25 August 2018

Do you also want to leave?

21st Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Jesus loses some of his disciples b/c he tells them the truth. He tells that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. This truth confuses some of them. Some were probably outraged or disgusted or even horrified at the thought. But the truth is the truth. . .and it will set you free. . .even when it works to make you sick. . .at first. Had those disgusted disciples hung around for just a little longer they might've attended the Last Supper and come to see the fullness of the truth Jesus came to preach. But b/c they chose to hear the truth only in part rather than in its entirety, they missed out. They missed out on the mystery of the Great Thanksgiving that we know as the Eucharist. When Jesus sees some of his disciples walking away, he turns to the Twelve and asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Perhaps sensing that there was More to Come, or believing that their Master wasn't done with them yet, they answer, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And for those who stayed true, eternal life was their reward. Looking at the mess the Church is in. . .again. . .Jesus' questions to his disciples become his questions to us: 1). Who can accept it? 2). Does this shock you? And 3). Do you also want to leave?

Obviously, these questions are asked in a very different context, so our answers will be different as well. No one should accept the corruption we've been made aware of. And anyone with a conscience is going to be shocked by it. But that last question – do you also want to leave? – this question remains the same regardless of context. I've been asked by otherwise faithful Catholics, “Father, why should I stay in the Church?” I answer, “Where else will you receive the bread of life and the chalice of salvation? Stay and fight! Don't surrender to the Enemy just b/c a few of your teammates have thrown the game.” I'd like to think that my fervent response is enough to help them hang in there, but I suspect that they will leave anyway. Maybe not formally withdraw from their parishes or renounce their baptism but leave nonetheless. While the disgusted disciples merely walked away from the truth Jesus taught, there are thousands of ways to leave the Body. And some of those ways brought us to our current crisis.

I don't want to indulge the temptation to find fault and place blame. There are enough Talking Heads out there with more than a few explanations for how the current corruption worked itself into the Church. It's celibacy's fault. It's a homosexual problem. No, it's clericalism. Wrong! It's feminism! My answer is simpler and non-ideological and therefore deeply unpopular. The Twelve say to Jesus when he asks if they too want to leave him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Corruption enters the Church every time one of us – a member of the Body – believes that he or she has found another Master, someone else to whom we can go; whenever one of us believes that someone other than Christ has the words of eternal life, and we drag that someone else into the Church as an alternative to the Real Deal. Whether that someone else is another religion's teachings, or a political ideology, or a New Age philosophy, or an old heresy warmed over for the digital age, the whole Body is corrupted when one of us makes his or her sin the foundation of the Body's salvation.  
Sisters, I don't need to tell you this, but maybe you need to hear it. I don't know. Christ alone has the words of eternal life. Christ alone brings us God's mercy for our sins. Christ alone teaches us how to grow in holiness. And only the Body and Blood of Christ can feed us with what we need to see the Father face-to-face. Thank God there is nowhere else for us to go. Because we are right where we need to be.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

19 August 2018

Do NOT be chased away!

20th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Bear with me for a minute or two while I drop into Professor Mode. A little history is necessary for any of what follows to make sense. Way back in the second and third centuries a heresy arose among Christians living in N. Africa. During the Roman persecutions, many Christians, including bishops and priests, apostatized – they renounced their baptism vows and offered idolatrous worship to the Roman Emperor. Not only did they offer worship to a false god they also betrayed their fellow Christians to the enemy, naming them and their families and sending many of them into martyrdom. Those who turned their backs on Christ and his Church were called “traditors,” those who hand over, traitors. When the persecutions ended, the traditors came back to the Church and asked to be forgiven and re-admitted. The laity among them were given severe penances and the clergy were declared defrocked. Some in the clergy though continued to celebrate the sacraments. Several bishops declared that any sacrament celebrated by a former traditor bishop or priest was invalid. They taught that only morally pure priests and bishops could celebrate the sacraments validly. Thus begun the 200 year long heresy known as Donatism.

If you've been paying attention to the most recent clerical scandals in the Church, you know why I started this homily the way I did. You are also probably asking yourself the same question I've been asked multiple times in the last few weeks: why should I remain Catholic? The Church is hopelessly corrupt. I'll give you the same answer I've been giving since 2002: No. The Church is not corrupt. The Church is indefectible, without defect. The Church is impeccable, without sin. Those who govern the Church – from the Pope on down to the parish priest – are not without defect nor sin. But the Church is more than the clergy. More than the religious. More than the laity. The Church includes – even now – more than 2,000 years of men and women who have given their lives to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. That adjective “catholic” means that the Church is universal in both time and space – in heaven, on earth, and in the world to come. You and I do not cease being Christians b/c we sin. And the Church does not cease being holy b/c some of her clergy choose to serve the Enemy. 
St. Augustine confronted the Donatist heretics and routed them. The moral state of a priest's or bishop's soul has no effect on the validity of the sacraments he celebrates. The principal celebrant of every sacrament is Christ himself. The ordained minister stands in personae Christi Capitis. So, whether my soul is black with mortal sin or not, this Mass will be valid. Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. ” Why should you stay in the Catholic Church? This evening you will be given the Body and Blood of Christ. You will be given true food and true drink. And if you receive worthily, you will walk out of this church tonight as a living, breathing tabernacle of the Real Presence of Christ, taking him – his mission and ministry – out into the world for the salvation of souls. Paul tells the Ephesians, “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise. . .” The foolish person may abandon his/her only source of true food and drink. A wise person would never allow the evil of another to chase him/her away from the Lord. Be angry. Be frustrated. Be disappointed. I am! And I'm ashamed. What I am not is foolish! No matter bad it is or how bad it gets, Jesus reassures us, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” The wise soul will never be far from that altar.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->