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Are You For Or Against Christ?

Homily 01 19 2014
2nd Sunday OT - A

Homily 01 19 2014
2nd Sunday OT - A

View the Readings for this day

It really hurts me when people leave the Church. People have left the church because of gross hypocrisy they have seen in the Church, for violence and intolerance especially to women, gays, and with people who disagree with theology, disagreements with a pastor or conflict between parishioners. Clerical pedophilia has devastated thousands of families.


Other people leave church because they find it irrelevant, mediocre, or boring. In her essay "An Expedition to the Pole," Annie Dillard describes her church experience:

"Week after week I was moved by the pitiableness of the bare linoleum-floored sacristy which no flowers could cheer or soften, by the terrible singing I so loved, by the fatigued Bible readings, the lagging emptiness and dilution of the liturgy, the horrifying vacuity of the sermon, and by the fog of dreary senselessness pervading the whole, which existed alongside, and probably caused, the wonder of the fact that we came; we returned; we showed up; week after week, we went through it."

The church can be judged and portrayed as a place of moralistic, hair-splitting, repressed people who never have any fun and who don't really believe what they say they do. Still others leave church because of pious platitudes unanswered prayers, bitter disappointments, intellectual doubts, nagging questions, or life traumas.

One response to the church's failures is to long for a return to the "golden age" of the earliest believers.

Unfortunately, the epistle for this week (1 Cor 1:1-9) rids us of this romantic fallacy. Paul taught at Corinth for eighteen months (Acts 18:11), and he knew those people well. In his letters to the believers at Corinth Paul addressed numerous ugly issues - sectarian divisions in which both sides claimed to be more spiritual than the other, boasting about incest ("and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans," 1 Cor 5:1), lawsuits between fellow Christians, eating food that had been sacrificed to pagan idols, disarray in worship services, and predatory pseudo-preachers who masqueraded as super-apostles.

I've often wished for a better church, but Corinth is hardly a model to emulate. The communities of the first believers were as compromised as our own today. But despite its many and obvious faults, and despite the futility of finding a pure or perfect church of any time or place, like Annie Dillard I have stayed and always try to find something positive and I have remained a priest and try to encourage others in coming back for more week after week. Why bother?

I may have lowered my expectations because I know the Church will never be perfect but I expand my horizons and especially find hope with our new Pope. The realm of God's kingdom is not identical with the institutional church. At its best, the church mediates and points to God's kingdom, but God often works beyond and in spite of the church.

Jesus reminded us of this when he compared God's kingdom to a fish net that trawls the sea, catching both the good and the bad, or to wheat and weeds that grow together. The inner circle of Jesus's followers included the traitor Judas and the betrayer Peter.

I experience much good in the church- couples working to hold their marriages together, parishioners longing to be disciples, generosity to the parish and to the poor, home visitation of the sick, efforts at building community, out-reach to missions and to other country's needs, ...we serve both the sinner and the saint.

Focusing only on our faults distorts the true nature of the church. For all of the failings in the history of the Church you can find saints.

For every impulse of greed, there's the selfless compassion of a Mother Teresa, whether known or unknown. For every desire for political power in the Church, there's a Thomas More who spoke truth to those powers.

In her memoirs, Ordinary Time, Nancy Mairs writes that she moved beyond her lapsed Catholic faith and returned to church, even though she still had many questions, so that she could "prepare a space into which belief could flood." It might be that authentic faith results from rather than precedes fidelity to the church.

Finally, I know a number of people who have remained in the church because of their sense of their own needs. Being a Christian is one of the things in life that you can't do alone.

During the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance humanist Erasmus (1466-1536) locked horns with Luther over their contrasting views of human nature.

Erasmus rejected Luther's pessimistic views of the human will and natural reason, so he returned to the deeply troubled Catholic church. "Therefore I will put up with this Catholic Church until I see a better one," wrote Erasmus; "and it will have to put up with me, until I become better." I'm thankful for a church, however imperfect, that has welcomed my imperfect self.

We should never ignore the church's faults and failures. Rather, we should name them, own up to them, repent of them, and do what we can to correct them. Losing our illusions about church (dis-illusionment) is necessary and good.

One of our earliest Christian creeds is the Old Roman Creed, dated to the late second century. One of the fragments that predates it simply reads, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord. And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the resurrection of the flesh."

Such early creeds served as baptismal confessions, as the basic instructional material used for teaching, as a summary of our faith, and as affirmations used in public worship. The centrality of the church in such a succinct expression of faith serves as an important reminder.

And so with the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister, I aspire to be what she calls "a loyal member of a dysfunctional family."

As John the Baptist recognized Jesus in the Gospel, we are called to be accountable for our faith journeys. Each one of us should be able to identify some moment when they took personal responsibility for their faith. Maybe it was Baptism, at First Communion or Confirmation. Maybe it was when you got married. Maybe it was after a retreat, or on a pilgrimage, or in the aftermath of a family tragedy, with bad health of death.

It can happen in many different ways and places, but it has to happen.

To follow Christ in a mature manner, we have to consciously accept his invitation, to make a fundamental option in our lives: to declare ourselves for or against Christ.

This is sometimes called a moment of conversion or repentance.

But that's only the beginning - just as Christmas was the beginning of Christ's Hidden Life.

Once we have made a decision to follow Christ, then the process of what spiritual writers call "integration" begins.

Integration is like the period of spring training for baseball players: it's getting our lives into shape - into Christ's shape.

One day a saintly African Christian told his congregation about a vision he had had the night before. In the vision he was climbing up the hill to the Church. Suddenly he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load on his back, climbing that hill. He was full of sympathy for this man and spoke kindly to him. Then he noticed that the man's hands were scarred.

Suddenly he realized that this was Jesus. He said to him, "Lord, are you carrying the world's sins up the hill?" "No," said the Lord Jesus, "not the world's sins, just yours!" [Hession, Roy, The Calvary Road, (CLC Publications: Fort Washington, PA, 1950), p.55.]

Jesus' atoning sacrifice reaches out to the entire world, but it begins very personally with you and me.


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Mass Schedule

Saint Aloysius
Tue - Fri - 8:30am
Sat - 5:00pm
Sun - 10:30am

Holy Days
8:30am & 7:00pm

First Friday
8:30am followed by Adoration until 7:55pm

- After weekday Mass
- Before Sat & Sun Mass
- Mon - 3:00pm

Sat - 3:30pm - 4:30pm
Or by appointment

Our Lady Of Lourdes
Sun - 8:30am

Before Sunday Mass

Find Us

Saint Aloysius
211 West Mason Ave.
Buckley, WA 98321
Phone: 360-829-6515
Fax: 360-829-5190
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Office Hours
Tue - Fri 9am - 12:00pm

Our Lady Of Lourdes
506 Ash Street
Wilkeson, WA 98396
Phone: 360-829-6515
Fax: 360-829-5190
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