27th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - C Cycle - 2003-2004
First Reading - Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
Psalm - Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading - 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel - Luke 17:5-10
Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here immediately and take your place at table'? Would he rather not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished'? Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"
In our Gospel today, our Lord presents his listeners with a question about how servants should act around their master when the servants return from the field after a day of work. Jesus says that rather than take a seat at table with the master, the servants should simply say that they are unprofitable servants and that they have only done what they were obliged to do. In other words, when we do our duty, we shouldn't expect applause for that - we're expected to do as much.
By way of this homily, I would like to take time to explain a very serious duty that we as Catholics have an obligation to fulfill this November - the obligation to participate in public life by voting in the upcoming election. As this is Respect Life Sunday, we are charged with preaching and considering decisions that impact the most vulnerable in our society: women; the unborn; the aged. We're also charged with considering the basic, core, family values that are under attack in our land - here, I refer to illicit unions between persons of the same sex.
I know that there are always some persons that don't believe that the Church should take on political issues - that somehow the separation of church and state in our legal system now means that religious groups can't influence and guide how their congregation's vote. That is an incorrect understanding of the separation of church and state. In reality, the legitimate separation of church and state concerns the prohibition found in the Constitution of allowing one state-sponsored religion, as well as the intention of the Framers of the Constitution to keep the government out of the affairs of various religions. This idea has been perverted to now mean that no religion can speak up in matters that have political consequence. Effectively, this would mean that Christian thought would no longer be able to influence a nation founded on Christian principles. This was not the intent of the Founding Fathers. Moreover, every political act is a moral act - all political action has a moral dimension and for that reason, the Church has a right and an obligation to speak out. If you haven't noticed, we Catholics live in a perpetual catch 22 situation: in the aftermath of the Second World War, Catholics and the Church we constitute were accused of not saying enough in defense of the Jews. Now, Catholics are accused of saying too much.
As Catholics, then, we have two duties, two obligations. The first obligation is to vote. We must vote because voting is one of the most crucial ways that we as Catholics can help shape the society in which we live to best reflect Gospel values. As one archbishop recently noted, "The Church teaches that we have an obligation, in justice, to vote, because the welfare of the community depends upon the persons elected and appointed to office." In the same light, the Second Vatican Council and John Paul II have consistently exhorted us to exercise our right to vote. So, abstaining from voting is not an option for us. In the United States, we must first register to vote and the deadline to register to vote for the November elections is tomorrow.
The second obligation that we have is to vote for candidates that best reflect the Gospel and the Culture of Life. We are not to vote as Republics or Democrats - we are called to vote as citizens of the Kingdom of God. When we enter the voting booth, the single most important factor in determining how we vote is whether or not our vote is consistent with the faith we profess each Sunday, not whether or not we belong to a political, man-made party. I am amazed at how Catholics have consistently voted against Church teaching, claiming primary allegiance to their party and not their God. I am reminded of the chilling line in Matthew 10:33 where Jesus says, "but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven." I come from an apolitical family, since neither of my parents are citizens of this nation and therefore cannot vote. I also hold an undergraduate degree in Government and am a student of the discipline. I am the first person in family who has been able to vote in this country. I have never voted according to a party line - but according to the mind of the Church. That is how it should be for all Catholics - we ought to vote according to the demands of the Gospel, not whether or not we are Democrats or Republicans or Independents.
I am sure that you have noticed that the political campaigns being cast now are trying to focus on the war and the economy. While these are very serious issues and deserve our consideration, we as Catholics believe that they are negotiable issues, when compared to life issues. Weeks ago, the pastor made a Voting Guide for Serious Catholics available to all of you and in it, you will find the five non-negotiable issues that we as Catholics are to consider when entering the voting booth. What each of these issues have in common is that each of them are intrinsic evils. That means that no intent, however good and no circumstance, however dire, can make these inherently evil acts good acts. By contrast, issues like capital punishment or just war or aid to the poor are not intrinsically evil and therefore are permitted or are negotiable according to circumstances and intentions. It is not consistent with Catholic doctrine to say that capital punishment and just war issues are as grave as the five non-negotiable issues. In fact, the Catechism clearly states that given limited but specific and rare circumstances, capital punishment is permitted. Similarly, the Church entrusts the decision to go to war under just circumstances to secular governments. Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis reminds us that, "one cannot justify a vote for a candidate who promotes intrinsically evil acts which erode the very foundation of the common good, such as abortion and same-sex "marriage," by appealing to that same candidate's opposition to war or capital punishment." It becomes clear that in the hierarchy of rights, the right to life must first be secured before we can even begin to seriously tackle the rights to liberty and happiness, which depend on the right to life in order to have any meaning.
contrast, the non-negotiable issues are intrinsically evil and no government as
the right or the purview to promote them. So, what are these five
non-negotiable issues? They are: 1. abortion;
2. euthanasia; 3. embryonic stem-cell research; 4.
human cloning and to it I would add invitro fertilization; 5.
The principle is simply this: it is not morally licit to support or perform procedures that either terminate, prevent or substitute for the natural generation and end of life. Many see the problems with abortion and euthanasia as well as human cloning. Fewer see the problems with embryonic stem-cell research. They argue that many people could be spared of diseases if we used embryonic stem-cell research. While we as Catholics do support stem-cell research, we oppose the creation and destruction of human embryos in the name of scientific progress. In other words, good intentions do not legitimize intrinsically evil acts - in this case, the destruction of innocent human life. Stem-cells can be derived from other sources but are not to be derived by killing pre-born children in their embryonic state.
And yet, it is not enough to simply be intellectually opposed to these attacks on human life and the sanctity of marriage as defined and created by God in the Garden of Eden. WE MUST ACT on this opposition. We have to be willing to contradict error as well, especially when it can lead to attitudes of complacency and indifference. For example, we have all heard the argument, "I am personally opposed to abortion, but do not think that others should be bound by the same morality." This argument, at best, is specious and tired. Let's replace the word "abortion" with another intrinsic evil like "rape." The argument would go, "I am personally opposed to rape, but do not think that others should be bound by the same morality." In other words, if you think rape is ok for you to do, go right ahead. The reason why this argument does not work is because all law is based on some moral code. For example, the prohibitions we have on murder or stealing are based in the belief that they are immoral acts.
Even abortion advocates note the inconsistency in their own logic. In the 1990's, former President Bill Clinton noted that abortion should be safe, legal but rare. Rare? Can you name me another Constitutional right that should be rare? If abortion is good for women and so good that it should be a Constitutional right, the why should it be rare? Even when we limit free speech or the types of guns we can own, we are not eliminating the right. Yet, even Clinton recognized that abortion is a special moral category and thus should be rare.
The truth is that abortion has failed women. In the United States, it is a commonly accepted fact that 1 in 4 women over the age of 18 have had an abortion and yet 74% of these women, according to the LA Times poll admit that it was morally wrong to do so. A staggering 52% of women believe that abortion makes a woman's life worse and not better and between 30% and 60% of all abortions are a result of women submitting to the demands of boyfriends, husbands, parents and employers. What women facing this decision really desire is to receive help, compassion and understanding before, when and after they are pregnant. We need to do a much better job of understanding the feelings of abandonment, isolation, and grief that follow an abortion and to help women understand that they do have other choices and that they can get help. As a Church, we need to focus more on the woman because helping the woman also means helping the unborn child. Rhetoric about rights and legalities don't appeal to most women but true compassion that attempts to give women positive alternatives to abortion are always more constructive and fruitful. If 83% of post-abortive women admit that had they had proper support, they would not have had an abortion, that means that we have lots of work to do. In the short-term, we can help to shape a culture that is friendly to the pregnant woman and we can help to do that this November by our vote.
Please note that under no circumstance am I endorsing one candidate over the other per se. You are certainly more than intelligent to see the disparities between the candidates. However, please note that the two candidates are polar opposites on each of the five non-negotiable issues. When you vote for a candidate who supports and promotes and funds any or all of the five non-negotiables, you become a cooperator in their actions. The Archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri, reminds us that such cooperation is already grave matter. A memo leaked to the press that came from Cardinal Ratzinger's desk in Rome recently caused confusion among some Catholics. The memo suggests that you may vote for an anti-life candidate so long as there are proportionate reasons to vote for them. My friends, what other reason could be proportionate to killing innocent children in the womb or any of the other non-negotiables? What Cardinal Ratzinger is re-iterating here is the fact that if you had two candidates who were both anti-life, then you could choose the lesser of two evils.
So, when we enter the voting booth this November, let us vote with a clear and well-formed conscience, whose first allegiance is to the Gospel and not necessarily to our political party. Let us pray for the courage to prioritize the five non-negotiables in the number one criteria for choosing our civil leaders. May we not fall into the selfishness of merely considering our own economic situation or other negotiable issues that pale in gravity when compared to the defense of innocent life. Then, will we have done our duty - our obligation - to protect those who are most vulnerable and to support those who most need the compassion of the Gospel.
Praised be Jesus Christ. Now and forever!
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