26 May 2019

Homily - 26 May 2019 - The Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Dear brothers and sisters,

Into what have you placed your heart? To what have you given your heart? I ask this question today because a short time ago we prayed together asking God that “we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy” (Collect). This is another way of asking God that we might dedicate our hearts to him fully, totally, completely, so as to keep the joy of the Resurrection.

We give our hearts – or at least part of them – to so many different passing things, all in the vain hope that these things might fill us with joy. They might – it is true – provide some small joy for a time (as a good book does), but these things always leave us wanting more (like another good book, for example).

Although very few people think of it this way, every time we pray the Creed, Mother Church invites us to dedicate our hearts anew to God, to place our hearts completely in him. Sadly, in many places, people’s first reaction to the words, “I believe in one God,” may be a sigh or a silent grumble that this takes too long. What does you heart say at this moment of the Mass?

The Creed, the Profession of Faith, begins, in Latin, with credo, which translates to “I believe.” In the original Latin, however, it means something a bit more.

Some suggest credo is made up of two smaller words: cor is the word for “heart,” as in “coronary” or “cordially,” and do means “I give” and is the origin of “donate.” Thus, the words “I believe” are no simple nod to what God says in the readings – as we might give to the country station versus talk radio. Rather, saying “I believe” is putting one’s whole heart on the line for the Word of God just heard. If I have heard with the ear of the heart, I can then give myself wholeheartedly back to God: “I believe” – which is the response He wishes to hear.[1]

Is this what happens when you take part in the recitation of the Creed? Do you simply mumble through the words, or have you allowed them to become part of the fiber of your being? Have you placed your whole heart in God through them?

To say “I believe in God” means not only placing one’s whole heart in God; it also means keeping the word of God (cf. John 14:23). To put it another way, “being a Christian means having love: it means achieving the Copernican revolution in our existence, by which we cease to make ourselves the center of the universe, with everyone else revolving around us.”[2]

Believing in God thus makes us harbingers of values that often do not coincide with the fashion and opinion of the moment. It requires us to adopt criteria and assume forms of conduct that are not part of the common mind-set. Christians must not be afraid to go “against the current” in order to live their faith, resisting the temptation to “conform.” In many of our societies, God has become the “great absent One”, and many idols have supplanted him, multiform idols, especially possession and the autonomous “I”. And even the major and positive breakthroughs of science and technology have instilled in people an illusion of omnipotence and self-sufficiency and an increasing egotism which has created many imbalances in interpersonal relations and social behavior.[3]

In recent decades, and especially in recent weeks, the power of the autonomous “I” and the imbalance in interpersonal relations has reared its ugly head in the horror of the demands for abortion without restriction which says my life is more important than another life. This is not the way of the Christian; this is not the way of love.

Here in Illinois, as the legislative session draws to a close on May 31st, our politicians are seeking to sneak through a horrendous piece of legislation in both chambers of the General Assembly. The House will reconvene at 4:00 p.m. today and legislators will be in session tomorrow on Memorial Day. Although they have not yet taken a vote on identical bills both misnamed the "Reproductive Health Act" that would go further than Roe v. Wade in eliminating rights for the unborn child, as well as jeopardizing conscience protections for doctors, nurses, and hospitals who refuse to participate in an abortion – you can be sure that the opponents of the Gospel of Life want to force these bills through. The legislation specifically states: "A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this State." This claim stands in stark contrast to the findings of science that such a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus is, in fact, a human being, as every embryology textbook clearly states. At the same time, such a statement seeks to deprive small and weak humans of the Constitutional right to the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Both bills would repeal the Illinois Parental Notification of Abortion Act, which requires a parent or legal guardian to be notified when a minor seeks an abortion. The law already allows for exceptions - including children physically or sexually abused - as well as a waiver if notification is not in the best interest of the child. Every state that surrounds Illinois requires at least parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion.

Minors today in Illinois cannot legally use an indoor tanning bed; buy cigarettes, alcohol, or lottery tickets; apply for a credit card, or vote in an election. They need parental consent if they want to get a tattoo or body piercing, or join the armed forces. To forbid these activities to a minor while at the same time allowing them to procure an abortion – which can lead to the death of a minor and causes grave psychological harm and trauma – is simply ridiculous and not in keeping with sincere love.

On Friday, the Holy Father Pope Francis asked an important and striking question: “Is it licit to throw away a life to solve a problem? Is it licit to hire a hitman to resolve a problem?”[4] He has, of course, received some criticism for posing the question in this way, but what else do we call someone hired to kill an innocent person but a hitman? What has unsurprisingly received less attention is His Holiness insistence that we need “a culture that recognizes the value of life, a culture that recognizes in every face, even the smallest, the face of Jesus.”[5] Seeing the face of the unborn children in a sonogram image, who can deny the value and the dignity of even the smallest of persons?

There is perhaps still time to stop this legislation from passing, but only if Christians in the Land of Lincoln hold fast to what they say in the Creed. Only if we act with the bold courage of love can we work to end the culture of death and bring about the culture of life. Have you placed your heart firmly enough in God to live out what the Creed requires? Do you love enough to bother to make a simple phone call or to send an e-mail to our legislators? Perhaps you might be worried what others will think of you for defending the rights of all people. If so, hear again the words of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). If we place our hearts wholly in God, then - through the reception of the Holy Eucharist - he will “pour into our hearts the strength of this saving food” and conform us to the mysteries of his mighty love (Prayer After Communion; cf. Prayer Over the Offerings). Let us, then, place hearts wholly in God – and not in ourselves – that he might place his heart wholly in us. Amen.

[1] Christopher Carstens, A Devotional Journey into the Mas: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2017), 46.
[2] Joseph Ratzinger, Credo for Today: What Christians Believe (San Francisco, California: Ignatius Press, 2009), 11.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 23 January 2013.
[4] Pope Francis, in Nicole Winfield, “Pope:Abortion Is Never OK, equates it to ‘hiring a hitman,” Associated Press, 25 May 2019.
[5] Pope Francis, in “Pope Francis:Foster a culture that recognizes the value of life,” Vatican News, 24 May 2019.

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