Fourth Sunday in Course
Catholic Schools Week
31 January 2016
How is it that the synagogue congregation that in one moment we hear listened to Jesus preaching and saying wonderful things about Him is just ten minutes later ready to run Him out of town and throw Him off a cliff? Of course, less than three years later, the same thing happened in Holy Week, and the actions of the fickle crowd led to the execution of the Son of God—and our redemption! How is it that a prophet is not welcome in His own country, and that—as we read elsewhere—Jesus was unable to perform miracles in his home town because of their lack of faith?
More to the point, how is it that today we American Catholics and our message are so unwelcome in our own nation? In 1965, the Supreme Court threw out all the laws against contraception, laws that both Catholics and Protestants had worked hard to implement just a few decades earlier. Within months the federal government was pushing contraceptives on the poor—trying to wage a War on Poverty by reducing their numbers. How has that worked out? Today there are many more families living under the poverty line than ever before. The Catholic Church continues to speak out in favor of the dignity and rights of natural families, specifically the right of parents to space and procreate and educate their children according to their own best lights, fully in line with the design of the Creator.
In 1973, the Supreme Court threw out every law protecting children in the nine months before birth, and placed a woman's right to privacy ahead of her child's right to life. Now, millions of murders later, our Social Security system is paying out far more money than it's taking in, companies are having trouble staffing because of the demographic implosion, and still the nation's biggest crime family, Planned Parenthood is being subsidized by our governments, millions of dollars each month, to continue the genocide. Last year those of us who have been for decades active in support of the right to life were saddened and energized by the videos showing the cavalier manner in which Planned Parenthood officials sell off the organs of the children they kill. Just this week, the pro-life world was shocked to learn that a grand jury in Houston is indicting the very people who blew the whistle on that organization, and declining to indict them. I hear that the Harris county DA—who NPR says ran for office as a “proudly pro-life Republican”-- is affiliated with Planned Parenthood. The Catholic Church continues to preach and promote the right to life from conception to natural death, and Pope Francis has written that the world cannot ever expect us to change that message from God.
So why does the culture, the government, the media hate the Church and its message so much? Scripture tells us it is because we accuse them of violating their training, of acting and thinking and writing without any attention to the Law of God. That Law, St. Paul tells us in the letter to Rome, is written on their hearts. We may not murder the innocent; we may not play God. It is for God to judge other human beings, but it is for us disciples of the Son of God never to compromise with evil, or pretend that evil systems can be allowed to grow like cancers without destroying civilization and dragging millions down to a living hell.
So we are positioned as a Church in the same place as Jesus was two thousand years ago. We are prophets of God's mercy and human dignity, and the same promise should energize us, the same Spirit, as the divine Spirit that invigorated Jesus's witness: “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the LORD, to deliver you.” How, then, can we respond to this generous, powerful challenge?
First, we must desire, as St. Paul tells us, the higher gifts, particularly the gift of charity that was poured into us in Baptism and Confirmation, and renewed with every Holy Communion. We must before all things love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. That must be our strength and power each day from the moment when we rise and give praise to God until we fall asleep after our examination of conscience and prayers of repentance and our act of hope.
Second, we must learn the lesson of those well-intentioned folks from the Center for Medical Progress who were indicted this week for falsifying government documents—using phony drivers' licenses. There is a double-standard operating in this culture and even this government. The barbarians who are unwitting or even willing agents of the Enemy have so corrupted our systems that they will find every molecule of dirt under our moral fingernails when we oppose them. They will magnify that molecule of dirt into a mountain of legal or media trouble and bury us with it. Joe Scheidler witnessed against the murder of the unborn and was sued for everything he owned under the racketeering statutes. The abortionists went after him again and again so that his attorneys had to appeal multiple times to the U.S. Supreme Court. That court finally shut down his enemies, but only after the better part of a decade and the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jesus was right, as He was always correct, the only way for the Gospel to survive and thrive in the midst of this culture of death is for each of us to be as clever as serpents and as innocent as doves.
The culture of death, of course, wants us to be as naive as doves and to make us, like themselves, serpent-like in evil. Then they can pursue their perverse passions and make the rest of us pay for the results. We not only cannot permit that in our day, we need to educate our children and grandchildren so that they are also clever as serpents and innocent as doves. Remember that the folks who forged drivers' licenses in order to do the good act of exposing evil were unintentionally adopting the ethic of the street: if the intention is good, then an evil act is justified. Where did most of us learn that this is wrong? Either with our family at home, or in a Catholic school. I was blessed by my parents with what amounted to seventeen years of Catholic schooling. Now as many of you know, I am now in my seventh year of teaching in what we consider the best public high school in San Antonio. So why do I support Catholic schools? Why do I help my kids who want to send their children to Catholic schools? Why have my wife and I established scholarships in Catholic schools?
When my public school freshmen are looking at their courses for next year, they are making decisions about what we call “career choices.” They enter that battle unarmed. The decision-making part of their brains is only about 10 percent developed. In Catholic schools, the talk is of vocation, of the personal call and response between our God and our children. Most Catholic schools are still centers of liberal arts education, with religion classes and school mission statements that would be illegal where I teach. When a child does something wrong in public schools, we have to talk about “inappropriate conduct” and “poor choices.” When I was principal of a Catholic high school, I could get away with talking to the student about sin and recommend a session with a confessor. Our public school administrators have to take all comers, even the scary ones. I can't count the number of applicants whom I was able to turn down for Catholic schooling because they were poor matches for a Catholic environment. Recently I heard a public school administrator lament the demographic changes that are affecting even the best public schools—kids coming from families that simply haven't taught their kids the difference between good and evil conduct. He regretted that we can't teach even what we used to call “character education.”
But formation of character and responsibility to God and neighbor are the foundations of Catholic education. So choose Catholic. If you have children, send them to our schools. If you have grandchildren, help your kids to choose Catholic. And everyone else: give time and money and prayer to support Catholic schooling.