17 February 2012

Which cross will you carry?

NB.  Just as I finished this homily, Fr. Michael (our Pastor) knocked on my door and volunteered to take today's 5.30pm Mass b/c of my hacking, sneezing, etc.  So, here's the text of the Homily That Will Not Be Preached!  :-)

Seven Founders of the Servite Order
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

In the fall of 2000, I entered what we Dominicans call, the studium; basically, what everyone else calls seminary. My studium days were sometimes tough b/c I had spent a lot of years in a secular grad school, and I was used to aggressively challenging my professors and my fellow students. At some point in that first year, I began to realize that some of my profs were inclined to dissent from basic Church teachings and tended to present a critique of our tradition before presenting the tradition itself; or even worse, they presented their critique as the tradition. When I aggressively challenged this approach, and got a lame answer from the prof, I would go to the student master and rant for a while. He would patiently listen, nod appropriately, heave a big sigh, and ask, “Philip, is this the hill you wanna die on?” In other words, Philip, is this issue important enough to you to risk your vocation as a Dominican friar? I said NO every time. He could've asked me, “Philip, is this the cross you wanna be nailed to?” Is this the issue you want to carry to your death, the stand you want to make right before you die? As Lent approaches, here's our question: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” What good is it to you if you win the treasures of the world and die in the process of winning?

With anti-Catholic bigotry on the rise among our nation's political elites, we might have to answer that question much sooner than we ever thought we would. We might be forced sooner rather than later to answer the question, “Is this cross the one you wanna be nailed to?” There's no need to be dramatic here: the Men in Black aren't out rounding up Catholics for the re-education camps. None of us is headed to the firing squads. The erosion of our religious liberties as Catholics and Americans is subtle, piecemeal, but frighteningly obvious if you're paying attention. We are being inexorably corralled—court decision by court decision, agency regulation by agency regulation—forced into making some stark black and white choices about where we put our faith, our trust: in coercive governmental power, or ancient Church teaching? We can scream, whine, complain, sue, petition, and vote 'til our fingers and tongues are swollen and useless, but eventually, sooner rather than later, someone is going to ask you, “Is this the cross you wanna be nailed to?” You can say NO, NOT THAT ONE a lot of times but at some point you will have to say YES, THAT ONE, or you can wait until they run out of crosses, and then you will belong to the world. 

Jesus teaches us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” St. Augustine writes that “deny himself” means, “Let him not trust in himself. . .Cursed is every one that puts his hope in man. . .Let him withdraw from himself, that he may cleave unto God.” What does “take up your cross” mean? He writes, “. . .let them in the world endure for Christ's sake whatever the world may bring upon them. . .Hold on, persevere, endure, bear delay and you have borne the cross.” Borne the cross, yes; but the world seeks to nail us to a cross b/c we choose to follow Christ. This should not surprise us b/c it is exactly what Christ promised would happen. That cross might be living as a Christian in a Muslim country or the atheist utopia of N. Korea; it might be the choice btw living the faith honestly, or having medical insurance; it might be the choice btw living your faith freely, or hiding your light in the darkness of political correctness and cultural oppression. Which among the alternatives “follows Christ”?  Which will be the cross you are nailed to?


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  1. GirlCanChant4:18 PM

    Hope you feel better soon, Fr. Philip! Nothing makes me happier than seeing priests help each other out. I remember at the Newman Center in college, if there weren't any servers in the congregation that day, the priests would serve for each other. Such a beautiful example of humility in the service of the Lord.

  2. "That cross might be living as a Christian in a Muslim country"

    Good for you. It's the rare priest with the b***s to mention that bit of Veritas.