Fr. Joe Dorner's Homily, St. Bernadette Parish, November 10, 2019
All our readings speak of conflict and strife. I rarely try to explain all the readings in a homily. I usually focus on a theme or two, drawn from one or the other reading. But I find all of today’s readings, thought provoking and connected. So I’m going to speak about all three. So I’m going to go on for about 25 minutes. What do you think? No don’t worry.
However, to try to bring out the meaning of all three readings, it could be done by tying together all three through the statement from St. Paul in the second reading: “Pray for us, that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith.”
It’s clear. Not all believe, and some of them can be very unpleasant. We experience it in our lives, and we see it in our readings today. The Greeks of our first reading, wouldn’t have been torturing to death Jews of the second century B.C., if they had had faith. The Saduccees of the Gospel, wouldn’t have been setting theological traps for Jesus with their strange hypothetical tale of the woman with seven husbands who all died before her, if they had had faith in eternal life. And St. Paul wouldn’t be asking the Thessalonians for prayers that God protect him from “perverse and wicked people” if all had had faith. Obviously not all have faith.
The Greeks persecuting the Jews of the second century did not believe in the value of Jewish culture, the God of Israel, or freedom, but rather in the superiority of their Culture and gods. So they tried to force the Jews to violate their customs and beliefs, through eating pork and worshiping false gods.
The perverse and wicked people opposing St. Paul certainly didn’t believe. In fact, they denied early Christians their religious freedom and even kill many of us. And the Saduccees, although they believed in the God of Abraham, didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead. Their whole hypothetical story of a woman marrying seven times ending up with 7 husbands in heaven was an attempted mockery of the supposed a
So a lack of faith can result in many things: Mockery, a loss of freedom, persecution, or even death.
These days when people oppose our faith or just don’t practice, what is the driving force? There can be many reasons. But if you press them, many, you will find, do believe in God. They just don’t believe in a Christian God. They believe there is a first cause, a great architect, but as far as such a Force or being desiring to be a Father to us, or to have a relationship with us, that is what they don’t believe in. Many simply do not believe in Immanuel, a God who is with us. A God who is personally interested in us. And it is so sad. That is the heart of the joy of being a Christian… really believing and experiencing this!
A few years ago, I was preparing a couple for marriage. The groom said he was an atheist, actually he was a deist. I asked him to read the Gospel of Luke. I was hoping something in the Word of God might move his heart. He said he enjoyed it. It was a great story. But that was all it was to him. Still praying for him. It just goes to show that Faith is a gift. “Not all have faith” as St. Paul said today.
And yet, I can’t wonder if we couldn’t do a better job of sharing the Good News, that we are not all alone down here. Maybe the way we present our faith, our joy, is the problem? Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees, we point out a few trees rather than the forest.
For example, when asked, “What does it mean to be a Catholic? What do you believe?” what do we say? Is our response basically, “It means going to church on Sunday, tithing , supporting the church and helping the poor, fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Reading the family bible. Going to confession twice a year. Praying daily and sending your kids to Catholic Schools or Religious Ed.”
But that is not the core, or the heart of faith, it is just some of the ways we express and live the faith.
Traditionally, we called the heart of the faith, the Kerygma. The Proclamation! It is a summary of the most important experiences we have through faith which we treasure and live by. We have to rediscover them.
There are five important core points to remember. If you believe this, you have faith, if not, well, you might have a lot of knowledge about God, but its not a living faith, it’s not a Christian faith. You may know a lot about God, but you don’t know him.
So what is the core of our faith?
First, Life is good, worthwhile, creation is awesome. That’s why Catholics party. Drink wine. Dance, like David before the arc of the covenant like fools in the eyes of some.
Second, we and the world, as good as it is, is a mess. Original sin. So don’t be so easily triggered when people you trust or institutions you believed in, or the political system, or a child, lets you down. It’s par for the course. The easiest teaching of the Church to believe is life is messy, there is sin. But it isn’t God’s fault. It is our fault as a race.
Third, it has been fixed, at least the fix is in, in a good way…Jesus came down from heaven, born a Man fully alive, in and through him the Human race and nature itself is on its way to restored glory.
Fourth, we are participants in the drama of the recreation of the world. We are not just onlookers! We imitate, interiorize Jesus’ spirit, being conformed to him both in the cross and the resurrection, passing through death to life.
Fifth, something we are passionate about, we can’t hold in, we share it. We share this good news with all we encounter. This is what Bishop is calling us to do as Missionary Disciples on the way.
So do we have this faith? We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t in our hearts in some form. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen this conviction, this proclamation, this Kerygma in our hearts. To make it invincible. Life is great, yes there is a brokenness, but in Jesus, and our embracing his way, truth and life, and sharing it with others, the world is being transformed and we already enjoy a taste of eternal life. This is our joy, our conviction.
Let’s share this faith and we will be victorious against all the mockery, violence and fear. Some will resist it of course. So let’s make St. Paul’s words our own: “Pray for us, that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith.” And then let’s add to his words: Pray for us all you angels and saints, that our proclamation will open more and more hearts to this joy filled vision and way of life!