Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus
How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus isn’t just talking about worldly material wealth and possessions. Having money does not equal corruption and evil by necessity.
Two weeks ago, I was accosted at Starbucks whose thinking about the ways of the world and of Christianity betrayed a mind so dense that no truth could penetrate it.
Last night, I met a man at a wedding who is a scientist and who struggles with his faith. He said, “Father, I do not want to be an atheist. I want to believe.”
There are parts of us on both ends of that spectrum. There are parts of us all protected by walls so high and fortifications so advanced that seemingly no truth or reason or compassion could penetrate it. And then there are those parts that cause us trouble, to ponder, to worry that we approach with vulnerability and reverence, those parts that gladly welcome and drink fully of truth, reason, and compassion.
I am worried. I am worried about the state of things. I am worried about the way the people in this country see each other, or don’t; hear each other, or don’t; speak to each other, or don’t; know each other, or don’t.
Consider the events of the last three months. Clergy sexual abuse, Kavanaugh vs. Ford, Laquan vs. VanDyke. In each of these cases, we saw an institution that we used to trust put under tremendous stress and we saw parts of people and institutions we used to venerate de facto revealed as corrupt, sinful. The Church, the legal system, the police. My grandfather was a Chicago homicide detective, for example, so my own bias puts me on the side of the police from the get go. Then, you see the video of the Laquan shooting and you second guess, you think twice.
That thinking twice in the face of cold, sad facts is a sad part about reality. It makes us admit to ourselves that the people who represent what we hold dear and trust are sometimes not who they say they are; they sometimes do not believe what they say they believe. This is particularly scandalous when it comes to bishops in the Church who do not believe what the Church believes or, maybe, do not even believe in God.
How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.
We cannot comment anymore on these events, because what more can we say? But we can speak to each other, those of us who live together in this place, in this town, in this little moment in time.
There was an article in the Tribune the other day about why one woman goes to Mass despite everything that’s been going on. We’ve seen these articles popping up in newspapers all over the place lately, and we can recite them by heart without ever having read them. “I still go to Mass because, despite everything that’s happened, the Church is still true and God is still real and the things I believe have not changed.” This is a beautiful witness for us.
Almost every one of these articles, the one in the Tribune being no exception, includes the now-requisite jab at the Church. The Tribune author notes that she has been Catholic her whole life, fell away from the Church and into atheism as a teenager, and experienced a radical reversion to the Church as an adult. In the second full paragraph, she writes, “I have many, many problems with the Catholic Church. Many of its leaders failed miserably at protecting children. The institutional church is backward in its views about women and gays.”
Just gotta get our little jab in there, so that the world knows I am a faithful Catholic but that I also do not believe what Jesus said. I either do not know or do not care what Jesus said, what his Spirit has revealed and has propagated in the world through his Church over the centuries. I do not know and I do not care to know. God changes over time, his teaching changes over time; the Church changes over time that it might “get with” the time.
I am Adam, I am Eve, and I want that fruit, and I am God.
This attitude troubles me a great deal. Mostly because I find it in myself.
We are creating for ourselves ghettos of thought. We unfriend people on social media and in real life if they disagree with us. “I will surround myself only with those who support me, agree with me, and do not challenge me.” We’ve begun living inside ghettos of thought.
In English, we define “idiot” as “ignorant person.” Our word “idiot” comes from the Greek word “idios”, which means “own, private.” It referred to a private citizen. There were members of the military and government personnel, and they idiots, the private citizens. We see the connection between the idiots as ignorant people and idiots as private citizens. Those who are idiots today are ignorant because they build giant walls for themselves and remain in their private world, like the man I met at Starbucks.
How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.
Why is it so hard to live this life? Because it requires us to die; it requires our fat, relentless egos to die. It requires us to come out from the idios world and say, “I am small, I am little, I am not God, I am weak, I am powerless, and all I want to know and do and say and live is what’s true.”
It requires us to see and hear the rhetoric of the world, the rhetoric of right vs. left and red vs. blue and Feinstein vs. Flake and VanDyke vs. Laquan, and to say “I do not subscribe. I do not follow. I do not retweet.”
I want to know more about God, about his plan and his kingdom and his Church. I want to know about the Father and I want to know him personally. I want to walk with Jesus and to know him as Messiah. I want to be filled up with the Holy Spirit.
I want to be holy, I want to be holy.
I want to be a healthy cell in a cancerous body.
I want to be with him. I want to be with him. I want those I love to be with him, too.
I want to be free, I want to be a new creation in Christ like he promised he’d make me, I want to stop going to confession and saying the same things. I want to be his, I want to be whole.
The disciples were amazed at his words. “What did you expect?”
There is nothing more difficult than being in love with a Spirit until you are dead, especially when the world stands by and mocks you for it.
Here’s what I say: let them mock us.
The world will not be changed by our mighty debates, because no one can debate anymore.
In the meantime, I will make the sign of the cross at Merichka’s. I will be different. I will pray the rosary walking down Raynor Avenue. I will keep my Mary bumper sticker on my car. I will wear my collar to Starbucks and risk being accosted.
I believe in him. I believe he is right. I believe he is the one who will change the world.