February 03, 2019 – The Faith that Keeps on Giving

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Readings / Lecturas

Preached at St. Charles in Burlington (5:00pm, 7:45am) and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Sedro-Woolley (9:30am, 11:15am)

Recording

English

When I was meeting with one of our parishioners this week, he told me the story of a priest who had a conversation with a woman on an airplane. The woman, apparently, began the conversation with, “I used to be Catholic, but now I’m not,” in a kind of tone that implied that the Catholic faith is childish, and that this person had ascended to higher realms. Well, the priest on the plane, surprising even himself, immediately stopped this woman and said, “You know, it is not good to lie to a priest.” She was taken aback. What she said was true. She was baptized as a Catholic, and now she no longer practiced the Catholic faith. The priest clarified, “You were never actually Catholic. If you were Catholic, you would be able to tell me something from the catechism, something about the Catholic faith.” The woman faltered. She could come up with nothing. “See,” the priest finished, “you never left the Catholic faith because you never knew what it meant to be Catholic in the first place.”

This story made me think about our children. Many of you tell me how sad it is that your children no longer come to Mass. And you tell me how hard you try to convert them back, and how impossible that seems for you. Why is this so hard? It is hard because of the principle that Jesus quotes in the Gospel today: “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Our children believe that they know Catholicism. Most were taught the faith. Some even went to Catholic school. So they all assume that they have been exposed to everything that Catholicism has to offer. And because of this assumption, they, like the people of Jesus’ home town, will not allow themselves to be surprised by the faith or to be open to new perspectives on their childhood religion. They believe that there is nothing left to learn, so they close themselves off.

This is why, I believe, so many young people go through an Eastern religion phase. It is a commonplace anymore to believe that Buddhism or Daoism or… Yoga, I guess… are somehow deeper and more spiritual than Christianity. But have any of these young people ever read the Christian mystics? Have they ever gone to exposition of the blessed sacrament, reverently done in a beautiful church? Our tradition can go toe-to-toe with any other religion regarding prayer, art, ritual, and spirituality. And, beyond that, our religion also has revelation, history, and, I dare say, truth! But when a cradle Christian craves a deep religious experience, as all human beings do, they always seem to look elsewhere. Their supposed familiarity with Christianity has bred contempt, and they do not believe that they can find anything spiritual in the religion of their childhood. No prophet is accepted in his own native place, because his townspeople will not allow him to grow beyond being a child.

So how do we combat this? I concur with Bishop Barron, who ceaselessly insists that we never, ever dumb down our faith. We have such a smart, rich, and deep faith, a faith that I believe reflects the profundity of God himself. But we do everyone in the Church a disservice if we never move beyond the surface and the shallows.


As an example of what I mean, let’s consider our second reading from Saint Paul, his great treatise on love. A lazy reading, a shallow reading of this text will stop at “love is kind.” And the other characteristics, patient, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not self-interested, not quick-tempered, not brooding over injury, not rejoicing over wrongdoing, rejoicing in the truth; all of these other characteristics are often reduced back to the word “kind”. And then this sentiment is further extended to all of Christianity, summarizing the teachings of Jesus with nothing more than “be nice to people.” No wonder so many people think that they need to look elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment!

But in the Christian tradition, love has always meant so much more than good manners and positive feelings. Love is self-sacrifice. Love is Jesus giving himself up on the cross.

To put it another way, love is a choice. Love is an act of the will. We do not love someone by feeling good about them, we love someone by saying, “Even if I hate your guts, even if you are the most annoying person in my world, I will still act for your greatest good, even if that means I have to sacrifice something of myself.”

Sometimes love is easy: I want my children to succeed, so I do everything I can to help them, even giving up my time and money. And sometimes love in incredibly difficult: I know my addicted family member has to bottom out before she will seek help, so I’m going to stop enabling her because I know a crisis will actually be the best thing for her.

And this approach to love gives the words of Saint Paul a much deeper meaning. He is not asking us to be nice to people. He is asking us to subject our wills, our desires, our inclinations towards violence and vengeance; he is asking us to subject these to the interests of other people. He is asking us to sacrifice all of our guilty pleasures and self-interested personality traits so that we can focus on giving ourselves in service to everyone around us, just as Jesus gave himself in service to the world on the Cross.


The thesis of Christianity, the underlying fabric and logic of our faith, is that love, that is, self-giving relationships, are the unifying force of all creation. The Trinity itself is an eternity of mutual self-giving amongst the three persons. Creation, the incarnation, the passion, and Pentecost were all astonishing acts of divine self-gift. Every saint is evaluated by the extent to which they gave of themselves.

It is for this reason that, between faith, hope, and love, it is love that will remain. Faith is belief in things unseen, but we will see all revealed at the end of time. Hope is believing God’s promises, but God’s promises will all be fulfilled in Heaven. No, it is love, these relationships of mutual self-gift, that will persist into eternity. In the unfiltered presence of God, every single one of our relationships will be marked and governed by our complete gift of self to God and to each other. Love is the nature of the eternal reality.


Now can you see the difference? Being nice to people is a bland, uninspiring reality that might make society more pleasant but lacks the gravity to give life meaning. This love costs us very little. On the other hand, living a life of self-sacrifice for God and neighbor, giving one’s life to a mission that imitates the mission of Jesus on the cross, these are ideas that stir the human heart and inspire heroes and saints. This love costs us everything.

We have got to reclaim the depth, richness, and significance of our faith. As Saint Paul says, “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” It is perfectly appropriate to speak to children about sharing and caring, about Jesus telling us to be nice and respectful. But few of us have ever been given the opportunity or the challenge to put away childish things and investigate the profundity of a religious tradition that can claim the greatest minds in Western history and has inspired the greatest saints known to mankind.

If we are ever led to believe that Christianity in general, and especially Catholicism, are somehow simple, shallow, or stupid, it is not because this is the reality of the faith. It is because, like the people of Nazareth, when we think we know something, we jail it inside our preconceived notions and refuse to let it grow or surprise us.

My friends, the Catholic faith in its fullness is always surprising, and its riches can never be exhausted. If we have not already, it is time for us to jump into the deep, adult end of our faith, to read books, watch videos, learn history, study the Catechism. It is time to do this, lest we allow our familiarity to breed contempt and we abandon a Catholic faith that we never really knew.

Español

Cuando me reuní con uno de nuestros feligreses esta semana, me contó la historia de un sacerdote que tuvo una conversación con una mujer en un avión. La mujer, al parecer, comenzó la conversación con: “Solía ​​ser católica, pero ahora no lo soy”, en un tono que implicaba que la fe católica es infantil, y que esta persona había ascendido a reinos superiores. Bueno, el sacerdote en el avión, sorprendiéndose incluso a sí mismo, detuvo de inmediato a esta mujer y dijo: “Sabes, no es bueno mentirle a un sacerdote”. Ella se sorprendió. Lo que ella dijo era verdad. Fue bautizada como católica, y ahora ya no practica la fe católica. El sacerdote aclaró: “Nunca fuiste realmente católica. Si fueras católica, podrías contarme algo del catecismo, algo sobre la fe católica.” La mujer vaciló. Ella no podía llegar a nada. “Mira”, terminó el sacerdote, “nunca dejaste la fe católica porque nunca supiste lo que significaba ser católica en primer lugar”.

Esta historia me hizo pensar en nuestros hijos. Muchos de ustedes me dicen lo triste que es que sus hijos ya no asistan a la Misa. Y me dicen lo mucho que tratan de reconvertirlos y lo imposible que lo parece. ¿Por qué es tan difícil? Es difícil debido al principio que Jesús cita en el Evangelio de hoy: “nadie es profeta en su tierra.” Nuestros hijos creen que conocen el catolicismo. A la mayoría se les enseñó la fe. Algunos incluso fueron a la escuela católica. Entonces, todos asumen que han estado expuestos a todo lo que el catolicismo tiene para ofrecer. Y debido a este supuesto, ellos, al igual que la gente de la ciudad natal de Jesús, no se dejarán sorprender por la fe ni estarán abiertos a nuevas perspectivas sobre la religión de su infancia. Creen que no queda nada por aprender, por lo que se cierran.

Por eso creo que muchos jóvenes pasan por una fase de religión oriental. Ya es muy común hoy en día creer que el budismo o el taoísmo o … el yoga, supongo … son de alguna manera más profundos y más espirituales que el cristianismo. Pero ¿alguno de estos jóvenes ha leído a los místicos cristianos? ¿Han ido alguna vez a la exposición del Santísimo, hecha con reverencia en una hermosa iglesia? Nuestra tradición puede coincidir con cualquier otra religión con la oración, el arte, el ritual y la espiritualidad. Y, más allá de eso, nuestra religión también tiene revelación, historia y, me atrevo a decir, ¡verdad! Pero cuando un cristiano de cuna anhela una profunda experiencia religiosa, como todos los seres humanos lo hacen, parece que siempre buscan en otra parte. Su supuesta familiaridad con el cristianismo ha generado desprecio, y no creen que puedan encontrar nada espiritual en la religión de su infancia. Ningún profeta es aceptado en su propio lugar nativo, porque la gente de su pueblo no le permitirá crecer más allá de ser un niño.

Entonces, ¿cómo combatimos esto? Coincido con el obispo Barron, quien insiste incesantemente en que nunca enmudecemos nuestra fe. Tenemos una fe tan inteligente, rica y profunda, una fe que creo que refleja la profundidad de Dios mismo. Pero a todos en la Iglesia les hacemos un mal servicio si nunca nos movemos más allá de la superficie.


Como ejemplo de lo que quiero decir, consideremos nuestra segunda lectura de San Pablo, su gran tratado sobre el amor. Una lectura perezosa, una lectura superficial de este texto se detendrá en “el amor es comprensivo.” Y las otras características: servicial, no envidiosa, no presumido, no se envanece, no grosero, no egoista, no se irrita, no guarda rencor, no se alegra con la injusticia, goza con la verdad; todas estas otras características a menudo se reducen a la palabra “comprensivo”. Y luego este sentimiento se extiende aún más a todo el cristianismo, resumiendo las enseñanzas de Jesús con nada más que “ser simpático con las personas”. ¡No es de extrañar que tantas personas piensen que necesitan buscar en otro lugar la realización espiritual!

Pero en la tradición cristiana, el amor siempre ha significado mucho más que buenos modales y sentimientos positivos. El amor es auto sacrificio. El amor es Jesús entregándose a sí mismo en la cruz.

Para decirlo de otra manera, el amor es una elección. El amor es un acto de la voluntad. No amamos a alguien sintiéndonos bien con ellos, amamos a alguien diciendo: “Incluso si odio tus agallas, incluso si eres la persona más molesta de mi mundo, seguiré actuando por tu mayor bien, incluso si eso significa tengo que sacrificar algo de mí mismo.”

A veces el amor es fácil: quiero que mis hijos tengan éxito, así que hago todo lo que puedo para ayudarlos, incluso perdiendo mi tiempo y mi dinero. Y a veces el amor es increíblemente difícil: sé que mi adicto miembro de la familia tiene que ceder antes de que ella busque ayuda, así que dejaré de habilitarla porque sé que una crisis realmente será lo mejor para ella.

Y este enfoque del amor da a las palabras de San Pablo un significado mucho más profundo. Él no nos está pidiendo que seamos simpáticos con la gente. Nos está pidiendo que sometamos nuestras voluntades, nuestros deseos, nuestras inclinaciones hacia la violencia y la venganza; nos está pidiendo que sometamos estos a los intereses de otras personas. Nos está pidiendo que sacrifiquemos todos nuestros placeres culpables y rasgos de personalidad egoístas para que podamos centrarnos en darnos servicio a todos los que nos rodean, al igual que Jesús se dio a sí mismo al servicio del mundo en la Cruz.


La tesis del cristianismo, el tejido subyacente y la lógica de nuestra fe, es que el amor, es decir, las relaciones de autosacrificio mutual, son la fuerza unificadora de toda la creación. La Trinidad misma es una eternidad de entrega mutua entre las tres personas. La creación, la encarnación, la pasión y Pentecostés fueron todos actos asombrosos del dios auto-sacrificial. Cada santo es evaluado por la medida en que se dieron de sí mismos.

Es por esta razón que, entre la fe, la esperanza y el amor, es el amor el que permanecerá. La fe es la creencia en cosas que no se ven, pero veremos todo revelado al final de los tiempos. La esperanza es creer las promesas de Dios, pero todas las promesas de Dios se cumplirán en el cielo. No, es el amor, estas relaciones de donación mutua, que persistirán en la eternidad. En la presencia no filtrada de Dios, cada una de nuestras relaciones estará marcada y gobernada por nuestro completo don de sí mismo a Dios y unos a otros. El amor es la naturaleza de la realidad eterna.


¿Ahora puedes ver la diferencia? Ser simpático con la gente es una realidad insípida y aburrida que puede hacer que la sociedad sea más agradable, pero carece de la gravedad para dar sentido a la vida. Este amor nos cuesta muy poco. Por otro lado, vivir una vida de autosacrificio para Dios y el prójimo, dando vida a una misión que imita la misión de Jesús en la cruz, estas son ideas que conmueven el corazón humano e inspiran a los héroes y santos. Este amor nos cuesta todo.

Tenemos que reclamar la profundidad, la riqueza y el significado de nuestra fe. Como dice San Pablo: “Cuando yo era niño, hablaba como niño, sentía como niño y pensaba como niño; pero cuando llegué a ser hombre, hice a un lado las cosas de niño.” Es perfectamente apropiado hablar con los niños sobre compartir y cuidar, sobre cómo Jesús nos dice que seamos amables y respetuosos. Pero a pocos de nosotros se nos ha dado la oportunidad o el desafío de dejar de lado las cosas infantiles e investigar la profundidad de una tradición religiosa que puede reclamar las mentes más grandes de la historia occidental y ha inspirado a los santos más grandes conocidos por la humanidad.

Si alguna vez nos llevan a creer que el cristianismo en general, y especialmente el catolicismo, son de alguna manera simples, superficiales o estúpidos, no es porque esta sea la realidad de la fe. Es porque, como la gente de Nazaret, cuando pensamos que sabemos algo, lo encarcelamos dentro de nuestras nociones preconcebidas y nos negamos a dejar que crezca o nos sorprenda. Amigos míos, la fe católica en su plenitud es siempre sorprendente, y su riqueza nunca puede agotarse. Si aún no lo hemos hecho, es hora de saltar al extremo profundo y adulto de nuestra fe, leer libros, ver videos, aprender historia, estudiar el Catecismo. Es hora de hacer esto, no sea que permitamos que nuestra familiaridad genere desprecio, y abandonemos una fe católica que nunca conocimos.

Featured Image

Doctors of the Church by Fra Angelico in the Chapel of San Brizio in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy

Found here.

2 thoughts on “February 03, 2019 – The Faith that Keeps on Giving

  1. Father Moore: A word please.

    First, one of your best homilies. In the last three weeks, we have witnessed some serious personal soul searching in your homilies. Such a personal exposure makes us uncomfortable, while opening up the authenticity of who you are as a man, and more explicitly the work God has sent you to do.

    You got people talking and reacting, both positively and negatively. I enjoy it maximally, especially the dialectic. Through your own thoughts and teachings, you make us question what you question: Catholic boredom, our intolerance of acceptability, issues of identity, showing up only, choosing what to believe, expanding our abilities, thinking harder, seeking ecstasy and suffering in love. It’s quite a spiritual roller coaster. The emotions and reactions from the pews is quite unlike anything I have witnessed. And despite appearances, is working.

    Why, because there may be an absence of love at play here, and an opening to fill it. Loving our God, knowing our God loves us, loving each other, loving ourselves, loving our priest, loving our conflicted church. These are hard, and require us to suffer even more than tingle. We need to go deeper. And you’re poking us and making us feel the pain, while motivating us to do something about it. I bet people’s head will explode when they hear, it isn’t enough! try harder. Well that is just you, for sure. And it needs expanded, reinforced.

    We discover in this homily that love is the hardest thing to see, to feel, to know. I bet an exercise in defining Christian love as it relates to our families, our parish, our needing acquaintances is a worthy exercise. Imagine a mass including a working session.

    I’m a known neophyte, learning the deepest experience of Catholicism through immersion. Making all sorts of naive claims. Yet growing, and expanding into something truly profound, I hope. This homily reminds me I’m just scratching the surface of my faith. Your spiritual strength is indeed a lighthouse.

    BTW: I’m sick today and infectious so I choose this missive to worship in the sight of a priest

    I have been telling my small circle that love is bi-directional. And I wanted you to hear something I need to say. We hear it from you, but do you hear it back from us. I don’t know it it’s appropriate to say this to my priest but I’ve been studying Greek, and this is what I feel you could use. Pardon my presumption. Σμείς αγαπάμε τον πατέρα. Σας ευχαριστώ για την υπηρεσία σας. We agape you Father, and thank you for your service.

    One thing I insist upon on as a Father in my own family is that each member explore deep, meaningful love, and all the blessings and hardships that come with it. And even more, I insist talk about it at the dinner table. This has created a family that chooses love above all.

    I hope this Sunday keeps you well. Thanks for listening to my simple message and see you at the dinner table.

    In Christ’s Love Ran Hinrichs

    “Intuition is really a sudden immersion of the soul into the universal current of life” (Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist)

    425-830-4424

    >

Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s