Saturday, July 7, 2012

Homily – Deacon Stuart, 2012-07-01

Homily – Deacon Stuart, 2012-07-01

“Oliver Plunkett, Priest, Professor of Theology, Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of all Ireland, you have been found guilty of high treason and it is this courts decision that you will be executed for your crimes.”

“Have you anything to say?”

His reply : “Deo Gratias – Thanks be to God.”

And so on this date, July 1st, in 1681, Oliver Plunkett was executed – his crime - “Propagation of the Catholic faith in Ireland” [He was hanged, drawn and quartered.]

And so we honor the memory of Saint Oliver Plunkett , he was canonized in 1975 , on this date. He was the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England and the first new Irish saint for almost 700 years. He understood the great risk of his vocation, and touched the lives of many Irish Catholics with his fearless and faithful leadership and paid the ultimate price.

Faith brings Risk as we heard in the gospel.

First, Jairus, – a synagogue official, devout Jew, and an establishment figure with considerable standing in the community, throws himself at the feet of Jesus.
Jesus, the radical rabbi, teacher, healer, and antiestablishment figure, who kept company with all kinds of sinners, and even performed acts of kindness on the Sabbath.
Jairus begs Jesus to come lay his hands on his 12 year old daughter, who is at the point of death, so that she might live. For those of us with children we can certainly understand how a father would risk almost anything to see his 12 yr old child saved from death.

However, the risks he took – discrimination in his synagogue, loss of standing within his community, ostracization of his family and ridicule if his daughter had not been healed were a measure of the incredible Faith he had in Jesus Christ!

As they journey to his home word comes that his daughter has died! And while Jairus’s reaction is not recorded, one can only imagine the father’s anguish at this news.
What is recorded is Jesus’s response to him – “Do not be afraid, just have FAITH.”

When they arrive at the house, they find a commotion, weeping and wailing. Jesus tells the crowd that the child is not dead but asleep. The crowd ridicule Jesus but with great faith in his Father, he takes the child by the hand says “Little girl, I say to you arise,” and of course she does.

We see the Faith of Jairus in Jesus; the Faith of Jesus in his Father, and the Risk to both their reputations.

In the second healing story: A woman has been hemorrhaging for 12 years, and her faith is such that she believes merely touching Jesus’s garments would heal her. So she pushes her way through the crowd, touches Jesus’s garment and is healed.

But Jesus feels the power leave him and asks of the crowd amassing around him “Who touched me?”
So I ask you to imagine Jesus’s disciples, looking at him incredulously, and saying (in Aramaic of course), Lord, you’re kidding, right? You see the crowd pressing all around you and yet you ask: “Who touched Me?”

However, the woman hearing this and understanding what has happened approaches Jesus with great trepidation and falls at his feet confessing what she did. Jesus tells her, “Your FAITH has saved you - be cured of your affliction.

But what a risk she took! In the Judaic culture of the time a ritually unclean woman touching a man she didn’t know.

Faith Brings Risk

So what does this mean to us today? We will in a few minutes approach the table of our Lord and receive Him, precious body and blood. With this most Holy Sacrament He touches us in a most wonderful way. Through the Eucharist He offers healing and fortification for our journey of faith, which the Lord knows is never easy. Strengthened with this gift we are able to take the RISKS that living as a Catholic in American society today requires.

Our religious freedom in this country is under attack.

You should be well aware of current healthcare legislation that negatively impacts the ability of Catholics and our institutions as well as other religions to operate freely and in accord with our beliefs. While this is serious enough when we look at the fine print, the government has decided it can define what is, and what a religious institution is not.

This is history because the constitution says that it can’t do that and I quote “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the FREE exercise thereof….”

Fr. Jenkins, President of Notre Dame University, who have filed a lawsuit against the government, said “If we concede that the government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.”

Religious freedom was embraced by our country’s founders as “an essential condition of a free and democratic Society.”

When the bill of rights was ratified religious freedom had the distinction of being the FIRST amendment – because it is indeed the first liberty.

But this attack is more than healthcare; Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC and our state have driven local Catholic adoption and foster care services out of business.

But it’s not just Catholics – in NYC they barred sixty churches of various faiths from renting public schools for their services, but non-religious groups were welcome to rent them for a multitude of purposes.

Yesterday’s Sun Times’ opinion page was a full page article about the growth of non-believers, atheists, agnostics and other faithless. It said, 1 in 6 Americans are not affiliated with any religious group, while for 18-29 year olds it’s 1 in 4. Its hurtful conclusion – that if this trend continues, it’s going to be harder and harder for believers to continue to call to faith atheists!

A few months ago Cardinal George while talking about this attack on our religious freedom said “I expect to die in my own bed, that my successor will die in prison and that his successor will be martyred.”

Yes I’ll repeat that! “I expect to die in my own bed, that my successor will die in prison and that his successor will be martyred.”

Make no mistake – In this country Christians, and particular Catholics are under attack; and I implore you to study the issues, get involved in the debate and take a risk and defend your faith and resist this attack on our religious freedoms. If you have children or grandchildren under the age of 20, you owe it to them.

Martin Luther King Jr. – 50 years ago, said “The church is neither the master nor the servant of the state, BUT its conscience, guide and critic.”

And he added:
“On some positions:
A coward has asked the question ‘Is it safe?’
Expediency asks the question ‘Is it politic?’
Vanity asks the question ‘Is it popular?’
But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

For Christians and particularly Catholics in America I believe that time is now.

God Bless you all and the United States of America.

[Edited for punctuation and clarity by blogger]

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