Some of you have asked for the comments regarding, particularly, this past Sunday's homily. Only two have thus far come to me, both negative, one from someone who heard the homily and one from someone who has a lot of connections in town and is hearing quite a bit.
The gist of the comments, as I understand them since only two people actually came to me, can be boiled down to this: they are tired of the "doom and gloom," and that I keep preaching about things that have been the way they are "for generations."
Now, I don't exactly recall preaching doom and gloom, so I went back to look through the homilies that have I preached the past few weeks.
Three weeks ago was the homily I preached against underage drinking, especially against parents giving their underage children alcohol, resulting from a party being held for our outgoing college freshmen at the home of a set of parents. The Gospel happened to be the one about the thief breaking into the house. I remember saying that the thief, in this case, hadn't broken into the house, but was welcomed in through the front door to steal the purity of the youth! I made the connection with the baptism of their children, when parents are instructed: "See that the divine live which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart. If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism" (Rite of Baptism, 93). I also said that the parents in this case simply handed their children the cup of the poison of sin and said, "Here, drink up. At least you're safe in my house."
Two weeks ago, using the Gospel where Jesus says, "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division," as my springboard, I reminded the parishioners of who Jesus truly is. I also reminded them that nothing must come before Christ Jesus, not even our families.
This past Sunday, of course, I reminded the people that nobody should be receiving Holy Communion unless they have come spiritually prepared, again using the Gospel as my springboard.
Now, if these three topics are filled with "doom and gloom" it must be said that the Gospels themselves are nothing but doom and gloom!
It must be remembered that, as Chris Padgett likes to say, Jesus doesn't call us to a life of mediocrity. He requires that we make a decision either for or against him, and for this reason he says: "I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). I would suggest that Jesus will treat those who have rejected him more favorably than those who remained apathetic toward him.
At any rate, I cannot help but recall the beautiful line from Saint Paul:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel (I Corinthians 9:16-18).I refuse to water down the Gospel, because it is not mine to change or alter. I must proclaim the Gospel and I must do so in its entirety, which will sometimes mean that people will not like what they hear.
What I have preached should not disturb one who is faithful and who is doing what must be done by all who follow Christ. These faithful ones should be encouraged by what I say by recognizing that they are on the right path.
Those who are not living faithful lives will hear what I preach as offensive because they know it to be the truth.
One of the people that contacted me said this: "The kids love you. You talk to any kid, and they think you are a great guy!"
By kids, he meant high school students, and I would suggest without hesitation that they love me precisely because I am not afraid to speak the truth. I will not back down; I will not water it down. Simply consider one of the outgoing college freshmen's comments to me after my homily against the party: "That was awesome, Father!" even as several of the adults criticized me for it.
This afternoon at soccer practice one of the players and I got into a discussion about faith - as we often do - and asked, hypothetically, if he could become, say, a Baptist. I reminded him that if he did, because he knows the truth of the Catholic Church (he really does), his soul would be in grave jeopardy because by doing so he would reject Christ and his Church. His response was fantastic and left the team captain doubled over on his knees in laughter: "Father, if I never met you I probably wouldn't be going to Hell."
Now, by this he didn't mean that he truly believes he is going to Hell, nor did he mean that I am leading him astray. He is a faithful young man who wants very much to do what is right and to be faithful to Christ, but there is some truth in what he says. He is right because I don't shy away from opportunities to speak the truth, and in so doing I very often answer questions the kids have but haven't yet asked and so give them information that they hadn't yet had.
Some of the adults are apparently considering not coming back to Church if all I do is "preach at them." I simply speak the Gospel. When the Gospels turn to more "uplifting" themes, so will my homilies.