Pre-Election Homily

Okay, we vote on Tuesday, so this is going to be an election homily. Presidential elections happen once every four years, so it would be a disservice to be completely silent on the matter. But before you get too worried, understand that my goal is not to endorse either candidate or to condemn a specific political party; my goal is to put things in perspective, to help us understand what life is going to look like after Tuesday, regardless of who wins.
First, I want you to take a moment to think about all the things you love about being Catholic, all the reasons you are proud of your church. [Pause] Maybe you deeply appreciate that we preach a Gospel of Jesus Christ that transcends era and culture, that was the same for the Ancient Greeks as was for Medieval Europe as it is for modern Africa. [Pause] Maybe you are proud of our firm adherence to Biblical theology, even in the face of rapidly changing social norms. [Pause] Maybe you are inspired the fact that the Catholic Church is the largest social service organization in the world, and in this country is only outspent by the government itself.
I want you to hold firm to that image of what you love about the Catholic faith. I want you to draw strength from it, because no matter what happens on Tuesday, the Church will continue to carry out her mission, day in and day out. We will continue to preach Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead, a God who has united himself to our humanity and freed us from the power of sin and death. We will continue to defend the dignity of all persons, Catholic or not, sinner or saint, old or young, born or unborn. We will continue to show compassion to the stranger, the refugee, the immigrant, and the oppressed. We will continue to celebrate the sacraments, to educate children, to tend to the sick, to feed the hungry. We will never abandon our mission, the mission of Jesus Christ, for anyone or anything. Ever.
Of course, if we are going to take our social mission seriously, we cannot just care about people privately. In a democratic society, where we have the power to directly influence our government, that means that we cannot shy away from using our votes to do what we believe is best for society and humanity as a whole. I will not tell you how to use your vote, but I will plead with you that you use it, because if we abandon our civic duties, we are leaving the world to fend for itself, and that is not what our faith calls us to do.
Now, I want to shift our focus to the first reading, to see what lessons we might be able to draw from it. In case you missed it, this reading is absolutely horrific, almost as horrific as it gets in the Bible. The scene comes from the 7th chapter of the 2nd book of Maccabees, one of those books that only Catholics read because Martin Luther removed it from the Protestant Bible. The context for the two books of Maccabees is something that you might have learned about in World History class: Alexander the Great conquering the Eastern Mediterranean 300 years before Christ. After Alexander conquered all the lands from Greece to Egypt to India, but before he died, he divided those lands up between his generals. These generals, subsequently, engaged in a process of Hellenization, which was the process of imposing Greek culture on all the conquered peoples in order to promote uniformity and internationalization.
This Hellenization went beyond just language and culture, but also extended to religion. The Greek kings imposed Greek religion on the Jews, even going so far as to offer sacrifices to the Greek gods in the Jerusalem temple. A small group of Jews, led by the Maccabees family, resisted and revolted against the Greeks from 167 to 160 BC.
Which brings up back to our first reading. The 7th chapter of the 2nd book of Maccabees recounts the story of a mother and her seven sons being tortured, mutilated, and martyred because they refused to give up their religion and eat pork. Eating pork may not sound like something worth killing or dying for, but both the Jews and the Greeks knew that religious observance is often like a house of cards or a run of dominos: force a person to compromise on a seemingly small thing, and then another small thing, and then another small thing, and eventually the entire structure will collapse. The early Christians realized this as well when they chose to be thrown to the lions rather than burn a little incense to the emperor.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a reoccurring theme throughout history. Every now and again, some world power tries to make us, figuratively, eat pork. The Romans, the Fatimids, King Henry VIII, Napoleon, the Know Nothings, the Communists, and now ISIS have all tried to get us to give up our religion, under threat of force. Even in this country today, we are more and more being coerced, through fines, punishments, and lawsuits, to give up our positions on marriage, birth control, and abortion.
But you know what lesson we can take from this mother and her sons? We can learn that the only thing that matters is our fidelity to God. No matter who the President is, no matter what the rest of society is doing, no matter what state our country is in, we are Catholic, and we do what God has asked us to do: preach Jesus Christ in our words and in our actions. That mission is the same today as it will be on Tuesday as it will be four years from now. Preach Christ in your words and in your actions, in times of adulation and in times of condemnation, no matter what. Jesus is the savior of the world; we serve him, and only by serving him will the world be saved.

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