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.

 

 

 

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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.