30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

What I’m going to say today may make some of you mad. If so, I’m sorry. But the word “Gospel” means truth and my job is to tell you the truth, so that’s what I’m going to do.


In just over a week and a half, we’ll be asked to vote in an historic election. For several weeks Father and I have been receiving letters and emails from the Church telling us what we can and can’t do or say before we all go to the polls. We recently got a 2-page document called “Is It Legal? What Churches Can and Cannot Do During Elections.”


The gist of the thing is that a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization (that’s us) can’t support or oppose a candidate for public office under the threat of losing our tax-exempt status. Some of the things we can’t do are to give a homily urging you to vote for or against a particular candidate or label a candidate in the bulletin as pro or anti-abortion (I’ll come back to that one in a minute) We also can’t distribute materials or allow others to distribute pamphlets on church property. There are some other things, but I think you get the point.


Not to be outdone, the US Conference of Bishops, who never use a single word when a paragraph will say the same thing, has issued their own 42 page document called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” which says exactly the same thing, “don’t tell ‘em who to vote for”.


But, here’s the thing. There is a way around this, and I quote: “It should be noted that the Internal Revenue Code applies to tax-exempt corporations and not to individuals. Individuals are free to participate in the political process, to endorse and support candidates.   Individuals who are officials of a tax-exempt organization, however, should make it clear when speaking publically that their endorsement and support is being made in their individual capacity, not on behalf of the tax-exempt organization.”


So, let me be clear. What you’re hearing today is me, not Saint John Nepomuk Chapel.


Normally I wouldn’t wade into such deep water but several things are different about this election cycle and I think they’re worth talking about. One is that a lot of prominent Catholic clergy have spoken out about our choice next month. Among them are Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, RI Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville who is President of the US Conference of Bishops and local boy made good, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.


As you probably know, Wikileaks has released a batch of emails from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Among them are several from Clinton campaign operatives bashing the Catholic Church. Here’s what Cardinal Dolan had to say: “The remarks attributed to John Podesta, who is Mrs. Clinton’s chief of staff, are just extraordinarily patronizing and insulting to Catholics. What he would say is offensive. And if it had been said about the Jewish community, if it had been said about the Islamic community, within 10 minutes there would have been an apology.” As of today, there has been no apology. In fact, Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, who claims to be a devout Catholic said on FOX News, “I don’t think an apology is necessary because what they were essentially getting at here was just a difference in opinion with the Catholic hierarchy.” 


That “difference of opinion” includes calling the Church medieval and sexist. It also calls for a “Catholic spring”, a revolution within the Church to change its views. This is an obvious reference to the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups and civil wars.


So, speaking for myself, and not as Saint John Nepomuk Chapel, I think that if (1) the Clinton campaign has attacked our Church and (2) if Bishops, Archbishops, and even a Cardinal have spoken out, then the IRS probably isn’t going to come after a lowly deacon. Besides, since this church has been operating in the red for years, there’s nothing for them to tax.


Mrs. Clinton, herself, in a speech to a women’s group said that we (Catholics and Evangelical Christians) were just going to have to change our religious views. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.” Seriously, that’s what she said. And here I thought our Constitution guaranteed religious freedom. Silly me.


Of course, all this controversy involves abortion. Mrs. Clinton has pledged to uphold and even increase the availability of abortion throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. She has also promised to overturn the Hyde Amendment which means our tax dollars would be used to pay for all those abortions. Mr. Kaine, her allegedly Catholic running mate has used the tired liberal cliché, “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I don’t feel like I can impose my views on others.” Maybe somebody should send this guy a copy of the Catechism. Here’s what it says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” And, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense.”


The Church tells us that “formal cooperation” includes passing laws that legalize abortion and voting for so-called “pro-choice” candidates.


Granted, neither major party candidate is perfect. Donald Trump’s stand on immigration and keeping certain immigrants out of the country based on their religious beliefs is contrary to Church teaching. But he’s never attacked our Church and, while he’s not said a lot about abortion one way or the other, he’s not promised to make abortion easier to get, or to make you and me pay for it.


And, it’s important for all of us to remember that in four or even eight years, our next president will make appointments that will shape the Supreme Court, and all courts, for decades. As Catholic Christians we need to step up and defend our rights or we may wake up one day and find we don’t have any rights.


I don’t expect anyone to vote one way or the other because I said so. In fact, your vote is between you and God. All I’m asking you to do is pray about this before you vote. Ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit. And do your homework. Go online and Google “Clinton and abortion” or “Clinton and Catholic”. You’ll be amazed at what you find. This election will shape our country for decades. Please take it seriously and don’t sit it out.




27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

FAITH!  All of our readings today speak of faith.  But what exactly is “faith”?  The dictionary definition is the belief in something that can’t be proven.  We can’t prove that Jesus rose from the dead, so if we believe it that means we have faith.  But, there are other kinds of faith.  Even atheists have faith in something, even if it’s misplaced faith that there is no God.


I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow in the eastern sky.  I can’t prove it.  But my experience of almost 65 years is that it rises every day so it must surely rise tomorrow.  But there are a lot of crazy people in this world who have the capability of blowing up the planet if they decide to, so there’s at least a small possibility that there won’t be a tomorrow, let alone a sun rise, at least here on earth.


It could also be cloudy and overcast tomorrow so we can’t see the sun.  But even under the heaviest clouds, some light gets through so we know the sun’s up there somewhere.


Closer to home, I have faith that when I leave here today and head down Highway 55 toward home that someone won’t be coming the wrong way and hit me head on.  That faith is a little weaker, because I know it does happen.  I’m having faith in my fellow motorists which isn’t quite as strong as my faith in God or the cycles of the universe.


Even animals have some faith.  If you feed your dog everyday at 8 in the morning, you know he’s going to be waiting for you at 7:59 tomorrow.  As far as your pet is concerned, you’re god in his world and he has faith in you.


So, what’s Jesus telling us today.  If we have faith the size of a mustard seed we can move trees with just our voices.  A mustard seed is pretty small.  If I were to hold one up even you people in the front row probably couldn’t see it.  But this teeny-small seed can produce a fairly large tree; one tall enough for you to sit under it and enjoy the shade.


I’d like to think my faith is bigger than that little seed, but frankly I don’t believe that I can tell a tree to move and that it will obey.  Of course we live in modern times.  I guess if I had a friend with a bulldozer and I told him to move a tree, technically I’d be moving the tree with my voice, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.  After all, He did like to speak in parables and use examples.


I believe what he’s telling us is that He can move trees with just a command.  And, if we have enough faith in Him, He will hear our prayers and move the big things in our lives.  Maybe not trees, but there are a lot of other obstacles that seem just as stubborn that He can move for us if we ask.  But, if we don’t believe that He answers our prayers, there’s a pretty good chance that He won’t.

Look at our own church as an example.  In 1870 I think most people around here gave the Bohemian founders of Saint John’s zero chance of building a magnificent house of worship.  Frankly the locals weren’t crazy about the new immigrants.  Some of them probably secretly hoped that the Czechs would fail.  The odds were against them.  What did they know about building a church?  They didn’t have a lot of money.  But they did build it.  And their neighbors were amazed!  The day it was dedicated was a HUGE celebration.  They had done something that seemed to be impossible.  They had moved the sycamore tree.


Then just 26 years later a tornado destroyed their beautiful church.  They could have given up, but they didn’t.  They rebuilt it bigger and better than ever. And I’m as sure as I’m standing here that their faith, and their prayers, were just as important, if not more important than the skill of the builders who did the actual labor.


That’s what’s lacking today.  It’s no secret that our country is in a mess.  Unemployment is high.  Terrorists are running wild. Crime is a huge problem. Politicians on both sides of the aisle find it impossible to sit down and come up with workable solutions to these problems.  What went wrong?  I believe it’s a lack of faith.  If every Christian in America, whether they’re Catholics, or main-stream protestants, or fundamentalists, would forget our differences and get down on our knees to pray for our country, there would be a miracle.  And let’s not leave out the Jews and the Muslims and everybody else who believes in the Almighty.  Right now our churches, regardless of faith tradition, should be standing-room-only.


But so many people have lost their faith in God that they don’t have faith in anything else either.  Who really believes that our present government, and I’m talking about both parties, can solve our problems?    If we don’t have faith in God, how can we have faith in men?


Our politicians are so busy trying to blame the other guys, that nothing gets done.  We’re about to elect a new President. Frankly, neither candidate is very good. It’s going to come down to which one the fewest people don’t like and the majority of people don’t trust either one of them. The same is true right down the line all the way to the local races. Neither side wants to admit that they’re part of the problem.  It’s all about blaming somebody else.


We all have to take a look in the mirror on this one.  How often have we said, “it’s not my fault.” ….when it really is?


We all know about Adam and Eve.  They sinned.  You ask somebody what they did and they’ll say they sinned.  How did they sin?  They ate the apple.  Everybody knows that.  God told them not to eat the apple but they ate it anyway.  But that wasn’t the real sin.


What did Adam say to God when He caught him red-handed with the apple core in his hand?  He said, “It’s not my fault.  That woman you gave me made me do it.”  Then God confronted Eve, standing there with apple juice running down her chin.  What did she say?  “It’s not my fault.  That serpent that you made, tricked me.”


Eating the apple, disobeying God, may have been sinful.  But what do we know about God?  He forgives sins.  If Adam had said, “Lord, I’m sorry I disobeyed you.  I shouldn’t have eaten that fruit.”, he might still living in the garden.  If Eve had admitted her sin and that she had talked Adam into eating the apple with her, and then asked for forgiveness, she might still be in the garden with him.


No the worst sin was refusing to take responsibility for their own actions.  That’s what got them thrown out of paradise.  And yet, so many people today think they’re going to get INTO paradise after committing the same sin, not just once, but over and over again.


God will forgive our sins if we ask Him to, and if we have faith, even faith as small as a mustard seed, He will.


26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

the-good-placeThere’s a new show on NBC called “The Good Place”.   I don’t think it’s ever going to be called great television, but it’s kind of cute. The idea is that this young woman, Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, has died and gone to the “good place”. But there’s been a mistake. In life Eleanor was kind of a jerk and doesn’t deserve to be in the “good place”,


Her presence in the good place is causing some kind of a disturbance in the atmosphere and Eleanor has to clean up her act before anyone finds out what’s happened and she gets sent to the “bad place”.


Like I said, the show is cute, but besides not being great television, it’s also not great theology. No one ever mentions God and the words “heaven” and “hell” are never used. In fact, they don’t talk a lot about the “bad place” except to play a sound bite where there’s a lot of screaming and wailing. Eleanor is told that that’s what’s happening right now in the bad place.


There are some good things about this show. One is Kristen Bell and Ted Danson are very good. Another thing is that it’s a show about morality, which is rare today in prime-time television. As hard as Eleanor tries, it’s impossible to curse in “the good place”. Her mentor and “soul mate” is trying to educate her on ethics and morality so she can stay. And, even though the show isn’t very good theology, it’s kind of Catholic in it’s approach to heaven and hell. Overall, it’s a better use of thirty minutes than a lot of other things on television. It’s only been on twice so we’ll have to see how it develops and if it can get and hold an audience with it’s morality message.


Eleanor’s story is a little bit like the story of the rich man in today’s Gospel though Luke’s story is much more disturbing. Here we have a rich man who lived high on the hog when he was alive and would have nothing to do with Lazurus, the poor man who was lying at his door. Now they’ve both died and Lazurus has been carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man is in torment in the netherworld. Luke tells us he is suffering in the flames.


The image is disturbing because it’s a very graphic description of what could happen to us. lazarusIt’s one of the few times in the New Testament when hell is described in such graphic detail. Yes, I said the h-word. Hell. The netherworld. The bad place. It’s something we don’t like to think about. But, here it is in black and white. It IS a possibility.


So what does the rich man do? He tries to use Lazurus. “Send him to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue.” Even now he doesn’t get it. Then, when Abraham tells him that it’s not going to happen, he wants Lazurus sent to his father and brothers to warn them of what could happen to them, again taking advantage of the poor man. But Abraham tells the rich man, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to THEM.”


This is another disturbing thought for us. We also have Moses and the prophets. The first reading today is from Amos, one of the greatest of all the prophets, telling us “Woe to the complacent.” Are you complacent? Or do you take eternity seriously? The readings today are meant to shake us out of our complacency. How much more warning do we need? The reading ends with the very ominous passage, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”


One thing about today’s Gospel story that I find interesting is that after 2,000 years we know the poor man’s name; Lazurus. But we don’t know the rich man’s name. He must have been important in this life, otherwise he wouldn’t have been rich. But today we have no idea who he was. His story is important to us but his identity isn’t.

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time


I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” 


This is a quote from Mother Teresa of Calcutta who, as you probably know is being canonized by Pope Francis today in Rome. I think it’s important that we all understand what it means to be called a Saint by the Church. It doesn’t mean that tomorrow (today) she’s any different than she was when she was alive. Some people will mistakenly say that Francis is making Teresa a Saint. That’s wrong. Only God can do that. What is happening is that the Church is officially recognizing what we all knew all along.


You and I can be saints just as surely as Teresa is a saint, and we don’t have to travel to India to do it. We don’t have to open a hospital or tend to the sick and dying. It doesn’t hurt. But it’s not necessary. Teresa said it herself.


“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?”  And that’s coming from someone who did a lot of good things.

Another woman, an American nun, said “We’re all called to be great saints.” That was Mother Angelica. She didn’t build hospitals. She built a TV station. But she did it with great love and I suspect she’s as much of a saint as Mother Teresa. I hope someday the Church canonizes her too.


As I was doing research for this homily I was surprised at how much negative stuff I found about Teresa. She had a lot of critics; even a lot of enemies. But isn’t that always the way? After all, they DID crucify Jesus Himself. When you do good things, you’re going to arouse a lot of resentment, mostly from people who don’t do anything themselves.


Look at today’s Gospel. Jesus tells the crowds, “whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Look at what happened to Him. Luke tells us “great crowds were traveling with Jesus.” He speaks to them and lays down some pretty heavy instructions. “Take up your cross.” “Renounce all your possessions.” “Hate your parents, your wife and your children, your siblings, even your own life.”


In the end, when He was crucified, the great crowds were gone and He was pretty much alone. It wasn’t easy to follow Jesus. It still isn’t.


I’ve always had a problem with the idea of renouncing all my possessions. We’ve just gone through the Beyond Sunday campaign, and the Annual Catholic Appeal. There’s a second collection today for Catholic University. Your chapel is always in need of money. How can I respond to all these things if I don’t have any possessions? It seems confusing.


The answer is in today’s bulletin, in the Stewardship Thought for the week. Here’s what it says: “what we must renounce is the belief that our possessions belong to us.  Everything that we have belongs to God alone.  All of our resources are entrusted to us not only for our own use, but also so that we can help others.  Once we renounce the idea that we possess or are entitled to anything, it is much easier to share the many gifts that God has given us.  Then we truly are His Disciples.”


That makes perfect sense. After all these years I finally understand. I don’t have to give up my stuff, I just have to understand that it’s not really mine. God has given me things so I can use them for His glory. When we’re asked to give, either to the Church, or to the poor, or to some other good cause, we’re being asked to give back a little of what wasn’t really ours in the first place.


The first reading asks us, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” That’s a good question. The answer is nobody. We can’t know what God intends. We’re not smart enough. But, as the reading says, “He has given us wisdom and sent His Holy Spirit from on high.” And every once-in-a-while, we’ll get a flash of inspiration, like I did when I read the Stewardship quote.


The same goes with Jesus instruction to “hate” our families. He’s not telling us to hate anyone. He’s the guy who told us to love one another as we love ourselves. What He’s telling us is to not put anyone before Him. We’re not supposed to hate our own lives. He wants us to give our lives in service to others.


So, as we celebrate this last holiday weekend of the summer, and celebrate the canonization of a great Catholic woman, let’s remember where we started, with the quote from Saint Teresa,

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?” 





19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

After the greeting, “brothers and sisters:” the very first word in today’s 2nd reading is “faith”. The word appears five times in this fairly short passage, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what the writer wants to talk to us about.


But in our “modern” world, many people look down on faith. They compare it to “silly superstition”. People of faith are immature and unintelligent. People of faith are called “rednecks” and even “losers”. We’re accused of clinging to our guns and our Bibles. Our society demands proof. How can we believe something we can’t prove? We must be fools.


So, here’s the story of Abraham. “By faith (There’s that word again.) he obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out not knowing where he was to go.” It reminds me of the prayer by Father Thomas Merton which I have referenced many times. “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.”


I suspect Merton had Abraham in mind when he wrote the prayer. He writes “Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” That’s called FAITH. It’s not simple-minded or naïve, or unintelligent. It’s believing the promises God has made to us.


Remember Abraham’s story. He’s very old but God has promised him “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.” And he believes it! Then God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son and he’s ready to do it, believing that God will raise Isaac from the dead. That’s faith!


In the Gospel Jesus tells His disciples to sell everything to prepare for the life to come. That takes a lot of faith. We have no proof that there even is a life after this one, but Jesus is asking us to give up everything to get ready for it. He’s calling us to commit an act of faith.


But faith isn’t just religious. There are lots of kinds of faith. Even atheists have their own sort of faith. Without faith in certain laws of nature we’d never get out of bed. When we go to bed, we have faith that we’ll wake up in the morning; that we won’t die in our sleep. We trust that our furnace won’t malfunction and poison us with carbon monoxide. We trust that our hot water heater won’t blow up during the night, or that our spouse won’t kill us in our sleep. When we head out in the morning we have faith that the guy coming toward us on the highway won’t suddenly swerve across the center line and hit us head on. Sometimes we have more faith in total strangers on the road than we do in a loving God.


Even something as simple as going to McDonald’s for lunch demands faith that the food is safe to eat; that we won’t be poisoned.


Sometimes our faith is misplaced. We think, “If it’s in the paper, it must be true.” Or, worse, “if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.” That kind of thinking is very dangerous.  You know what’s true? This is true. bibleThis is the inerrant Word of God and it will never lead you down the wrong path. It just won’t. Anything less, you should be skeptical and do your homework.


We’re in the midst of a critical election season. Candidates on both sides are making promises and accusations and most of the time they turn out to be false, whatever side you’re listening to. Maybe choosing “the lesser of two evils” has always been part of politics, but I don’t remember a time when it was more of an issue. Two out of three people don’t trust either presidential candidate. But we’re going to have to choose one of them, the one you don’t believe will kill us all. It’s not much of a choice. All we can do is have FAITH that our country is bigger and greater than any politician and that God will look out for us.


But, you know what? It really doesn’t matter. In the Gospel Jesus makes us a promise. “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” He promises us “an inexhaustible treasure in heaven”. That’s our faith. We can’t prove it. We can’t see it. We’ve never met anyone who’s been there. But we believe, just like Abraham believed. If Jesus says it, it must be true.



16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our readings today are about discipleship.


What is a disciple? The dictionary defines it as a student or a follower. That’s what we’re all called to be as Catholic Christians; students and followers of Christ.


The first reading begins with the Lord appearing to Abraham by the “terebinth of Mamre, while the day was growing hot.” What’s that mean? Well, a terebinth is a tree of the cashew family that used to be used to make turpentine. Mamre is a place, about 4 kilometers north of Hebron. The terebinth of Mamre was a place where pagans held sacrifices and it was believed that the tree itself wouldn’t burn.


So Abraham was camped out near this tree, or possibly grove of trees, around noon, when the Lord showed up. When Abraham looked up he saw three men. He ran to them and asked them to do him a favor. He asked them to accept his hospitality, to rest under the tree (remember, it’s hot) and to wash their feet. He also offers them “a little food.” The men agree. Abraham runs into the tent and tells his wife Sarah to whip up some rolls from “three measures of fine flour.” That’s about a half a bushel of flour, so it makes a lot of rolls.


Then he has a servant prepare a tender, choice steer along with curds and milk. When this “little food” is ready, Abraham waits on the men while they eat.


Now, the story doesn’t tell us who these three guys were. But, they do know Abraham’s wife’s name is Sarah and they promise that when they return, same time next year, Sarah will have a son. All the signs point to these three guys being messengers from God, maybe even angels.


Clearly Abraham is impressed with the three. He spreads out a feast for them and calls it a little food. Notice that he didn’t prepare the meal himself. He left that up to Sarah and the servant. But he did serve the meal and wait on the men while they ate. Like a true disciple he didn’t want to miss this opportunity to hear what the men had to say. He wasn’t going to spend a minute in the kitchen while these three were around.


And, they had plenty to say! Elderly Sarah would give Abraham a son in less than a year. And, as we know today, that’s exactly what happened.

Fast forward a few thousand years and we find Jesus hanging out at Martha and Mary’s house, something he did fairly often. We’ve heard this story many times. Martha is in the kitchen whipping up food for Jesus and the others gathered there. Her sister, Mary, is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to what He has to say. I can’t imagine there’s a single person in this church who can’t sympathize with Martha. She’s doing all the work! It’s not fair! But that’s not really the point of the story. Remember, I said that these stories are about discipleship, about being a student or a follower.


Whether the situation is fair to Martha isn’t the point of the story. There are a couple of things that we may overlook in our empathy for Martha. First, we know that Jesus does outrageous things, especially when it comes to women. Forget the unfairness between the two sisters. Mary belonged in the kitchen with Martha because that’s where women were supposed to be. But Mary wanted to be a disciple. She wasn’t going to let any silly society rules about the roles of men and women get in her way. She was seated at the feet of the Master. And Jesus was behind her 100%.


Mary was the precursor of centuries of strong, intelligent, holy women who have taken their proper place in history. Look around this church at all the statues of women saints. They didn’t stay in the kitchen where they belonged. They followed Mary’s example.

Saint Ludmilla, born around 860, founded the first Christian church in Bohemia along with her husband Duke Borivoy. She was martyred in 921.


Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was the daughter of a king. She built numerous hospitals where she served the sick, dressing the most disgusting sores with her own hands. She’s depicted carrying roses because the food she was carrying to the poor was miraculously turned into flowers. When her husband died she was forced from her palace and had to wander the streets, but she still continued to help the poor. Elizabeth died at the age of 24.


Elizabeth’s cousin was Agnes of Bohemia. She was the sister of King Wenceslas. She was raised in a monastery after being engaged at age three. Unfortunately her fiancé died when she was only six. She was engaged two more times, the last to Frederick II. But Elizabeth wanted to be a consecrated virgin and appealed to the Pope to intercede, which he did.


Agnes built a convent and a hospital and then another convent for the Poor Clares. She became a Poor Clare herself and her inspiration brought hundreds of other girls into the order. Unlike her cousin Elizabeth, Agnes lived to a ripe old age. She died in 1282 at the age of 77.


I won’t boor you with any more history, but I think you get my point. Ludmilla, Elizateth, Agnes, and all the other holy women depicted by the statues in our chapel were descendants of Mary. Her actions in today’s Gospel, choosing the “better part” and Jesus approval of what she did, opened the door to holy women down through the centuries.


God calls all of us to be disciples and to make disciples. Sometimes, like Mary, we have to step out of our comfort zone; to defy society’s rules. By following Mary’s example along with the examples of all the holy women…and men…depicted in our church, that’s exactly what we’ll do and Jesus will praise us for choosing the better part.

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time–7/4/16

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.


Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.


It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?


These words, written in 1796, are from George Washington’s Farewell Address. I think they make it pretty clear that our Founding Fathers, at least THIS Founding Father had some definite ideas about the place of religion in our new nation. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Somehow, in the last 240 years, our politicians have forgotten these words, or at the most, just pay lip service to them.


“In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.” In other words, don’t tell me you’re a patriot and then subvert the firmest props of citizenship. You can’t be a patriot and be immoral at the same time. It’s been proven time and time again that democracy won’t work if citizens aren’t moral. We all depend on one another. This is especially true of our so-called leaders. Notice Washington uses the phrase “mere politicians”. Like most of his peers in the 18th Century, George was a humble man. Today’s politicians….not so much.


“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” I had a conversation with someone this week who said he has no religious principles. I asked him if he agreed with the statement “Thou shalt not kill” and he said “yes”. I pointed out that that’s a religious principle. He may not belong to a church, but he has religious principles in spite of himself. Our entire system of laws is based on religious principles. We get in trouble when we forget that and pass immoral laws. Washington warned us about that but we seem to have forgotten it.


“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”


In this election year we all have to make some serious choices. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, we have to chose the lesser of two evils and it’s not always easy to tell who that is. From our First President who chose to step down because he didn’t believe any one man was more important than either the office or the citizens he served, to our present crop of politicians who all seem to think that they’re above the rest of us, our country has deteriorated. Neither one of our presumptive presidential candidates seems to have a religious affiliation.


Our religious rights are being constantly challenged and being a Christian is often looked down upon. Just this week the Supreme Court made yet another pro-abortion ruling. A transgender flag flies over our Saint Louis City Hall. I can’t even imagine what the response would be to a “Catholic Pride” parade downtown.


But this is a weekend to celebrate. For all our faults, the United States is still the greatest nation on earth. And you and I are Catholic Christians. That’s who we are and what we are. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” This world is only temporary. We’re just passing through. Nothing that happens in this life can hurt me because Jesus Christ has died for my sins. “From now on, let no one make troubles for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”


So, enjoy the picnics and the ball games and the fireworks. Give thanks for all the good gifts that God has given us. Pray for those who are less fortunate than we are. And remember Jesus’ words to the Disciples in today’s Gospel: “Into whatever house you enter, first say ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” It’s a win-win.


Happy Independence Day and Peace be with you!