Sermons

Summary: In a culture convinced that all truth is relative, we should be able to say words that will attract others to our way of life and lead them to Christ and the Church.

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Fourth Sunday in Advent 2012

Verbum Domini

If the Word of the one true God, Jesus Christ our Lord, refused to disclose the day and hour of the end of the world, how is it that so many were convinced that an obscure Mayan rune, from a civilization long ago destroyed, could have accurately predicted it? In language Chesterton would have appreciated, our modern culture has refused to believe in God, so it will swallow any fable as long as it appears in the New York Times. I like to say instead: if you cut baloney thick enough, some people will think it’s steak.

Modern thinkers have tried to deconstruct everything except the Black Legend–the myth that everything that’s wrong with the world, and every evil in human history, has been the fault of the Catholic Church. In their thinking, all truth is relative, especially moral truth. “Every culture,” they say, “has its own system of morality, and no system is better than another as long as it works for them.” By that rationalization, even murderers can be good people. Try telling that to the grieving parents of Newtown, Connecticut.

Getting a PhD is no guarantee that one can distinguish between fact and fable. Michael J. Rust, interviewed recently about his work on how organisms re-establish a circadian rhythm after being exposed to altered day-night cycles, said this: “Evolution was trying to make the rate constant be a particular value rather than trying to just make it be fast.” Excuse me? Isn’t evolution just “blind chance”? He makes it look like something with the ability to plan and make decisions. Another materialist scientist claims that “mother Nature makes complex materials that are also functional, hierarchical, self-assembled.” These people would be all over me as a chemist if I made “God” the subject of those sentences, but at least my statement would have a rational basis, whereas theirs are utterly absurd.

By way of contrast, the absolutely true Word of God gets almost no press coverage, even though it is the best news in the history of the world. God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son. We, for millennia, refused to do God’s will, even though that will was our only good. We rebelled over and over again, and continue to do so today. But Jesus took a human body and mind and will in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and told His Father, “behold, I have come to do Thy Will.” And in doing so, in his conception, birth, childhood, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection, he restored all creation to the will of the Father. He earned the right to send on us His Holy Spirit so that we might be remade in the image of Jesus, and act in our day as Jesus and Mary acted in their day.

Dorothy Day in The Duty of Delight tells us more of what that means. It sounds much like the Blessed Virgin, whose mission of mercy to her relative, Elizabeth, is recounted in today’s Gospel: We recognize the dignity and glory of our adopted status as sons and daughters of God, and what that entails, and what abilities it confers. We expect everything of ourselves, with God’s grace, and refuse to judge others. We measure ourselves by the standard of God’s expectation of us, and by what talents he has given us to use. We do not compare ourselves to others. We don’t excuse our failure to do good by telling ourselves that nobody else is doing it. We are so far from dominating others that we decline to condemn them. This is folly by the world’s standards. Jesus could have judged the whole world and condemned it as He stood dying on the cross, yet he refused to do so. His prayer for us–and it’s valid every day–is “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And, one more thing, in Day’s words, “to serve all men, to obey all men, to wash the feet of all men, in love, recognizing our common humanity. . .to love our brothers because Christ is our brother. Because we are all children of Mary, Mother of God.” We look at our fellow humans as the Father did in the great story of the Prodigal. No judgement. “Only the madness of love, deep, profound, as profligate in its way as the son’s tawdry loves had been profligate.”


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