Today’s readings are not only about the call to be obedient to God’s will, but also about God sharing with us the power to be obedient to His will, and thereby receiving His transforming mercy.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us about the man with two sons. The Father gives the first son a command, and the son refused but later relents, repents and does the father’s will. The father gives the second son a command, and the son says he will do it, but he never carried out his father’s will. Then Jesus says to the crowd, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.…”
In other words, these prostitutes and tax collectors at first chose to rebel against God, but then they repented and are entering the kingdom.
In the second reading from Philippians, St. Paul tells us, “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
St. Paul is inviting us to enter into Christ’s obedience to the Father. Here we have Christ becoming obedient to the Father to the point of dying on the cross because of his affection for us sinners. Paul is inviting us to imitate the obedience of Jesus, in order that we might be transformed by our surrender.
When we choose to be obedient to the teachings of the Church and to Christ, something good really happens inside of us. We are set free. We are joyous. We are filled with energy.
Let us apply this obedience to some of the more difficult issues today, such as the Church’s teaching about artificial contraception. There are a growing number of young couples today who are embracing natural family planning. They are embracing the Church’s teaching about human sexuality, and they are energized by it. Sure, it requires sacrifice, but they realize that this is God’s plan for human beings, because in embracing human sexuality, they’re embracing God’s meaning in human sexuality. They know that they are co-creators with God, and they know that if God gives a new life to them, they have the potential of sharing with their offspring God’s joy for all eternity. However, this could not happen if they did not give God permission. God needs their permission for that to happen.
When they’re generous to saying yes to life, it means sacrifice, but from a perspective of eternity, that sacrifice is so small. It’s one of the greatest investments they could ever possibly make – the investment in children, because it pays such incredible blessings – sharing eternity with individuals who otherwise would not even come into existence.
That’s the meaning. That’s the purpose of obedience to the Church’s teaching. Some people do not like to hear about the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, but it’s all about human life. It’s all about supernatural life, and it’s all about God’s fruitfulness in time and in eternity. That’s the wonderful good news that has been misunderstood for so many years.
Let’s move on and apply it to other areas. I’m deliberately choosing difficult issues in our lives that really challenge us to do what Jesus did, and that is, to embrace the Cross, because unless we embrace the Cross, nothing else matters. We’re not going anywhere.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to participate in fostering the common good of the whole community. One of these responsibilities is participating in the election of our civic leaders. We have the responsibility of selecting those leaders who will uphold the moral law. It is important for Catholics to evaluate how policies and laws impact the life and dignity of the human person. There are some issues which always involve doing evil by their very nature, such as: legalized abortion, destructive human embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and so-called same-sex unions.
All other issues, which are not intrinsically evil, take second place to these. If both candidates support some of these issues, which are intrinsically evil, we have the obligation to mitigate the evil by voting for the less permissive candidate.
The question I want to ask is this: How could anybody ever support a candidate who would promote laws permitting the destruction of a living child that had survived an attempted abortion? That is beyond my comprehension. I repeat. How anybody could ever support a candidate who would promote laws permitting the destruction of a living child that had survived an attempted abortion is beyond my comprehension.
Today we are concerned about the economic collapse of our country. We should be far more concerned about the spiritual collapse of our country. The spiritual collapse of our country is far more serious than the economic collapse, and I say to you that if we have a choice between poverty and abortion, it’s got to be poverty, because that’s not what Hitler did. Hitler chose economic growth, and he did this by destroying human lives. He did it by destroying millions of Jews, the elderly and those who were mentally impaired.
That was Nazism. How are we different if we continue to go down the road of the culture of death that we’re going down today?
For anyone who finds this hard and doesn’t like to hear this, to them I say, “Study the second chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and find out how Jesus humbled himself, embracing suffering in order that we might have life – embracing suffering in order that we might have mercy for our sinfulness.
God is calling us all to have life and have it more abundantly, and He is calling us all to the tribunal of mercy. So your task and my task is not to be victorious in society. Your task and my task is to witness to the truth no matter how much of a cross comes our way. Silence gives consent. Silence is destructive to our country. You and I are called to stand up against the culture of death and for the culture of life.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus could very well say to us, “You may think that it wasn’t easy for me to associate with these tax collectors and prostitutes, but I had an affection for them, and I wanted them saved so that no matter how much the cost, I wanted them in the Father’s kingdom.”
You and I should say to all of our politicians who are choosing values contrary to those of the Catholic Church, “We want you in the kingdom. We want you back, and we want you back to embracing obedience to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, and we want you to come back to repentance.”
It’s a national scandal for many of our Catholics in Washington to embrace the culture of death over and over and call themselves Catholic and attend Mass and receive the Eucharist. That is a scandal. Archbishop Burke made this very obvious four years ago.
I’m not condemning them. I’m condemning their actions. We want to call them back into the truth. We want to pray for them. We want them redeemed. We want to see them share eternity with us, because like the one son, right now they’re saying “no,” but the day may come when, through our prayers, they may say “yes” and share the kingdom with us.
It’s all about life. It’s not about putting people down. It’s about calling them to the task of obedience to the Gospel. That’s what it’s all about. So as we take a look at this reading from Philippians, we see that Christ emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and taking on human likeness, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death.
Let us say to our Lord, “No matter how much suffering comes my way, I want to embrace the Cross. No matter how much suffering comes my way in witnessing to the truth, I want to embrace the truth, and I want to live the truth. Let it crucify my ego. Let it crucify my pride. I want to embrace the truth in order that I and others might have life, and have it more abundantly.”
So what is behind today’s readings? Floodgates of mercy that are waiting to open up and pour down God’s mercy upon us as soon as we repent! That’s what is behind these readings – God’s incredible love that He can hardly hold back! His mercy wants to break through those floodgates and cleanse us and turn us around, if only we humble ourselves and call that mercy down.
Let us in this Mass call that mercy down upon us as a nation, that as a nation we may repent of choosing the culture of death, and choose the culture of life. As a nation, if at one time, we said “no,” we want now to change our mind, like the son in the Gospel and say, “Yes. Yes, Lord, I embrace you. I embrace your love, and I embrace your mercy.” Amen.