Sermons

Summary: Peace in the world is only possible If we effectively communicate the need to embrace the Gospel of love.

Thursday of 33rd Week in Course 2014

Evangelii Gaudium

This last season of the liturgical year has a bittersweet nature. The old year is waning; the new year is still seen in the distance. Days grow short; in northern Europe, the daylight lasts barely five hours. Even here in Texas we are getting to school about dawn and leaving at dusk. The recent cold rains and drizzle confirm the fact–winter is near, and an ending is upon us.

Our liturgy has readings that are appropriate to the season, and even more appropriate to sharing the joy of the Gospel. The Book of Revelation is a glimpse into the heavenly banquet that we imperfectly mirror in our service of communion. In heaven, the liturgical scroll is sealed, and no earthly body is worthy to unseal or read it. But there is the Lamb–Jesus Christ risen from the dead–who sees all (that’s the meaning of the seven eyes) and who holds all power. To Him the heavenly choirs sing. He will open the scroll and proclaim the victory of God.

This leads us to the Gospel of Luke. Jesus wanted peace for Jerusalem. He sang the psalm often that prayed for the peace of Jerusalem–may peace reign in your walls. Peace meant the best of everything, not just an absence of war. Peace can only come to a society that does the will of God, and acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah whom He sent. So first-century Jerusalem, by turning its back on the Christ, sealed its own destiny, condemned itself to destruction by Rome. I fear that many of the countries of this world are replicating its error. That is why there is no peace, even in our country. Only if the majority of any nation look to the inspiration of the peacemaker, Jesus Christ, and obey the commandments of love, can there be true peace. Any message that does not center on that reality, I fear, is just political posturing.

In his letter, Pope Francis tells us that our sharing of the Gospel must reflect the whole Gospel, and give a balanced view of the message of Christ. He writes: ‘Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another. When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. If this invitation does not radiate forcefully and attractively, the edifice of the Church’s moral teaching risks becoming a house of cards, and this is our greatest risk. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options. The message will run the risk of losing its freshness and will cease to have “the fragrance of the Gospel”.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit priest. The Jesuit tradition values discernment of spirits rather than the kind of charismatic approach common to many preachers. Enthusiasms and fads are not the Jesuit method of sharing the Gospel. The Holy Father is concerned that if we pound heavily on one aspect of the Gospel, and only lightly touch on other important issues, we will end up in an unbalanced approach that does not meet the needs of real human beings. In the United States, we have been guilty of that for decades. If we spend 80% of our time preaching, for example, justice for illegal immigrants, and only 10% reminding the culture of its duty to protect life, we are not giving a balanced view of the Gospel of Christ. The same thing can be said if the emphasis is in the other direction. If we preach most of the time condemning sin, and rarely talk about the mercy of God and His willingness to forgive, then we may end up doing more harm than good.

So when you hear what the Pope calls “occasionally biased media coverage,” saying that the Pope advocates changes in the marriage rules, or anything like that, know that they are almost certainly mistaken. What the Pope is probably saying is that we need to always image the merciful Christ to a culture that desperately needs to recognize its injustices and turn in repentance to the Father, whose mercy is everlasting.

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