Monday, October 30, 2006

Fr. Perrone's pre-election day homily....

I love homilies and sermons that challenge me. It's one of several things which compelled me to stay at Grotto. I'd been going to church every Sunday for over 40 years, but never heard sermons like this before.

I recall the first time I heard one of Fr. Perrone's homilies, weeks after arriving. I was itching to put my arms up on the pew as I had done so often before at other parishes, but I was trying to do in Rome, like the Romans do. As I sat squirming trying to figure out where to put my arms, Father began his homily and I nearly fell out of that pew in shock at what I was hearing (and God knows I needed to hear what he had to say that day). I kept giggling (he really hit home). He grabbed me by my spiritual ear and led me to seek truth instead of comfort.

It was firm, forthright homilies just like the one he delivered this Sunday which led me to realize that Catholicism was not as ambiguous as I had been led to believe. It's also not relativistic, unless someone is making use of pyscho-babble at the pulpit. If I want someone to preserve my self-esteem, I'll go pay a psychologist to tell me what I want to hear. When I'm in church, I want to know the truth - plain and simple, even if it hurts.

Well, read this homily and you'll know what I mean. And, don't forget to vote tomorrow. The photo was taken back during Lent, but is the common appearance our pastor takes at the pulpit - very much at peace.

From the 30th week in ordinary time; year B

The curing of the blind man easily establishes a theme for the homilist and I do well in following the lead of that Gospel.

Often I think how heaven has taken such personal interest in us as individuals. What could motivate this care other than love? I’m thinking here, for example, of the time when our Lady said to Jesus about the wedding guests "they have no wine." That Mary should have on her mind not only those great and large concerns of ours (such as our salvation), but even our physical needs and desires is astonishing. Heaven truly cares about us–and not just as a lump of corporate humanity–but as individuals. One blind man out of so many was cured, not so that we might think of God as exercising selective care, but rather to indicate that it’s the individual who matters to Him.

Blindness in the Scriptures is not only a physical condition but is also symbolic of spiritual maladies. It’s used as such to indicate the ignorance of God or of His commandments, or of a want of faith, or even–as in the phrase ‘willed blindness’–the deliberate and obstinate turning from truth or grace. Surely this last sort of ‘blindness’ is the most serious because it is capable of being overcome, if only there were good will. While we gladly acknowledge the compassion of Jesus on those who are ‘in the dark’ innocently, through no fault of their own, we must also confess His severity with those of bad disposition. For example, He foretold the damnation of certain men who were the cause of scandal to others: men who misled others by their bad example. So, Christ is indeed ‘good news’ to those of integrity, to those who are sincere, to weak sinners who, despising evil, want to do what is right. But towards the malicious and the hypocrites, Jesus was demonstrably intolerant.

The subject of blindness of the willed or blameworthy kind comes to mind when I hear about men and women–reputedly Catholics–who obstinately follow a course other than the one directed by the Church. What sort of madness is it to claim allegiance to the Church only to betray her? I am thinking here not only of Catholic people who practice divorce, contraception, abortion and pornography, but, with even greater force, those in high places who do not defend truth on our behalf. Of these there are two varieties according to their position: leaders in the Church (bishops and priests) and civil servants (those we elect to public office). As our Lord teaches, being higher up, in places of authority, will demand a stricter, not an easier, accounting. The implication is that the higher one ascends the better a person he ought to be. As the well-known dictum has it, ‘noblesse oblige,’ the rich, the noble or the important ones ought to deport themselves honorably. Yet, for reasons of human respect, we tend to reverse this axiom and permit the influential a certain ‘dispensation’ from the laws that bind the rest of us, as if their prestige exempted them from the laws of God. In actual fact, however, as I already said, a more stringent moral requirement ought to attend those in high places. ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’

We have been much distressed in recent history over the fact that those who are our leaders, and who thus should know and act better, have scandalized us by betraying their calling through their cowardice and failure to uphold the honor of their offices. And why have they done this? Because there are certain moral requirements that demand observance against the grain of popular opinion. One begins to wonder whether their failure of our leaders to defend the truth is due to having themselves fallen prey to corruption or whether they are merely lacking the courage to speak forthrightly. We see evidences of this failure in this many ways: clergy who never speak a word on the sins of impurity that are devouring our society; corporate leaders who betray our trust through mismanagement of monies; politicians–even allegedly Catholic ones–who speaking approvingly of abortion and homosexual marriage while their bishops do not reprimand them and allow them to receive the sacraments; educators violating the innocence of children through shameful things introduced into the academic curriculum; and, needless to add, those in the arts and entertainment fields who have been among the most ardent fomenters of moral turpitude. The cumulative effect of this persistent betrayal is for us to tend to become skeptics, reticent to trust our leaders in nearly every aspect of societal life. This is an unfortunate consequence which, if allowed to go unchecked, might lead to a rebellion against authority and a subsequent social chaos which, in the end, would constitute an even greater societal evil.

In exasperation many wonder what should be done. As mentioned, one should not cultivate a suspicious attitude towards all those in positions of authority. Rightly understood, all authority comes from God. However, one of the great problems of being in a position over others is that it gives an illusory feeling of superiority over them beyond what their office warrants. Do our leaders ever ponder the fact that they will be held to greater accounting for their actions than the rest of us? And if not, here you have the very sort of blindness that sparked these reflections. Our correct response–besides prayer for good leadership–which is no small thing–must be that we pledge ourselves personally and individually to believe in and to uphold what is right so as not to fall victim to the prevailing corruption. As Saint Paul warned, everyone will be judged according to his deeds. That should be a sufficient admonition for us to focus our energies on self reform.

Those in authority over us are appointed in various ways. We do not get to elect our parents, or our priests/bishops (as the second reading reminds us): the one (parents) are given of nature, the other (clergy) are appointed by the Church. But we do have a say-so about who our political leaders will be. Whom shall we appoint to be over us?

An election is approaching, as you know, and before God you have a duty to cast your votes for those who have pledged to uphold what is right. So many issues are facing us at this time in the world that we cannot afford to allow any secondary considerations from obscuring what is our clear duty in voting as Christians. You must find out who is pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family or else bear your part before God for the consequences of what may likely follow in an even more corrupted society.

One hears Jesus ask in the Gospel, "What do you want me to do for you?" The response is ‘I want to see.’ May our Lord open your eyes to the light, the light of reason and the even superior light of faith to act responsibly for the good of society, the good of the Church and for the good of your own homes.

Now, before someone gets all upset over Father's inclusion of the "practice of divorce", I can assure you that he is not calling divorce itself sinful. I've heard him speak of this before. The key word is "practice". Some get married and figure that if things don't work out, they'll just get a divorce. This presumptuous approach to the sacrament is wrong-headed. Some also jump into to divorce without making the necessary sacrifices to make things work. This includes a couple's prayer habits and frequent use of the sacrament of confession. This is where each truly learns what god-pleasing, family-building sacrifices they must make in order for the union to last a life time.