Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dominica IV per Annum C

3 February 2019

This weekend’s Gospel selection picks up immediately where last weekend’s selection left off.  Being made numb by the 24-hour news cycle and TV broadcasts that seem to be nothing but a series of “Breaking News” and “News Alerts,” we might not appreciate it, but Jesus’ words are a true bombshell!

As we heard last week, Jesus read from Isaiah the prophecy of what the Spirit of the Lord would accomplish in the Anointed One.  What’s the bombshell, the true “breaking news?”  Jesus said,

                “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing!”

What’s at stake?  What does this mean?  It means that with and in Jesus the time of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises is over!  Today it is fulfilled!  In your ears, in your midst, God’s promises are here!

And how did Nazareth respond to the bombshell?  The Gospel told us, “[A]ll spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”  But as quick as a breaking news alert, what happens in just a few brief moments verses later?  The sentiment turns and the synagogue crowd is now “filled with fury” at Jesus.  They rise up and drive him out of town.  They are prepared to kill him!  In the Gospel passage today Jesus got a clear experience of what his mission is up against in our fallen world.

Adopting an uncritical and irrational mob mentality is not unique to Jesus’ time or to folks in Nazareth.  With that in mind, I want to reflect on recent events in our society.  These past two weeks, I haven’t been able to shake the need to address the unhinged lunacy around us.  Why, why would I bother about that in a homily?  Because it’s the air that we breathe, like it or not.  This is the atmosphere in which we live, in which we raise and form our kids.  Like Jesus in his time and place, this is the setting which we are called to be prophets to evangelize in the face of hostility.  When we are dismissed and even violently opposed we are called to announce: Today God’s promises are in your midst because Jesus Christ is here and he remains here in his Church!

The last two weeks in American society reveal our communal sickness of mind and sickness of soul.  When I first saw the brief video of a Catholic boy from Covington, Kentucky, standing face to face with a Native American beating a drum, and when I heard news describe the boy’s actions as disrespectful and racist my reaction was: “Where are these alleged actions the video is supposed to show?  What is he doing that would be fairly called disrespectful or, worse, racist?”  All I could see at first was two people standing uncomfortably and oddly close to one another.  The longer video shows that those boys are not guilty of disrespect or racism.  It is absurdity that false reporting like this goes on with impunity from alleged professionals.  The result is people have been trying to ruin the lives of kids.  And it is all the more shameful and embarrassing that some Church leaders joined the pile on with the unhinged mob.  I know a priest from Covington, Kentucky, who is a chaplain at another Catholic high school there (not the one in the video).  I spoke to him this past week and he told me that his school also received death threats.  Let that sink in.  The information mobsters are so irresponsible and so indiscriminate in their rage that they are (1) crazy enough to threaten kids with death; and, (2) they can’t even manage to do enough homework to level their nonsense at the correct school involved. 

Yet, this is the atmosphere we live in and in which we must proclaim the truth that God was made flesh and dwelt among us.  For we are called to be his prophets.  And we must not proclaim the Gospel without charity, without love.  If we did, we would simply be just like so much of society around us.  We cannot be of service as members of the Body of Christ if our proclaiming of the Gospel is little more than a “resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”  It doesn’t matter how right you may be.  If all we do is add to the noise and add to the heat then it is nothing and useless.  We are called to be prophets, and so you and I must keep ourselves filled with the love of God, armed with His presence, because it will be incredibly difficult to be evangelists in our society, just as it was for Jesus in the Gospel we heard.  If we aren’t praying daily in serious communion with Jesus to remain in his strength, if we aren’t being regularly healed of sin in confession, if we aren’t finding accountability and support in good Christian friendships, if we aren’t receiving Holy Communion with moral rectitude and utmost reverence… well, we simply won’t be up to the task!

And the next news cycle showed us just how desperately important it is that we be up to the task of proclaiming Jesus as his prophets.  It is as if some pit of hell has opened up in a matter of weeks where politicians have become so extreme in their thirst for abortion on demand that the push is on to allow it up to the moment of birth.  New York lawmakers and a Catholic governor formed a Satanic choir cheering the passing into law of late term abortion.  Within days a Virginia legislator attempted an equally extreme measure and that State’s governor, a physician, made some of the most extreme remarks yet, indicating that a living child who survives an abortion might still be dispatched even though alive after birth.  That governor is now embroiled in a different personal controversy which just might force him out of office.  But how telling is it that he is in trouble NOT because he endorsed infanticide!  This is how warped the moral compass has become.  Forty-six years of legalized abortion in this country have malformed consciences such that not only is abortion not seen for the extreme depravity it already is even in early stages, but now some of the most extreme supporters, as if without shame, can utter support for abortion up to birth and even infanticide after birth.  But folks, this is the extreme to which all abortion support tends because you can’t keep murderous killing cloaked for long in euphemisms like “choice,” and “healthcare.”  It is a poison that invades one’s whole vision.  I think this is in part the explanation for the societal landscape that we must evangelize as prophets.

I think it is providential that the first reading today reminds us of the foundation and the origin of man’s dignity, a foundation that has been rejected in popular society: God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…. a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”  What has contributed to society’s hostility to the Gospel of life and to the Lord of life?  One reason is the perversion of sexual love through contraception and abortion.  At St. Monica we are so blessed with lots of kids.  Visitors here frequently remark about this.  I want it to be clear that we want to welcome lots more kids.  But the larger society is selfish toward life.  The result is our generosity has become so atrophied by our lust that we can no longer see things clearly.  It has become so bad that otherwise intelligent human beings play word games about what is conceived in the womb and feign compassion while promoting the murder of the most innocent.  These ways cannot be our ways.  Or else we will fail in the work of announcing Jesus as his prophets, announcing his favor and blessing.  These ways cannot be our ways.  Or else we will be little more than a noisy gong in a society where the prevailing attitude is “might makes right.”

Jesus calls us to be united to him in proclaiming that today God’s promises are in our midst.  He calls us to be united to him in such proclamation even to a hostile world.  It won’t be easy.  But just as he miraculously passed through the mob unharmed, he will do amazing things with our cooperation.  Let’s be hungry for the amazing and unexpected reversal that God will work through our cooperation and in the face of a depraved society.  I’ll tell you right now, Covington Catholic High School had better get ready for an unusually high number of future priests to come out of that school because, I predict, the crucible of the unhinged media mob has unleashed something there that God will use to astounding effect in calling those young men to be prophets.  And something tells me this will all lead right back to the March for Life in Washington, DC.  The huge attendance there by a significantly young crowd is a tidal wave of truth and charity that is already sounding the trumpet of God and the defeat of the culture of death.  That the main stream media is so afraid to give the march any fair coverage, tells you just how weak the grip is of those who promote the culture of death.  The culture of death is so desperate now that it is showing its extreme depravity in New York and Virginia.  It won’t stand.  As God’s word also said through the Prophet Jeremiah: “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you!”  With and in Jesus the time of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises is over!  Today it is fulfilled!  In your ears, in your midst, God’s promises are here!  Rise up, yes!  Not in fury against the Lord.  Rise up in charity and truth to proclaim Jesus Christ to a dark world desperate for mercy.