and negligent bishops before more states require them to do so? Public confession and identification of the criminals in the Church is something we owe to victims because seeing names in print acknowledges the reality of their suffering which is an essential component of the healing process for most if not all. It should have been done long ago.  Tragically, our leaders abandoned us and abandoned Jesus, making Church as institution their God. We are a people called to serve, not to secrecy.
  2. The Church’s mission is not just to take care of our own but to serve the world. To accomplish both, its time our hierarchy open its doors to include lay professionals, especially women, from all sectors of society from psychology to medical, law enforcement, educational and spiritual leaders to address the full  scope of all that has happened in ways our bishops failed to do.  Furthermore, consider writing our bishops to initiate this kind of cooperative process so that ultimately universal standards of justice could be set for all victims regardless of their abilities or lack thereof to obtain legal counsel and to ultimately begin a process that could result in International standards for protection of children and teens, reparation for all victims of abuse and accepted standards for just penalties for perpetrators in churches, schools, scouts, sports, medical institutions in whatever context they are found.  Initiating and engaging this complex enterprise could mark a much-needed public penance on behalf of our leadership.

Time does not permit me offering more suggestions or details, but If anyone wishes to talk more about the PA report or anything related to what going, I offer to spend time with you after mass so please do not hesitate to approach me.   May God bless us to take prayerful action to transform our Church to a greater honesty and integrity reminding the hierarchy and ourselves that  we are the people who witness to the power of admission of sins as an essential way to encountering God.

 

Dear Readers: I was humbled by the assembly’s applause after my speech, and many thanked me afterwards although no one chose to speak with me at length.  For the time being, perhaps that is all that needs to be said.  However, if you want to delve further, what follows is the text  I would have preached at the liturgy of the Word:

 

The Gospel today states: “Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 

Jesus’ question applies to all the faithful in today’s world:  “Do we also want to leave?” Amidst the Pennsylvania report regarding the egregious numbers of priests abusing minors since 1940’s (along with some of the most abhorrent details), many of us are asking ourselves this very question.  Therefore, we must not eschew the topic at mass today, for this is our public sacrament addressing all the public and personal aspects of our life with Christ and one another. Indeed, today this same topic is being extended to Pope Francis’ mission to Ireland this week and the context of abuse there.  No, we cannot be put the topic aside today.

 

To begin, we must remember that Jesus is present to us even in our sins, even as we repeatedly encounter institutional shame. Christ within the body of the faithful must be our recourse in these awful times when evidence of our leaders’ failures  once again comes to light.  How many people, including priests, are experiencing despair today, thinking of abandoning the Church, discarding our faith,  feeling God has abandoned us? Such feelings are natural and inevitable in these times,  but faith compels us to accept a truth greater than what we feel: God never abandons us. Therefore, this ongoing public tragedy must become yet another occasion for us to deepen our relationship with Christ whose Truth alone will set us free.  Together we must petition the Holy Spirit for the courage to change the things we can to hold our leaders and our institutions accountable, to insist they lead us as they were meant to lead us: with honesty, with bold confession of their sins which alone allows for just amends to be made and merciful recompense to those they have harmed.  This is what our leaders have asked of us, we now continue to insist that they do the same. The faithful had to do this throughout the early church controversies, before and after the Reformation, the Inquisition and we must do it again. Let us reflect on how Jesus can help us address today’s  public scandal:

 

Admitting our wrongs has always been a hallmark of our faith.  Repentance is our path to Jesus NOW as it was in Biblical times beginning with the preaching of the prophets that culminated in John the Baptist:  Repent! In the early centuries of Christianity, often sinners were required to go public for serious crimes. The local communities compelled penitents to wear sackcloth and ashes at the entrance of churches until their penance and reparations were fulfilled. This concept is rooted in Jewish tradition, the grandfather of our faith. Remember the story of Jonah and the sinful City of Nineveh?  The whole metropolis put on sackcloth and ashes.  Knowing this our Church should have implemented public admittance of its guilt as the only fitting justice–long before the Pennsylvania government released its report.  Only public confession expresses genuine contrition from an institution, reflecting the sinners’ willingness to let God purify and transform it.  Furthermore,  it should have been evident by now that victims need to have their suffering acknowledged if they are to heal well.   Naming convicted perpetrators is also important because, as I have heard, many remain in reprehensible denial of the harm they caused. Their sin and their thinking need to be exposed and condemned.

 

As for our bishops who covered up and reassigned criminal priests, the fact that for decades they paid more attention to lawyers than victims adds yet another layer to our 20th and 21st century shame. The Church should be above that,  judging by today’s Gospel, our leaders abandoned Jesus and made Church-as-institution their God, neglecting a central Christian tenet that to confess our sins is the first step toward reconciliation with God and others. If poverty would be the result, well, as Jesus has said, “Blessed are the poor.”

 

In light of these insights, I propose we ask all Catholic diocese, world-wide, to  release the names of perpetrators and bishops who mishandled the situation so that all victims’ abuses can be formally acknowledge.  Then, at last, our Church would regain its integrity, demonstrating true contrition before all peoples–before state and federal government compels us to do so.   Only then can what the bishops have offered victims and their families— life-long professional counseling and financial recompense be placed in its proper context.  Hindsight also makes evident that faithful Church members would have handled bishops’ open confession of criminal priests without shame if announced at the onset.  Immediate public announcements would have prompted simultaneous change in canon law, priest policies and seminary formation at a much earlier point in this terrible saga and so much violence against innocents could have been prevented. Now, of course, the Church has instituted significant changes in policy and in education of priest and lay ministers that highlight child and teen protection and safety and alert the faithful to signs of dangers. Nevertheless,  the current issue remains:  how must the Church take responsibility for the sins of its past, especially its recent past?  How can the Catholic Church regain its credibility in our witness to Christ in this world?   Perhaps this sacramental Church of ours needs a ritual that acknowledges its institutional sins, that humbly and prayerfully embraces an institutional penance.  What would be the equivalent of sackcloth and ashes for guilty priests and bishops today? Here’s one possibility:

 

  • Guilty bishops could resign; guilty priests laicized in public rituals before being handed over to civil authorities. No one is above the law when laws are just, and victims cry out in pain.

 

Here’s something else we could do right here, right now:  insist that our Church hierarchy engage ecumenical, multi-faith, government officials and lay persons, victims and families to draft universal standards of recompense to victims that are compassionately fair and, at the same time,  clearly define just punishment for surviving perpetrators in both ecclesiastical and civil terms. Local and national  commission could be formed to include professional lay men and women in psychology and all behavioral sciences in addition to experts in education, spirituality, law enforcement, legal experts and other related fields.  The times call for  a heterogenous, diverse assembly of people to be convened  because Councils of Bishops need an interdisciplinary wisdom of men and women beyond its male hierarchy if they are to address the full scope of all that has happened to the people of God.  These convocations could produce a formal International agreement specifying just consequences for all forms of child and teen abuse that could be promulgated just as Human Rights are defined and promulgated and these consequences would be applied  to all domains where sexual abuse and all forms of violence against children, teens and adults occur – in homes, schools, youth clubs, sports, business and medical institutions, etc.  as well as churches with no exceptions. For when the same truths are articulated in all institutions and sectors of society, the prospects for acting upon and realizing TRUTH and Justice become more fully realized.  And remember, the Church is here to serve the world, not just itself.

 

Once Church and State agree on fair and just recompense to victims, and just punishment for perpetrators, statute of limitations on victims seeking justice could be lifted in all sectors of Church and Society—comprehensive with no exemptions. Because of the well-documented  trauma victims experience throughout their lives, it is time Church and State set things right in all situations, in all places for all people.

 

As God helps Church and Society recover, may our Church abandon its sinful pride, its propensity to defend itself and cling more closely to Jesus “who alone brings LIFE” –Life in its dimensions in and beyond this troubled world. Christians everywhere would do well to commit to the age-old Jesus Prayer on a daily basis:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have Mercy on Us for We are Sinners”  and, now more than ever, we must add, “strengthen us to put true repentance, TRUE FAITH into action.”

 

FYI:  HERE are the Biblical Texts for Today’s Mass:

“Whom Shall We Serve?”

Readings for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

 

Responsorial Psalm Ps 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

  1. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
    I will bless the LORD at all times;
    his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
    Let my soul glory in the LORD;
    the lowly will hear me and be glad.
    R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
    The LORD has eyes for the just,
    and ears for their cry.
    The LORD confronts the evildoers,
    to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
    R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
    When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
    and from all their distress he rescues them.
    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
    R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
    Many are the troubles of the just one,
    but out of them all the LORD delivers him;
    he watches over all his bones;
    not one of them shall be broken.
    R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2  5:2a, 25-32

Brothers and sisters:
Live in love, as Christ loved us.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

 

Alleluia Jn 6:63c, 68c

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
    you have the words of everlasting life.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

Gospel Jn 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

 

 

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I whole heartedly recommend the BBC TV series BROKEN

Only last week did I become aware of and watch the full season of BBC’s one-season tv series entitled BROKEN.   (Available for download on Amazon Prime)  As a Catholic priest in the United States I truly appreciate the series’ honest depiction of a priest, his daily life and ministry, the torment of sexual abuse within it and the willingness of the series’ characters to persevere in the reality of Christ -the heart of our faith– while attending to the failures of Church as Institution.  I was deeply moved by every episode and amazed at how the writer / producer Jimmy McGowen understands Catholic Christianity—what it is, all that it can be and must be.  I also found comforting BROKEN’s assertion that we are all broken in various ways and that one essential choice for health is to claim ourselves as wounded healers comforting others.

The 6-episode series covers the most timely of Catholic Church issues through the experiences of a Liverpool priest and his parishioners. I applaud the series writers and the powerful performances especially Sean Bean and Muna Otura, although all actors were across-the-board excellent.   Directors, too, did a fine job.

I am promoting BROKEN today because of the show’s integrity as drama and as a healthy critique of our Catholic institution badly in need of healing.  In light of today’s publication of the PA Church abuse cases, it is obvious to so many of us that our Church needs much more transparency and much more dialogue and  collaborative leadership with the laity to address its dysfunctions. Clearly, this institution of ours must work together with behavioral scientists and learn more from their collective wisdom about human sexuality in order to reform our moral teachings and praxis, to bring about healing and make further amends.

I hope you will view BROKEN and I welcome your responses to it.

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0794Y2B14?aaxitk=vOA9IUnNWVk68zXndoEv8A&pd_rd_i=B0794Y2B14&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=3930100107420870094&pf_rd_s=desktop-sx-top-slot&pf_rd_t=301&pf_rd_i=BROKEN&hsa_cr_id=1205442570701&sb-ci-n=productDescription&sb-ci-v=Broken

Back to Basics: Repent and Forgive! (Again!)

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 

January 21, 2018

 Reading 1 Jon 3:1-5, 10

Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Reading 11 1 Cor 7:29-31

Gospel Mk 1:14-20

God called Jonah to go to the despised country of Nineveh. Reluctantly, Jonah goes and gives them all the opportunity to repent and receive God’s forgiveness. They respond. They say, “YES.”

 Repentance and Forgiveness ground our Biblical Faith from our foundations in Judaism to the heavenly heights of Christianity. The Church repeats the message relentlessly and so today, it insists we equate God’s call to Jonah with Jesus’ Call to the Disciples.

Yes, Repentance and Forgiveness ARE the Cornerstones of Christianity because it is Jesus, the Cornerstone, who insists on repentance and forgiveness from everyone, to everyone.

 Sorry, friends, gut it’s time for another refresher.  We cannot refute the centrality of Reconciliation:

a.    John the Baptist heralded these as the only daily workouts that prepare us to recognize and receive Jesus

b.    Jesus endorsed them as he healed individuals, reconciling them from the world of sin into the kingdom of forgiveness

c.     Our Baptisms order us away from a sinful, judgmental, condemning world into world of forgiveness

d.    Jesus on the Cross insists forgiveness is the crux of His Mission and very heart of God.

 God knows it’s difficult! 

e.    Jonah wholeheartedly resents God for giving the Ninevites a second chance

f.      The brother of the Prodigal Son is irate his brother is welcomed back into the family

g.     Peter questions, HOW OFTEN? Jesus responds, “As often as it takes, Peter, as often as it takes.” As if to say, “Frankly, Peter, I’ve called you, your brothers and your sisters to love people to death.”

 Oh, but it is a terrible sacrifice to repent and to forgive. Christian History has not often exemplified these virtues, but THE CALL REMAINS, just as it always has, and always will. Today, the Church insists THE CALL IS NOW:

 Remember the Grand Gesture of Pope John Paul II at Millennium: On behalf of the entire Roman Catholic Church he repented for the Crusades and all other acts of violence the Church committed against the Jewish people, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and everyone else through the ages. He Revealed to the world publicly, equivocally that the Church must always have REPENTANT HEART.  Of course, not all individuals or groups received the Pope’s request well or offered to participate in reconciliation with us, but, still, seeds were planted. Humility’s power to inspire may not take immediate root, but it does linger long.

 Today’s Call to Discipleship asks us to Renew and Reclaim this Central Christian Objective. We must go to our brothers and sisters, friends, neighbors, business associates—anyone we have offended, hurt, betrayed and offer not only words of sorrow but determined efforts to heal the hurt, repair the loss as much as humanly possible.  Courage, friends!  We will be empowered by this Eucharist and by our renewal of Faith in the Holy Spirit this very day.

 Don’t despair!  Yes, we know that of course, there is no guarantee that those we have offended will welcome us or our message. But whether they do or not, the Holy Spirit will increase grace in us and leaves us with gratitude for who we are and who we are becoming–deepening our friendship with Jesus, our brother.  And isn’t that why we are here today?  To allow humility to take hold of us, grace will grow, and we may be thankful that we’ve done our part knowing that God forgives us whether others ever will.   

 Now, we must address the other, perhaps more difficult aspects of reconciliation.  What do we do when family or friends hurt or betray us, show no remorse, make no attempts to repent or seek reconciliation.  What then? (I’ve shared this with you all before but evidently the CHURCH in these readings insist that we review them today!)

a.    Before we share our hurt and anger with another, first and foremost bring our anger and hurt to God. We need to turn to quick, spontaneous inner prayer asking God to turn our anger to pity and ultimately to compassion for human weakness, so we can forgive those who’ve hurt us in our hearts before we even address the situation.  Should we find ourselves in the midst of an accelerating argument simply say, “I’m too angry with too many intense feelings to be able to address this right now.”  Take as much “Time Out,” as we need before compassion consumes us enough to address the wrongdoing. We need to pray in the same way whenever relatives/friends/neighbors do not hurt us directly but hurt others that we love or act in way we were taught that refute the 10 Commandments? E.g. Bigotry.

b.    Try our best show concern for the other without judgment, i.e., by saying things like, “What are you feeling right now that moves you to speak this way?” That shows LOVE and CONCERN for the person and prevents us from falling into judgment or a feeling of false superiority.  Then say how we feel, e.g., “I feel disappointment that you’ve chosen to say or act this way.” This exemplifies the task of working through our feelings first before we try to discuss the subject or the sin.” Once feelings are expressed and understood, we might then be ready to ask, “Are not the Ten Commandments important to both of us? How may we apply them to this situation?”

c.     Ask: “Do you at all feel pressured to act in this way –pressured by society, another person; do you think this is your only choice?” (Remember we often sin out of weakness rather than full consent of our wills.)

d.    Ask: “Would you like to explore with me other choices that may be of greater benefit to you and others?”

e.    Ask, “Can you accept the possibility that your words and actions are hurtful to you and others?”

f.      Explore what kind of restitution is appropriate.  We may ask, “How might I support you in taking responsibility for your words and actions?” In more complex situations, never be ashamed to bring this family, neighbor or work situation to a facilitator, counselor, doctor or priest.

 If the person is unwilling to continue the conversation, or take responsibility, make amends for his or her actions, YOU, as disciple, have witnessed the WAY. You have planted a seed.  Ultimately, then, we must decide:

a.    We may need to reorient the relationship to something less personal, less frequent, albeit without rancor, hurt or ongoing disappointment.

 We must always remember that Forgiveness, like LOVE, is an act of the WILL!  No one FEELS like forgiving, but the task of those who have been called is to conform our Will to God’s will. Remember God gave us FREE WILL and the consequences of our actions will all play themselves out in time.  Trust in God. God’s timing, too. It’s not our job to teach all people all lessons. But we can teach ourselves to have peace within our hearts even in the midst of a sinful world.

 My dear friends, being a Christian is HARD WORK.  As we come to the Eucharist today, I invite you to pray these two short prayers with me so that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit will be strengthened in us this day:

 “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us, sinners.”

  “Oh, God, who instructs the hearts of the faithful by the Light of the Holy Spirit, grant us that, by the same Spirit, we may judge wisely the things of earth and rejoice in the Spirit’s Consolation!”

 

Here’s a reprint of my Tools for Love-Forgiveness (Now as ONE-WORD)

 Love-Forgiveness

We participate in Love-Forgiveness (I preach this now as ONE WORD) or we do not.  Both are inextricably linked –we can’t have one without the other.  We must cultivate Love-Forgiveness in our hearts and invite loved ones to do the same.

What’s needed for love-forgiveness to reign? Here’s the short list of what to do when we are hurt, angry, betrayed:

  1. Vent, Rage and Cry to the Only Fully Objective Loved One — GOD; Jesus Himself prayed psalms of lament and disappointment.

 

  1. Secure that God loves you in your anger, your hurt, your betrayal –that God’s love for you is the foundation of your life—pray that you are moved to PITY the one who hurt you. See in him or her a fellow human being who has fallen from grace, given into temptation of selfishness, greed, violence, fear or weakness.

 

  1. Take TIME OUT, allow yourself time to let grace take hold of you and move you from hurt, and/ or rage to pity and, finally, to tenderness

 

  1. Pray Pity be transformed to TENDERNESS as you would offer tenderness to a disobedient child; everyone has a right to live, to learn, to improve, to encounter God through Love-Forgiveness – In this world of ours, it is one of the primary ways to encounter God.

 

  1. With patience, discern forms of accountability you may eventually offer your assailant or adversary—just as a priest offers penance to sinners in the confessional. As penance offers actions and prayers to help the penitent to both show remorse AND accept accountability for his or actions in praise of God, so, too, must we be “priests to one another,” offer opportunities for change – as you would with a child.

 

  1. Allow for Time to Pass, i.e., GOD’s Time, not “our time,”, for a person to come to a place of reviewing the situation and his or her actions calmly and honestly. Here we must trust in Jesus’ and the Psalms’ constant reminder that God allows the sun to shine on the just and unjust, good and the wicked precisely to allow people to choose to evaluate the harm they’ve done to themselves and others.

 

  1. Even if your health and safety require the relationship to be severed, distant, or irreconcilable– Forgive in your heart, so you are FREE from reliving the hurt, the pain; free to move onward toward a wiser, humbler, more hopeful future.

 

  1. If the offender amends the situation and gets treatment for his or her behavior, if warranted, don’t try to reconcile the relationship right away. If asked, let the other person know that you continue to work on reconciliation but are not ready to remove restrictions on your relationship. Meanwhile, assure them you will pray for their working through their problem and taking responsibility for their actions.

Paulist Press Resources:

Healing Life’s Hurts by Dennis Linn and Matthew Linn

Don’t Forgive Too Soon by Dennis and Sheila Linn and Matthew Linn

Good Goats – Healing Our Image of God by Dennis and Sheila Linn and Matthew Linn

These and other titles are available at http://www.paulistpress.com/

 

 

Men & Women Loving Neighbors

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 Reading 1;        EX 22:20-26

Responsorial Psalm:  PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

Reading 2:       1 THES 1:5C-10

Gospel:    MT 22:34-40

 Considering recent headlines of women being harassed, exploited, intimidated in the workplace, it should be evident we need to look at the relationship between men and woman in accordance with the Great Commandment that irrevocably link Love of God and Love of Neighbor.  “How should men treat woman?” is the primary topic, but its counterpart, “How should women treat men?” is also an aspect in the equation.  How may we remedy the sexism of our age and the not uncommon practice of sexual harassment?

 

First let’s look at its probable cause: There is an erroneous concept and/or belief that sexual engagement is an entitlement rather than a sacred gift.  This idea is legion in social media in ads and programs that focus on sexuality at the expense of all other facets of the human person. Who is not tempted in some fashion to indulge in the fantasies these constant images and temptations provoke?   We can and often do feel helpless in the realm of sexuality because of too many mixed messages, too many insecurities about our bodies and too little certainty of what it means to be a fulfilled human being.

 

It seems obvious today that many people are apt to let their feelings overpower logic, desires outweigh morals, appetites take precedent over respect—a respect which expresses Love of God and Neighbor.   With the prevailing attitudes toward love-making as sport and entertainment, human sexuality is reduced to “favors” and “benefits” as if our bodies are commodities, means to a financial end.

 

Sex as recreation and entitlement continue to hold sway in the mind of many—an aspect that is not at all divorced from the abuse of women, the manipulation of women and in some cases men, too, in the workplace, in college and universities and everywhere else.  It is also a component in psychological disorders and the abuse of vulnerable minors and children—scandals that continue to be a grave concern.

 

Church and society may agree that no one should be pressured into surrendering themselves against his or her free will in any circumstance.  Lacking is the commitment, time and patience required to nurture reverence of the human person-body, soul and spirit. This Spirit of Discipleship is not to control people (a common secular accusation against the Church) but to cultivate maturity, trust and commitment in all friendships and associations.  This is the role of Church and family. This is what we are called to contribute to improve society.

 

In truth, in the past, a disproportionate negativity regarding human sexuality on the Church’s part in some ways contributed to the current confusion and the libertarian approach to sexual expression.  Still, the Church has learned and keeps on learning to see the gift of sexuality in a far more holy and holistic light.  Acknowledging sexual thoughts and feelings as part of an aspect of human experience that cannot be ignored, refuted or demeaned but rather as a component of the beings God made and intended is where we now begin. This is what is called for: Respecting ALL the respective components of the human person, not dismissing or avoiding them—but rather integrating them in healthy balance: the intellectual self, the emotional self, the psychological self, creating a beautiful harmony between a well-informed conscience and the generative and creative/ productive/ artistic dimensions in each of us.

 

The truth is that Society and even some (though not all) sexual education programs continue to give very confusing, mixed messages.   People of faith must work together to transform society’s mixed message to one of positive, healthy relationships that guide men and women to higher values and greater integrities in our friendships, in business relationships, dating, in courtship, in marriage. If the schools don’t offer courses on “how to be Friends,” “How to be Healthy Families,” “How to be Respectful Workplace companions” then Families and Church must take up the slack and take advantage of the many spiritual and therapeutic tools offered us.

 

Hopefully you know that many Religious Education courses for children up to and including teen confirmation classes explore how faith in Jesus cultivates harmony among family members, emphasizes the joy that respectful dating brings and the self-esteem that can be achieved by overcoming temptations to be self-indulgent at the expense of another human being. Yet, discipleship insists on extending these values beyond the classroom to the words we choose to use at home about our bodies and other peoples’ bodies. Discipleship must extend to how husbands and wives treat one another alone AND in front of their children and to the way parents cultivate friendship, patience and compassion among siblings, cousins and neighbors.  Compare our language and conduct in private and social situations.  What words and gestures do we use at high emotional events such as baseball and football games?  Do we insist that every woman be recognized as someone’s mother, wife or sister –with all the integrity those roles provide?  Do we acknowledge that every man is someone’s father, husband or brother?  Seeing each other first in this way needs to be the foundation of all relationships, including those that potentially may lead to dating, romance and marriage for that sacrament insists on a relationship of equal partners.  Millions of married people affirm that friendship is the most long-lasting dynamic of any marriage.  These are Catholic Christian values.  Catholic Christian goals.

 

Goals must be worked at, inform our daily choices. What we clearly need are more hours spent at-home with in-depth discussion about the songs and films and tv shows and books the children encounter –and that we adults encounter.  Yes, scrutiny is needed to discern the most age-appropriate programming for each member of a family,  but because the state of the media and electronics do not prevent kids from stumbling upon less wholesome content at home or elsewhere, our families must commit to setting time aside that not only address the topics, characters, the stories, and the friends and adults that kids encounter but allow  time for children to express feelings, explore attitudes and social conventions with parents and other trusted adults. And to assess all these in the light of Christ and our Catholic sensibilities. Of course, this isn’t only a message for parents and guardians.  We all can benefit from more conversation among adults about what we read and see—not condemnatory, but honest sharing of feelings, vulnerabilities and our temptations, too. More conversation, more understanding among friends, dating partners, engaged and married couples can bring greater integrity and respect to all adult relationships.

 

The Church’s insistence on weekly Eucharist is a constant reminder that we need help applying the Two Great Commandments to our lives.  Consider, also, the Persistence of the Word – how often and in how many ways these Great Commandments are articulated, their benefits exemplified in countless Scriptural encounters throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bibles preached for thousands of years.  What’s more, within and beyond the Bible there are innumerable historical tragedies evidencing the terrible consequences of people who thwart these Commandments.  And because we’ve all become lax and at times unwilling to incarnate them in all our relationships, in all our social, business and political endeavors, we return to Mass and Sacraments. What else can we do?  No!  Not “what we can do?” Rather, what will we let GOD DO with us as boys and girls, men and women on our pathway to heaven?

Do Not Be Afraid

27th Sunday of OT -Year A Homily Fr. James M. DiLuzio C.S.P.

Scriptures: Isaiah 5: 1-7:   Psalm 80: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10:   Gospel of Matthew 21: 33-43

Parents say to their children:  This is your Home; We have taken the responsibility of your material needs, your need for love and nurturing AND the essential importance of learning about cooperation, mutual respect and the give and take, patience and generosity required for appreciating life in this family, and ultimately, in this world.  Together we are building your FUTURE.  And, if the family is a family of faith, they would add, continually, “God will see us through.”

The tenant farmers in the Gospel are equivalent to children or adults dependent upon a parent/ adult / employer for their life and livelihood. But evidently, they either have not had good parenting OR, for reasons we are not given, they found themselves filled with FEAR & DISTRUST.   They turned inward instead of outward.  Rather than bringing grievances, uncertainties, disappointments to their employer, they decided to take matters into their own hands. No desire for deeper understanding, no desire for compromise, no prayer, no attempt at dialogue are in evidence. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they empowered their fear and distrust which inevitably gave way to “Selfishness” and “Greed.”  Their fears fed envy and jealousy, their distrust, violence. In the parable, the consequences were deadly; a matter of spiritual life and death, because the true OWNER of the Vineyard was God, the Father of All, who welcomes our questioning, our prayer, our disappointments.  In hearing the parable today, we are meant to muse “If only the Tenant Farmers had turned to God who sent His Son to bring deeper understanding, and hope; if only WE could abandon our fears and distrust–be it of God, Church or State and believe without reservation that God’s Holy Spirit is with us continually to inspire, to engage and motivate us to work through our anxieties and fears and strive for a better future.

Many commentators and pundits tells us that Americans are not living in faith these days but in Fear and Distrust. We read that many Americans are afraid of immigrants, of foreigners, or people of religions other than their own.  They read, see and hear the news –which, because of the way news is prioritized—is often the BAD NEWS of community, country and cosmos—and are literally afraid and demoralized.  Others are afraid of our government limiting our freedoms, while, at the same time, many others lost faith in our government to keep us safe.  Some want protection from the economy and its impact on the workforce, others consider that inappropriate intervention.  Some make speeches about freedom of religion and freedom of speech–noting that, at times, questions as to “whose religion” and “whose speech” are not satisfactorily answered; nor is the degree to which hate and violence-inducing speech is a right or abuse of a right.  And most recently, many writers deduce that fear is what makes so many people unwilling to evaluate the benefits and burdens of the 2nd Amendment– about the right to bear arms as it applies to the 21st century.   Common sense tells us that the lawmakers of 1791 could never have envisioned the great diversity of guns and ammunitions available to the American civilian today—certainly not the kind that were used to kill a music loving crowd in Las Vegas.  But, for many, it is as if the mere suggestion of a discussion on the possible ways we could adapt an 18th century Law to 21st century circumstances was somehow “Un-American.”  We have to ask, “What price “liberty?” when fear and distrust rule the heartland?

One thing the Scriptures tell us is that Liberty has responsibilities.  Individual Freedoms of one person or group do, in fact, impact the individuality and freedom of others. When Jesus tells us that He is with us “For when two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them,” it’s not only His assurance of his answers to prayer, but to the necessity of communion with and among others for His presence to take full hold of our lives.  To apply this Gospel to ourselves today, we must ask, “To what extent do we have faith and trust in God?  In Jesus and His teachings?  In the Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins as part of the road to Resurrection of the Body and Life in the World to come?”  In short, “to what extent do we offer Jesus the highest priority within our lives, positions and priorities, and, yes, even our politics?” To what extent to we cling to Jesus who repeatedly tells people of faith: “Do Not Be Afraid?”

The Gospel today is not only a reflection on religious history regarding those who did not accept Christ as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, which, on the surface, is exactly what the parable is about.   It is also about how any or all of God’s Children can misuse the faith and life situations we have been given.  It’s about how people who lack trust in God, in Providence, in the Holy Spirit active in the world bring suffering upon themselves.

Perhaps it is time for us to evaluate our contributions to America’s distrust and fears; confess our personal culpabilities as to the extent we contribute to the fears and anxieties of our age, rather than trust in God to guide us through them with patience, with charity, with hope. Saint Paul wrote in his Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-10: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

 Paul’s emphasis on Thanksgiving strengthens the foundation of faith that Everything belongs to God: every land and every people.  Recognizing our very lives are “on loan” from God, makes gratitude the only way to live.  We have this Eucharist to focus us on Thanksgiving, trust that the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus, both, will guide us through the anxieties of the age to insist on fairness, justice and hope—and not to be afraid of change that is for the better for all rather than a few; not be afraid to cultivate charitable discourse “in-person,” i.e., with persons rather than in the impersonal dimensions of the internet alone.  Not afraid to say we believe in a communion of saints-in-the making, believe in Christ Jesus and that communion commands dialogue with rich and poor, church leaders and local communities, police and their precinct constituents, neighbors with neighbors, citizens with immigrants, different colors of peoples mingling with peoples of different colors.

May this Eucharist increase the grace that endows us with courage, perseverance and hope to address this age of anxiety, its fears and discouragements. May our worship today inspire us to advance the Good News: God is with us, to help us expand God’s kingdom so that HOPE is offered to all, here, now and in the Future for generations to come.

Charlottesville, VA, Saint Peter, You and Me – A Homily

Homily for Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

1 Kings 19:13-19

Gospel of Matthew 14: 22-33

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm

 

Some people shout but never say anything. Some people scream, but never learn to speak. Some people hate without ever thinking why, and how they came to hate another person or group. Others live by a rule that say, “Fire, Ready, Aim!” Our nation and our world is becoming more impulsive and compulsive—people acting from gut feelings, fears and prejudice without reflection, certainly without prayer–thinking in very limited terms, self-serving terms. More and more people are losing a sense of the bigger picture—a larger, wider, more embracing approach to life and its diversity of peoples.

This weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia is an excellent example of the evil that cultural, ethnic and economic isolation and impetuosity create. What motivated people with a white supremacist perspective to travel from Ohio and other places throughout the country to come to this Virginia town to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E Lee?  Since the ethnic and prejudicial killings over the past several years in our country, were there sufficient Town Meetings, Conferences, Dialogues from coast to coast to dissect the complexity of these and related issues to prevent more violence?  In fairness, the Charlottesville Mayor and Council did conduct town meetings to let people air their perspectives and their feelings before taking down its Confederate Flag and deciding on moving Robert E. Lee and other Confederate Statues into museums which could better contextualize these historical figures’ characters and life choices than displays in public parks allow.  But perhaps there was insufficient outreach and dialogue with and about the Supremacist Organization before their rally was allowed in the name of “Free Speech.”  Was there sufficient and significant preparation conducted by the protestors and police prior to the event—and, equally important, because our nation has been crying out for more Town Meetings, have there been (and will there be) significant number of meetings in churches, synagogues, mosques and council halls to address the seeds of hatred, prejudice coast-to-coast?  Why or why not?  Everybody knows “Violence doesn’t occur in a vacuum.”

We all fail to initiate and perpetuate the kind of dialogue about morals, logic, faith, culture, diversity that this Age requires. We fail, in part, because we rely upon ourselves alone without the patience to prayerfully allow God to work through all our thoughts and feelings before we act. For example, thankfully, there were many protestors responding to the KKK/Supremacist March, but I wonder if instead of posters of condemnation there were also (and there may have been) placards stating things like and “God loves us all,” “All Nations Shall Come Together,” “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 Not that by that time, on that day, it could have made much difference with the Hate march.  But if there were such ideas floating around in the protest, there would at least be some clarification of the kind of thoughtful, preventative action Christianity call us to embrace.

How much, for example, did anyone at that march really know about Robert E. Lee?  I had to do some research myself.  I was surprised to read he was against slavery and against violence.  Against his better judgment he joined the Confederate Army to, in his mind, protect his native Virginians.  He could have been known for pleading for more dialogue among Virginia’s Legislature and with President Lincoln and his Cabinet, more caution on behalf of the Southern States before cessation.  Instead, he compromised his conscience and his deeper values, he didn’t choose to act with a bigger picture in mind.  Lee’s story and conflicts could be better known, better discussed and could lead to more self-scrutiny for our world today, but alas, as in the times of Jesus, only some, not all, are willing to join in the conversation.  Many won’t ever, many don’t, but who do we say we are?  What do we think the proper response of faith is?

Now what does this have to do with today’s Bible Readings?  Everything!  In 1 Kings, we find Elijah hiding in mountain cave.  More dialogue with the previous passages of Scripture is needed to understand the context.  He’s hiding because he acted impulsively, filled with his own zeal for the Lord, he slaughtered all the prophets of Baal, the pagan cult of Jezebel, the wife of Israel’s King Ahab. The king and queen now seek the prophet’s life.  Of course, Elijah expects the Lord to come in Elijah’s own image –with the wrath of whirlwind, an earthquake, in fire.  Instead, God arrives in “a tiny whispering sound” through which Elijah listens and defers more fully to God’s counsel, becoming more rooted in God’s love for him rather than his own zeal to love the Lord more. This conversation results in Elijah being prepared for heaven.  His ministry is over. God wants him to ordain a new prophet in his stead, Elisha.  Then Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.  Something about prudence, patience, and repentance seems to be the thought for the day.

Now let’s look at the Matthew’s Gospel: What made Peter so impetuous as to try and walk on water to Jesus? Was he ready?  Had he fully acknowledged Jesus as both human and Divine?  Jesus walking on Water was manifesting His Divinity, His Union with God to be in command of Nature as well as the source of life for human souls.  Obviously, Peter wasn’t ready; he didn’t understand this nor the degree to which he had to focus on Jesus rather than the raging wind.   Thankfully, Jesus knew that.  He knows we aren’t often ready to let faith’s wisdom sustain us, so he extends his hand.  However, what if Peter were less anxious to act and more open to simply let Jesus come to him?   What if he chose to surrender to the bigger truth that “God loves us First” and that God will act “First” — through our conscience, through our prayer.  Patiently allowing our conscience and our consciousness to be centered in God makes us more fittingly responsive to the evils of the world, more preventative, less reactionary.  Jesus was coming to Peter and all the disciples in the boat. Could / should Peter have waited?  What might have occurred had Peter allowed Jesus to make his point as God and Man first, allowing the Spirit to seep more fully in his mind and body and find more communion with the disciples before boldly reacting and presenting Jesus with his own “state of emergency?”

All this is “food for thought,” regarding our degrees of dependence upon Christ as we address the problems of our times.  One thing for sure, we must speak out against evil, hatred and violence, but how we do it, and more importantly, the extent to which we let the Spirit move us to daily efforts of prevention–THIS is the question we must address today, tomorrow and the next day.  Jesus came, He continues to come and thankfully, we arrived today to let his Word penetrate us again and this Eucharist to nourish our conscience, bodies and spirits.  Allowing Jesus to come to us first, to allow him to do what He Will Do for Us first before we act, react, respond –knowing that we must put our faith into action—can and will make all the difference in our responses to the evils that abound in our nation and in the world.

Stop Anti-Semitism & Scapegoating NOW!

Are you as saddened and outraged about what has happened at Oberlin College in Ohio  as I am?
An adjunct professor spews anti-Semitic, racial hatred in class and on Facebook. The College President allows it because of “freedom of speech” but  in his speech addressing the issue, he does not specify all that is illogical in the anti-Semite professor’s diatribes. Here’s my response and warning to myself and to all of us tempted to scapegoat, blame or ostracize any group AND our responsibility to counter lies and the dark myths of prejudice:
1. We must never speak about any ethnic, national or religious group as responsible for any one thing in particular. Every group is made up of individuals, sub-groups and marginal groups who evidence tremendous diversity .  When anyone speaks of “The Catholics,” “The Protestants,” “the Jews,” The Nigerians,”  “the Americans”  ” the Italians,” we must immediately STOP RIGHT THERE and ask, “Who?”  “Which ones?”  “What segment?” As soon as any one generalizes about any peoples, nation or religion the statement is a LIE!
2.  Even when a sub-group, or smaller group of individuals or individuals themselves are identified as guilty of an immoral incident or event, questions must be addressed and allegations must be verified and substantiated.  Again, “Who?”  “What Contexts?”  “What evidence?”  “What verifications?”  If No ONE can be substantiated as  responsible, then certainly NO ENTIRE GROUP can be responsible. Furthermore, even when ONE individual or Sub-Group is verifiably responsible, it is extremely unlikely that the entire sub-group is responsible and certainly not the entire, larger group.  THIS I S LOGIC.  This is Justice.  This is TRUTH.
3.  Freedom of Speech does allow for anyone to say anything including spewing of  lies, illogic, hatred, prejudice, etc. but a free society has an OBLIGATION to counter that speech with TRUTH.  Furthermore, we have a moral imperative to substantiate the truth with proofs and verifiable historic and scientific evidence.  Therefore, I repeat: Allowing one person’s freedom of speech to include lies, hate, scapegoating requires others to RESPONSIBILITY and to TRUTH.   In the case cited, the President must conduct a public forum revealing the lies of the given professor’s statements. To allow proliferation of a lie is to renege on responsibility and common human decency and allow the lies to prosper, mislead and corrupt people’s thinking.
4.  Even Free Speech has its limits. The public square no longer tolerates racial slurs in the public forums.  Certain expletives are band in the media.  So, too, must negative generalizations  about any group.  Any allegation must in justice identify individuals and sub-groups so we promote truth and balance in the media.  In truth, even positive statements and praise need to have specific clarifications.  For example, even in this hostile political climate in the USA, we must not speak of “The Italian American Vote,”  “the Black or African American vote,”  “The Evangelical Vote,” “The Jewish American Vote,”  those very statements are dishonest. We may speak of “a large portion of African Americans in Alabama in the Republican party are voting this way,”  or  “More Italian Americans in New Jersey are tending to vote in the Democratic primary this year.”  WE must stop generalizations in all spheres or we are planting the seeds of ethnic scapegoating and ethnic hatreds.  Anti-Semitism is often the symptom of a terrible illogic that festers in human minds and in human societies.  All peoples who seek truth and justice must counter this illogic on all levels including temptations that exist in our own hearts.
If you don’t know about this incident, you can read about it here:
PLEASE COMMENT!  Please don’t let Anti-Semitism or any prejudice, any lies, hate or scapegoating go unaddressed.  ALSO:  in the coming weeks I am going to begin to offer commentary in a series of blogs on a most excellent book: Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s book NOT IN GOD’S NAME.  Watch for it!