2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time–Thou Shall Not Kill

If you pick up a newspaper or turn on the news on television, you can’t help but be a little dismayed; a little frustrated.  The problems in the world, and here in the United States, seem to be so big and complicated that they can never be fixed.  How do you deal with TRILLIONS of dollars of debt?  How do you resolve the problems in the middle east that were going on even before Jesus walked the earth?  How do you stop crazy people from shooting school children?  What’s an individual like you or me supposed to do?

 

I think we start by doing what Father Paul suggested last week.  You and I have to become great Catholics.  As Matthew Kelly says in his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, we have to become the best version of ourselves that we can be.  But the $64,000 question is what does that mean?  What are you and I supposed to do?

 

Here’s what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean trying to be a copy of someone else.  We’re surrounded by great saints in our church.  It’s good to study them for inspiration.  But we can’t BE them.

 

All the way in the back are Saint Louis IX and Saint Wenceslas.  They were kings.  I hate to burst your bubble or shatter your dreams, but I can almost guarantee that none of us is ever going to be a king, or queen.

 

Some of our saints were martyrs, including our patron, Saint John Nepomuk.  Martyrdom is kind of an express lane to heaven but chances are that none of us is going to be murdered for the faith.

 

Saint Albert and Saint Ludmilla were also martyrs.  Agnes of Bohemia helped establish the Poor Clares.  Every one of these saints has a story and none of us will ever be them.  If we try, we’ll just be a poor imitation.  It’s very seldom that we recognize the SECOND person to do anything.

 

OK, that’s what it DOESN’T mean but the question is still on the table.  What DOES it mean.   Maybe the answer’s in today’s readings.

The first reading is from the latter part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.  “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”  How does this passage apply to us today?

Further on he says, “no more shall people call you ‘forsaken’ or your land ‘desolate, but you shall be called ‘my delight’ and your land ‘espoused’.  Most of us are old enough to remember when the United States was the moral leader of the entire world.  It wasn’t that long ago.  We were “one nation under God” with liberty and justice for all.  Our ancestors, including the people who built the church you’re sitting in today, made dangerous, treacherous, trips across the ocean to come to America.  They didn’t come here for the food.  They came here because this was a place where they could live and prosper.  I wonder what they would think of their new home today?

“I will not be silent…..I will not be quiet.”

 

In the second reading Saint Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth.  The Corinthian community was bitterly divided.  They were divided on the economy, on whether or not they had to follow Jewish dietary laws, even whether women should cover their heads while they prayed.  Like the United States today, there was no middle ground.  Everybody was fighting with everybody.

 

The biggest issue for the Corinthians was about using spiritual gifts.  “My gift of healing is greater than your faith.”  “My mighty deeds are greater than your gift of prophesy.”  “My gift of discernment is greater than your gift of speaking in tongues.”  And on and on.

 

What Paul is telling them (and us) is that every gift from God is equal in His eyes. After all, He’s the one who gave them to us.  And He gave them to us for a reason.  If you have the gift of healing, that’s great.  Use it!  But just because you’ve received this gift from God doesn’t make you better than anyone else.  If you’re a prophet, then prophesy.  It’s a great gift, but that’s what it is; a gift.  The prophet is no more or less important than the speaker of tongues.  Stop being divisive!  Work together! “One and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as He wishes.”

 

Last, but definitely not least we have the famous Gospel story of Jesus at the wedding feast at Cana.  It’s His first miracle.  It’s a good lesson in humility for all of us sons and daughters.  Jesus wasn’t ready to enter public life.  “My hour has not yet come”, He says.  So, why does He perform the miracle.  Because his mother told him to.  He was the Son of God, the third person of the Trinity.  He was there when the world began.  But like any obedient son, He listened to His mother.  What does Mary say to the servers?  “Do whatever He tells you.”  Exactly what she says to us.

 

So, there’s our answer.  Be the best Catholic you can be.  Don’t try to be some kind of “super Catholic”, just be the best you can be with the gifts that God has given you.  He gave us our gifts for a reason.  Use them.

 

Don’t be silent.  Don’t be quiet.  Build up the kingdom one person at a time.  It may seem like an insurmountable task but remember that there were TWELVE Apostles.  Today there are over a billion Christians.  The Apostles had no television.  They had no Internet.  Just twelve guys traveling around the Middle East telling Jesus’ story.  And look at what they accomplished.  I don’t know if the Apostles were so successful because of the works that they did, or if it was because of their prayer.  I suspect it was a combination of the two.  They didn’t do anything that you and I can’t do.

 

Use your gifts, whatever they are.  Paul tells us that every gift is equal in the eyes of God.  Whatever you do, don’t be envious of someone else’s gifts.  We’re all better at some things than at others.

 

Finally, “Do whatever He tells you.”  That’s what’s wrong with the world today.  Too many people, including so-called Christians, have forgotten what He told us and continues to tell us.  There’s a great debate right now about guns.  Should we have them?  Shouldn’t we have them?  Are there some kinds of guns that nobody should have?  By way of full disclosure, I belong to the NRA.  I enjoy going to the range once-in-a-while to blow holes in paper targets.  I actually find it relaxing.  But I don’t hunt.  I don’t see the enjoyment in killing other creatures for fun.  I don’t care if you do.  In fact I applaud you for helping control the animal population.  If you kill an animal for food, there’s no problem with that.  If God didn’t intend for us to eat animals, He wouldn’t have made them taste good. Hunting’s just not my thing.

 

But, I also believe in a God who told us “Thou shall not kill.”  If we all believed that, then it wouldn’t matter if nobody had a gun or if everybody had a gun.  With very few exceptions it’s NEVER OK to take a human life.

 

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic Roe vs. Wade decision. More than one million unborn children are killed in the United States every year.  There are no guns involved; just medical tools.  By comparison, there are about 16,000 homicides each year, about 11,000 involving a gun.  If you do the math, that means that for every person shot to death in our country, 91 unborn children are killed before they have a chance to draw their first breath.  Maybe we need to teach people to value EVERY human life before we attempt to solve one particular form of murder.  Do you really think it’s just a coincidence that most of our national problems have come about since we made abortion the law of the land?

 

There are nine other commandments that, if we all followed them, this would be a much better world.  That’s where we have to begin.  We have to live the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, and the Beatitudes ourselves.  Then either by word or by example, we need to pass those values on to others.

 

Our greatest mission in life should be to take others with us to heaven.  The government isn’t going to do it.  The Church has to do it and the Church is you and me.  If just twelve men could grow the Church in spite of huge opposition, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same today.  There are more than twelve of us here today.  We have to remember that anything is possible with God.  If we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a better world, it’s up to us to get the ball rolling.  We owe it to them and we owe it to our ancestors who built this church for us.

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