Friday, August 31, 2007

Homily: 20th Sunday of the Year

Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Psalms 40:2, 3, 4, 18
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever. Amen.

“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!”

1. My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus has come to set the world on fire. He has come to set you and me on fire with His love and His truth, and not only you and me, but each and every person who walks the face of the earth. He wants the whole world to be set ablaze with Love for Him. It is clear through the gospel reading that this is the greatest desire of Jesus “Oh” he says “how I wish it were already blazing!” Those are passionate words from a passionate man. His passion, His desire is that all – not just some - would come to Love Him. But in order to love Him, we must know Him and know His teachings. But those teachings, as we know, can be a cause great division. All we have to do is look at the History of the Church or at the current religious atmosphere throughout the world and we will see division – division caused a failure by some to accept the teachings of Christ.

2. In today’s gospel Jesus is very realistic about the division that will come about as a result of His teachings. “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?” He says. “No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

3. These words seem contrary to what many people think about Jesus and about Christianity. There are many in our world that hold the belief that Jesus came to bring peace and harmony, to help everyone get along, to make everyone happy. Surely, if – and that’s a pretty big if - everyone embraced the teachings of Jesus there would be peace and harmony, everyone would get along, and certainly everyone would be happy, but Jesus lives in reality. He knows that this peace and harmony can not fully happen in this life, but only in the next. We can move toward it, but it will never be fully achieved here on earth. Jesus knew that because of sin many would chose not to follow Him and His teachings, and thus there would be division. From the time of Jesus to our own time there has been one division after another. The most prominent division being the division between the Church Christ founded, the Catholic Church, and our Protestant brothers and sisters.

4. For a number of years now there has been a strong movement toward Ecumenism, towards unity among Christians. It is a movement encouraged by the Church, but commonly misunderstood.

5. The goal of authentic ecumenism is not that the Catholic Church changes Her teachings and practice in order to make non-Catholics more comfortable. Rather, according to the Second Vatican Council, true Ecumenism is to restore unity by helping non-Catholics to come to understand the truths of the faith and to bring them into unity with the one and only Catholic Church (UR 24). In more simple and straightforward terms, we are called to help them come home to the one true Church. Pope John Paul II, one of the greatest promoters of Ecumenism, assured the world in many of his documents that full communion between Catholics and non-Catholics “will have to come about through the acceptance of the whole truth into which the Holy Spirit guides Christ’s disciples” (UUS 36). And where is that truth to be found? The Second Vatican Council’s answer is this: “It is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone…that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained” (UR 3).

6. We, as Catholics must be clear. There is a difference between Catholics and Protestants. Yes, we have many things in common. Yes, we both are Christians. But the Catholic Church and she alone, is the Church founded by Christ. The Catholic Church and she alone has the fullness of truth and speaks with the authority of Christ himself. The Catholic Church, and she alone has the fullness of Sacramental life. It is only through acknowledging these truths, and living them fully in our lives that we will be set on fire, and draw others into that same fire of Love.

7. At this point many of us may be thinking that the Church seems kind of full of herself, kind of prideful in saying that She has the fullness of truth, in saying that She is the Church founded by Christ, and that everyone should unite themselves to the Catholic Church. Yes, sometimes it may come across this way, but that is not the Church’s intention. The Church teaches these things out of humility, realizing that She has been given a great gift.

8. My brothers and sisters, we are greatly privileged to be Catholic. We have been given a great gift. We, unlike our protestant brothers and sisters, are able to receive the very body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We are able to visit Jesus day and night in our tabernacles. We are able to know the forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance. We don’t want our non-catholic brothers and sisters to join us merely out of pride, but out of a desire for them to be able to experience the joy we experience in being Catholic. We want them to be Catholic because it is an awesome privilege to be Catholic, not because it will build up our ego.

9. Today we come before our Eucharistic Lord grateful for the gift of our Catholic faith. So grateful in fact, that we desire everyone to have what we have. In the midst of that gratefulness, however, our hearts are heavy because we realize that not everyone has what we have; that there is division, because, sadly, some choose to divide themselves from the one true flock– the Church. Let us pray for them that they may be set on fire with love for Christ and His Church and will one day join us. Let us also pray for ourselves, that our Love for Christ and His Church may increase. That we will never take for granted the great gift which has been given to us in the Church, the Sacraments, and the teachings of Christ.

Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, have mercy on us.
Mary, mother of the Church, pray for us.
St. Rose, ardently zealous for the salvation of souls, pray for us. Amen.

N.B. Since this homily has the potential for rude and uncharitable comments I have decided to close comments for this post. If you have a constructive comment to make please e-mail it to and if appropriate I will post it.

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