Sermons

Summary: The Scriptures enjoin us not to trust in princes, because God’s word is very clear about human minds and wills. We are weak, and so we sin.

Tuesday of 5th Week in Course 2020

Our Lady of Lourdes

This is a grand tableau from the First Book of Kings: Solomon has spent years constructing the Temple of the Lord, and here he is dedicating it to the worship of the God of Israel. But even he knew that the God who had called Moses, used signs and wonders to redeem slaves from their forced labor in Egypt, and governed them in their twin piety and infidelity could not be restricted to one place, one house. The Temple took the place of the Tabernacle, or tent, that had been used for generations by the priest to house the Ark of the Covenant, which was thought to be God’s footstool, and the dwelling of Hashem, the Holy Name of God, Jah or Jahweh.

The problem is that the Temple was built right next door to the King’s palace. So the kings of Judah–for even during Solomon’s reign it was beginning to shake apart into Israel and Judah–these kings began to treat the Temple as their personal chapel. And their wives then, joined to them more by political expedience than religion, came from foreign lands demanding chapels for their gods. So Solomon, and many of his heirs, began to consider the God of Israel to be but one god among many, and even would attend chapel services to false gods with their wives. Thus several generations after Solomon, King Ahaz even threw his firstborn son into the furnace of the Carthaginian god, Moloch, leaving him without an heir until God Himself intervened to give him Emmanuel, his son Hezekiah.

The Scriptures enjoin us not to trust in princes, because God’s word is very clear about human minds and wills. We are weak, and so we sin. And those with the most power are most mightily tempted to use that power in ways that are evil, usually with the idea of attaining some good purpose. Our country has been afflicted with that kind of flawed leadership all during my lifetime. That’s how we got the abomination Supreme Court that gave people the right to murder children right up to the time of their birth, another that affirmed that right, and a more recent one that declared sodomy to be a protected right, and those who practice it to have the benefits of matrimony. We trusted in secular leaders, and they have turned us into a culture of death, with our complicity. So it’s great when a leader says he is Christian, and supports the culture of life, and even prays to the true God. But we must never become complacent and trust in any prince; only God is worthy of our trust.

One incident sticks in my mind more than any other. During one Mass at least a decade ago I was leading the intercessory prayers. It was an election season--a primary I think--and I prayed for the election of "godly leaders who respect the commandments of our Lord." That seemed pretty right and uncontroversial.

At the end of the service I was astonished when one of the parish leaders, one politically active in one of the mainstream parties, came up and accused me of "encouraging people to vote for Republicans." I was unaware that only one party had a monopoly on godly leaders. Do not trust in any party.

The same can be said about trusting in what is generally called “the rule of law.” You see here in the Gospel the result of the Pharisees being the great observers of the Jewish law. “For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother'; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on.”

Thus we must affirm that we have a duty to elect and hold accountable men and women who will write and enforce just laws. But that’s not enough to uphold our responsibility to God and our neighbor. We have a duty in justice to support charities that help the homeless, the disabled, widows and orphans. That’s a justice-duty, not a work of charity.

And, of course, when governments support evil deeds, or perform them, we have a duty in justice to oppose them. In this we follow the example of the great martyrs, like Thomas More and John Fisher. They refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church of England, and paid for their witness with their lives. Do we have the courage to put everything on the line for our faith? We ought to pray daily for that grace.

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