Saturday, February 11, 2017

Homily – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time – “What is the Truth?”

Sirach 15:15-20
1 Corinthians 2:6-10
Matthew 5:17-37 


           Have you noticed a rising tension in our culture?  How angry we’ve become?  How intolerant we are of the views of others?  How divided we are as a nation?   Our battle lines are drawn between the truth -- as we see it.  This is most prevalent today on social media.  Some of the anger is caused by an explosion of fake news or partisan news posing as the truth.
The truth Jesus is sharing in today’s Gospel made a lot of people angry in His day. The truth of God can do that to some. 
But what we see online is not the truth of God. It’s the exact opposite. 
          We continue to live in a world where the truth is turned upside down, twisted and distorted – many times for political reasons, not Gospel reasons.  
Relativism is tearing at the very fabric of society. It’s a cancer eating away at the soul of our great nation.
The best way to understand the concept of relativism is to remember that famous conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate found in John’s Gospel:

So Pilate said to him, ‘Then you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”
In a nutshell, this conversation is EXHIBIT A of the concept of relativism. 
“What is truth?” 
The danger with our world today is this:  “I have my truth. You have your truth. Everyone in the room has their own truth.”
So, we can see why Pontius Pilate was tempted to throw up his hands and say, “What is truth?” 
For Jews, the Law was the truth as defined by God, the “revelation of God’s will, a kind of divine blueprint for action” in life. The Pharisees and Scribes were known for their strict adherence to the law, but Jesus is challenging us all to go even deeper in our understanding -- to the heart of the matter.  

He‘s just finished sharing the Beatitudes during His Sermon on the Mount when he turns to the Law of Moses.
Jesus is talking the truth here.  Not the surface level, superficial truth, but the deep down truths. The truths about how we can sometimes carry God’s law in our hearts; hearts that are filled with our angers, our prejudices, our lusts, our justifications, our fears.
These deep down truths are what’re bubbling to the surface in today’s divided culture, causing much anger, hatred and division.
The latest hot-button issue dividing Catholics is the Trump Administration’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  The travel ban is currently on hold.
Our Bishops had something important to say on the matter days before a temporary halt was imposed by a Seattle judge, writing:
“Though many of its features are temporary, we are deeply concerned about the effects of the Executive Order. We have both a right and a duty to protect our borders and our citizens; at the same time, we have a responsibility to come to the aid of those who seek a better life, with their families, in our wonderful country.

United with all U.S. Bishops, we will continue to safeguard and maintain the well-being of those entrusted to our care. We will continue working with our government to bring about a just and effective solution for all who have fled persecution, violence and poverty in order to build a better life for themselves and their families.” The Bishops full letter can be found in today’s Bulletin.
The Bishops are speaking the truth here, albeit an unpopular truth in some quarters. 
Here’s the truth about our Catholic faith on these issues (A special shout-out to prominent Catholic writer Fr. James Martin for this).

            “I am Pro-Life.  That means that I’m also pro-social justice.
That means that I am not only for the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception, but also for the dignity of the human being until the natural end of life. For life does not end with birth. A person who is truly Pro-Life is Pro-all Life, Pro-every stage of Life, Pro-every stage of Life for every person. For all life is sacred, because all life is created by God.
That means I support caring for the marginalized among us: the refugee, the migrant, the displaced person, … minorities of every kind who are persecuted, and all those who feel left out, mocked, lonely, ignored or frightened.

That means that when any particular group is targeted, as refugees and migrants have been recently, I feel a responsibility to speak out, as much as I can… I am against silence in the face of injustices visited on others.”
This is the truth about our Catholic faith.  We don’t get to pick and choose like a cafeteria what is our truth as Catholics.  No, we are called to embrace the truth of Jesus, live this truth and share the whole truth about our Catholic faith.
Sadly, we live in a culture more focused on politics than on the truth.

Some who get angry about relativism of faith sometimes relativize or turn a blind eye to social justice issues (“Jesus said, the poor will always be with us”).  They want their politics to align perfectly with their faith. 
Some who get angry about social justice issues want to relativize or turn a blind eye to the evils of abortion or euthanasia.  They want their politics to align perfectly with their faith. 
Problem is being Catholic means not being fully Democrat, not being fully Republican. For our faith has aspects appealing to both major parties. But a hyper focus on politics will miss the message of Jesus completely.
This is what Jesus is talking about this weekend. How we allow our human politics to get in the way of God. The Scribes and Pharisees were notorious for doing this, too.    
In his series of Screwtape Letters, noted Christian author C.S. Lewis foretold our democratic society’s penchant to be led down the primrose path of polarizing politics and the anger that would follow. 

Reviewing this 75-year-old letter, one contemporary author says it perfectly reflects what’s happening in present day America.
C.S. Lewis was asking this important question many years ago, “Are we becoming the democracy Hell wishes us to be?” 
Here’s what C.S. Lewis wrote:
“For ‘democracy’ or the ‘democratic spirit’ (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism.  And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be.”
Please tell me if this doesn’t ring true when reading the excessive vitriol and unfettered anger found online, much of it caused today by fake news or partisan news found on social media.
Here's an excellent graph for discerning political slant of your news source
Fake news comes from sources on far left and far right

Are we sharing the truth online?  Are we spreading the Gospel?  Or are we spreading ignorance, lies and misinformation? 
Is this what Jesus calls us to do?    No!
As we heard from the Book of Sirach, he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”  
Bishop of Rome Emeritus Benedict shared something meaningful about living the truth of Jesus Christ prior to being named Pope.
As Cardinal Ratzinger, he gave the following homily during the 2005 conclave: 
“All people desire to leave a lasting mark. But what endures? … The only thing that lasts forever is the human soul, the human person created by God for eternity.  
The fruit that endures is therefore all that we have sown in human souls: love, knowledge, a gesture capable of touching hearts, words that open the soul to joy in the Lord.  

So let us go and pray to the Lord to help us bear fruit that endures. Only in this way will the earth be changed from a valley of tears to a garden of God.”

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