Saturday, October 25, 2014

Being Royal!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Christ the King Church Topeka
25 October 2014
Daily Readings

Well, I'm the pastor of Christ the King Parish.  So it's totally legitimate, at any time of year, to talk about being Royal.  The namesake of our parish is all about our Lord's Kingship, a royalty that He seems to be sharing, if we dare speculate that God's favor has finally shone on our favorite team, on our beloved Kansas City Royals!  It's all I can do to wear the required green vestment for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, when in my closet I have a gorgeous vestment dedicated to our Blessed Mother that has an embroidered crown and is a beautiful deep Royal blue.  Yes, our Lady is Royal too, for the Lord has crowned Her as Queen of heaven and earth.  What a great time to be Royal!  Go Royals!

This weekend's Gospel however are not about being Royal, but about love.  So we should ask the question - do we love the Royals?  I confess that I was at game 2 of the World Series on Wednesday.  I was also at game 4 of the Baltimore series, when we clinched the World Series.  I've loved the Royals all my life.  I used to cry as a kid when they lost to the Yankees in the playoffs.  I was at the Baltimore game with my 11 year old godson, who was exactly the same age I was when the Royals last won the World Series.  The whole scene got to me.  I can't believe what is happening.   I don't cry much, but with this run of my favorite team ever, the tears of joy almost come readily, so much do I care about the Royals, and so long have I waited hoping that this day would come, and in the last few years, despairing that it may never come.  Now it all seems like a dream . . too good to be true. They just keep winning, and it's unbelievable.  I have no idea what I'll do when they win it all.  It is beyond my imagination what that moment will mean to me personally.

But all that being said, I wouldn't trade my faith for a World Series ticket, or even a championship.  Not even close.  I love the Royals, and the crown would be amazing, but it doesn't compare to my love of God, nor should it for any Christian.  Shame on me if it does.  My love for the Royals and my love of God need not be in competition . . I can love both . . but still, there can't be a comparison.  And shame on me if there is.  There was a point in my life when I would have traded being a priest for being the starting second baseman for the Kansas City Royals.  But no more.  Being a priest is my vocation . . it is God's gift to me and the Church, Christ the King parish, is the spouse He has chosen for me to love.  I wouldn't trade being a priest, being your priest, for anything.

Furthermore, the World Series crown is a crown that fades, but the gift of eternal life won for us by the love of Jesus is a crown that only shines more and more brightly  The World Series might feel like the greatest happiness one can have on this side of heaven.  Winning the Series might feel for a bit like we've died and gone to heaven!  But it can't compare, has no chance of competing really, with the love Jesus speaks of in the Gospel.  The greatest commandment has a richness and depth and meaning that no World Series chase can match.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  And your neighbor as yourself.

As great as the Royals are this year, they are not worthy of loving with all our heart, and mind and strength.  Nobody puts themselves under obedience to the Royals out of love.  We don't do whatever the Royals ask us to do, even to the point of death, because we love them.  That sounds silly, and it should.   But that is what love is, when we speak of love of God.  It is so much more than love of a team, no matter how deeply we are falling to this incredible World Series run.  I know many ladies are falling in love with Eric Hosmer, but again, this doesn't compare . . it's infatuating and fun, but nothing more.   It's great that we love the  story of the Royals and we feel a solidarity with them, and are inspired by what they are about to accomplish.  All this is good and can give glory to God!  I'm not telling you not to waste time rooting for the Royals.  But we reserve the term love with all of its depth to the love of God . . we respond to the love that Christ has for us by being obedient to His will, and loving the cross that He shares with us with all our heart, and mind and strength.  As a Christian, this love of God with all our heart and mind and strength cannot be contained . .it necessarily spills out to seeing the image and likeness of God in our neighbor, and falling in love with them as God does, and putting their will and needs above our own as well.

We don't talk about loving the Royals in this way, nor should we.  For God alone is worthy of total love.  Jesus gives us the simple test of whether we have allowed Him to love us, and whether we have responded tepidly or wholeheartedly to His love, by how we treat our neighbor.  If we are deeply connected to God, the source of love, and if we have surrendered to His love in our life, we will have this great capacity to love our neighbor as God loves them, and to see ourselves in them, especially in the most vulnerable around us, and will have this capacity, given us by the love Christ has poured into our hearts, to love them more than we love ourselves.

Jesus is Royal - He is our great King because of his almighty dominion and power, but His Father has made him Royal most of all because He has this ability to fall deeply in love with those that He is called to serve.  He is Lord of all, reigning in Heaven with our Blessed Mother, because they teach us how to fall in love 1000x more deeply than anything we could feel for the Kansas City Royals.  On this weekend, when we meditate on the ultimate commandment, which is the ground of our origin, our mission, and our destiny to be made perfect in heaven, let us remember to keep being a Christian utterly simple.  To be a Christian is to allow God to be madly in love with us, and to love Him and our neighbor in kind with all our heart, and mind and strength.  That is how to truly be Royal . . and share in the kingdom of love that will never fade.  Amen.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Double Down on Life

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
5 October 2014
Christ the King Topeka
Daily Readings

Now is the time to double down on the Church's teaching on sex, marriage, life and the family.  It is not the time for the Church to shy away from her challenging yet true and life-giving teachings, entrusted to her by Christ.  It is not the time for the Church to shy away from building the culture of life and love that is her privilege and duty to build with Christ.  It is not the time to water down out of fear that her teachings are out of date with modern morality, that they are unrealistic, or that they offend many and distance others from the Church.  We should be afraid instead that we are telling our children to make good choices in an environment where we are afraid to stand up for, and to point out to them, what is true, and good and beautiful and holy and worth striving for.  Now is the time to double-down on the Church's teaching on sex, marriage, life and the family, for the sake of our society, for the sake of our future, and most especially, for the sake of our children.  It is time to double-down.

To give this homily on Respect Life Sunday in the Church is never easy.  Because to preach against abortion, artificial contraception, sex before marriage, artificial methods of producing children, and same-sex marriage is to preach against things that have personally affected all of us in this Church, to one degree or another.  It is never my intent to judge anyone or their actions.  God's mercy is bigger than anything we can do to go away from his mercy.  Everyone in this Church, no matter what we have done, is loved radically by God, beginning at our weakest point.  Mercy is God's deepest attribute, and he wants to heal and strengthen us always, and is always ready to forgive and to help people move on and bear the fruit in their lives no matter what.  So I want everyone to feel loved, not judged, especially on Respect Life Sunday.  I willingly count myself as the greatest sinner in this Church, for I have failed in so many ways to be a good steward of the life that God has given me.

Yet it is not loving to fail to preach the truth on matters that affect the lives and happiness of so many.  It is never either to preach God's mercy or his truth.  It is always both.  There are some who say I should focus instead on war, violence, poverty, health care, immigration, or the death penalty instead, and certainly all of these issues touch on the fullness of life outside the womb.  In preaching about the more fundamental issues pertaining to life, it is never to the neglect of anything else.  Again, it is never either/or, but both/and.  The enormous amounts of food brought by Christ the King parishioners last month shows that you all know the importance of elevating and sustaining human life.  But until we get the fundamentals right regarding our witness to life, our support of life in other areas will always be incomplete and will limp.

We can't shy away from focusing on abortion, contraception, and marriage because these are more personal.  Our defense and promotion of life must begin here, must be strongest here, because it is in these areas where life is threatened at its smallest, most vulnerable stage.  The strength of any country lies in how it supports its greatest resource, its children, and by this analysis, the United States is a cowardly country. We have discarded 50 million of our children now, and have shied away from the obvious and fundamental truth that an unrepeatable human life begins at conception.  Your life started there and was protected beginning there.  So was mine.  If you do not say that every child has the same right to life that you had, and fail to stand up for that right, then you should lose your voice.

We have discarded our children because our society and Church have failed to produce courageous and sacrificial men who desire to become husbands and fathers.  We have done this because we fail to recognize the truth that children have a right to be conceived as much as possible within marriage, within the loving embrace of a man and woman who are promised to each other and their children for life.  We have failed to promote that children are safest, and do best, when they have a mom and a dad, and we welcome children into the world, or discard them, based on the will and convenience of adults, not based upon whether God wants to bring children into the world, or whether their are children wanting to be born.  We do this because we dilute the meaning of family to whatever adults change it to be.  So too we have diluted the meaning of marriage to whatever two adults want it to be, and so have not added to the definition, but subtracted from it,  We shy away from the truth that marriages do so much better when there is chastity before marriage and no artificial contraception, and assume instead that everyone is the exception to the rule.  It is is this confusion that we tell our kids to go out and make good choices, and to do whatever makes them happy.  We are preparing them for unhappiness, because we do not have the courage to form them anymore in what we once knew to be true.

We wonder why our vineyard is producing sour grapes.  We shouldn't, nor should we be surprised if the Lord takes the vineyard away from us, and gives it to others who will produce its fruit.  The Church teaches clearly that our bodies are not our private possessions, they are gifts from God, and we cannot ignore or kill the teachings of the Church, which are the key to fruitfulness and happiness and love.  None of us lives these teachings perfectly.  Yet we must love and welcome them.  They are not to control us, but for our good!  Not all is lost, but woe to us if we shy away from the Church's beautiful and life-giving teachings, that strengthen our country, our society, our families, and most of all, are essential to the happiness of our children.  For the sake of our kids, now is not the time to shy away.  It is the time to double-down. Amen.