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Deacon Dan Haverty Leads Stations of the Cross devotion on 3/28/2020
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Deacon Dan’s homily for Sunday, October  18, 2020
“Render Unto Caesar”

As election day draws nearer, some of us may still be trying to make sense of the language in the ballot propositions, candidate statements, and the not so unexpected political rhetoric arriving in our mailboxes, television, social media, and along the streets.  

 
This is part of American life at election time, during what we called the silly season when I was working in government.  

It should be about candidate qualifications and choosing alternative solutions via public policy proposals to social, economic, environmental, and other challenges facing our Country.    Unfortunately, it also includes expressions of hatred for groups of people, name-calling, attacking the person, half-truths and no truths in advertising, and a resulting division of peoples.  So, this time of the year I sometimes want to just pull the covers up over my head and shun the world.   
 

But, that is not what we are called to do as Catholic Christians, is it?  No, we are called to be the salt of the earth, to be light for others, to speak truth, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.   
 

And, so this morning we have the story of Jesus, his detractors, the Roman coin, and one of His most famous one-liners,”…repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."  
 

This story is about the relationship between church and state.  It's clear isn’t it, people were wrangling about how to balance their lives between religious practice and government interference 2,000 years ago, and today we have discussions over the same thing…close churches, open churches; masks, no masks; COVID tracing sign-in, privacy, and on and on. 

Pope Benedict wrote, “…it is not the proper task of the Church to engage in the political work of bringing about the most just society possible; nonetheless, she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice. The Church "has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper."

 

Last week I spoke to our students in the School Ministry about the living Word (capital “W”) of God. How God speaks to us, collectively and individually, each time we read or hear Scripture. Today’s a wonderful example!

 

A bit of context, what’s actually happening, is helpful for us to better understand today’s Gospel. First, we hear from Matthew that the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to entrap Jesus. Their intent was evil; it was self-centered and manipulative.

 

The Pharisees and Herodians shared no love for one another. In fact, the cliche, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” applies to this collusion between them. They both wanted Jesus gone for their own reasons. If our Lord says yes, pay the tax, the Pharisees will indite him as an enemy of the people, a collaborator with the Romans.

 

If He says, no don’t pay the tax, he will be arrested as a dissenter, a trouble-maker. In a clever manner, they seemingly place Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. But Jesus' answer is not Caesar or God, but Caesar and God.

 

Some interpret this passage as evidence of separation between church and state; and there is a rightly ordered separation between the two, each having its own sphere of responsibility. But, does it mean politics belongs only in the public arena and religion only belongs in the private arena?

 

No! Religion does not have supremacy over government and government doesn’t have supremacy over religion. However, all things belong in God’s sphere. God sustains all of the world. He presses on every aspect of creation. Everything in the world belongs to God.

 

Pope Benedict 16 wrote, “St. Augustine used this particular Scriptural passage several times in his homilies, “If Caesar reclaims his own image impressed on the coin, will not God demand from man the divine image sculpted within him?” And further, “as the tribute money is rendered to him (Caesar), so should the soul be rendered to God, illumined and stamped with the light of his countenance.”

 

If we think there is a distinct separation between government and religion in these United States, just look at Judge Amy Coney Barrett judicial nomination hearings this week. So many of the questions that came to her were about her views on abortion, marriage, the sanctity of life. Falsely, our laws have inserted themselves into the place of God, of creator; wrongly determining when life will be stopped and when life will be allowed.

 

Do you think it is mere coincidence that a Catholic woman, a woman who is a member of the St. Joseph County Right to Life organization, a professor of law from one of the most well-known Catholic Universities in the world, a wife and mother of seven children, is the center point of our national media, the focus of our country’s political leadership during Respect Life month?

 

I don’t think it's a coincidence; I think it’s the hand of God in His created world bringing forth a person to our highest court that will look at cases brought before her with humility, intelligence, and a view-point that recognizes God is in everything and everyone.

 

As Catholics, during this election time and beyond into the coming year, what do we render unto Caesar? Well, we should be good citizens…not just good citizens, but exemplary citizens; we follow the laws and work to change unjust ones, we pay our taxes, we contribute to the good of our community, and we vote in ways that protect and uphold the values of our Church.

 

And, how do we give to God what is Gods? We love Him with all our hearts, with all our soul, and all our minds. And love our neighbor as ourselves. We abandon ourselves to Him, to His Divine Providence. Conforming our will, our hearts, to His; asking for the desire to do so, and the gifts to do it. And, we follow the teachings of our Church. Teachings that are rooted in Divine Law, Natural Law, and 2,000 years of the wisdom of the Magisterium of our Church.

 

A well-formed conscience is formed well by knowing these teachings; and a well-formed conscience provides for wise decisions.

 

There’s a beautiful painting done in the baroque style by Peter Paul Reubens around 1620 titled “Render Unto Caesar”. This painting captures the scene in this Gospel passage. Jesus is on one side, the front men for the Pharisees and the Herodians are on the other side, the coin is being held low by our Lord in the middle, and the men around Jesus are focused on the coin. Jesus is pointing up toward heaven/God.

 

The imagery is illustrating how things of the world, things down low, capture our attention most of the time…work, hobbies, school, sports, food, you name it; things of Caesar. But, Jesus is always telling us to move up, to look to God for all we need. After all, everything that we can hold in our hand came to us from God; and everything that we hold is intended to be given away, in some fashion.

 

This is Mission Sunday; a day to remember that we are missionary disciples, intended/called to take out into the world what we are given in Faith. Benedict wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation: Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity), “The love that we celebrate in the (Eucharist) sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature, it demands to be shared with all. What the world needs is God's love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him. The Eucharist is thus the source and summit not only of the Church's life but also of her mission: "an authentically eucharistic Church is a missionary Church." (234) We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:3). Truly, nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ and to make Him known to others.”

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary 145

Deacon Dan’s homily for Sunday, July 12, 2020

“The Sower”

In 1888 Vincent Van Gogh produced 30 drawings and paintings of a solitary man spreading seed from a bag slung over his chest, crossing an open field with a huge yellow sun dominating the horizon.  The painting is titled, “The Sower.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van Gogh must have been trying to work through something of great meaning to produce 30 similar works. Was he trying to “just get it artistically right?” Was he trying to capture on an artist’s mat something that can only be imprinted onto the soul?

 

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus identifies four types of soil: hardened soil on the path, shallow soil amongst rocks, soil amongst thorns, and rich soil.

 

It is definitely the case that over the course of my life, on that path to holiness that our Church was formed to help us with, I have been the hardened path, I have been amongst the rocks with little depth of soil, I have been amongst the thorns, and have, no doubt, been the thorns to others!  And, the. Truth is…I may still be in one of those categories! 

 

But, the part of the story that Jesus told that gives us such great Christian hope is that God the Father, the Sower, continues to throw seed out, the seed, which is Jesus himself; His Word, His teachings, His saving action for us, His endless love for me and for you that relentlessly pursues us to bring us into His person, His friendship, His love. 

 

And the second area of hope is knowing that we are not a hardened path or rocks or ye of little soil.  We are persons, souls made in the image and likeness of God with a free will, the ability to make decisions to change our lives, to deepen our soil, and enrich ourselves with knowledge of our faith.

 

This parable of Jesus comes with a full explanation, an explanation directly from Him.  There are three pitfalls Jesus cautions us against.  First, the hardened soil of the path. Hearing the Word of the kingdom and not understanding it, not studying Scripture and coming to really know Jesus.  The fundamentals of the Faith have to be in place before the Word can be accepted. We must practice the Faith. 

 

Second, the thin soil amongst rocks.  The trouble here is the one who is drawn into the religious and spiritual because of a charismatic personality or an experience or trauma in their life, but lack the discipline to stay at it, to practice the faith over a lifetime of experiences, growth, learning and getting to know the person, both human and divine, of Jesus. 

 

And, lastly, Jesus cautions us about losing our Faith to the cares of the world and its luring pursuit of wealth, or honor, or pleasure, or power…in all of its forms.  This is a loss of priority. 

It is moving God from the center of our lives onto the edge, onto the periphery of our day. 

The thorns of the world choke out God in favor of sports, the promotion, the new car, you name it.

But, the target, the place we ask for the grace to be, is the sandy loam, the good soil; ready to bring the seed of Jesus Christ into our very being.  To grow with Him, to develop and become like Him along our path to holiness.  So that we may produce bountiful fruit to be given away for others.

 

During these past months of mostly being at home, I built Terri a greenhouse. I love to see her getting so much joy out of her gardening and seeing the plants grow. The soil she uses, while rich, dark, and ready to accept the seeds, needs to be tilled, fertilized or nurtured, watered, and cared for.

 

It’s the same for us, even for the best of soil, to produce bountiful fruit, our spiritual self, needs to be regularly nurtured and fed in the Eucharist, watered with the knowledge of Scripture and the Church, and cultivate new seeds of Christ’s life in others.

 

About 27 years ago, some seeds of faith and hope were planted right here on this hill. Those seeds fell on rich soil and have produced a yield of a hundredfold or more in our parish. Now, we are being asked in a very challenging time to plant new seeds of faith and hope by the One Parish Family Campaign so that we can maintain our facilities to be able to continue to satisfy the spiritual hunger and need of even more people in western El Dorado County. 

 

“As Father Larry said last week, we understand that the timing of this Campaign is not good, but we need as much support as is possible to help us meet the needs of the parish.  Our goal is to wrap up the Campaign by the end of the summer. This week each of us will be receiving a letter with a pledge card for your prayerful consideration if you have not already made your gift to the Campaign. Hopefully, these seeds – these letters – will fall on rich soil and bear much fruit. 

 

Now, I’d like to introduce a fellow parishioner I’ve come to know and respect as a friend through our work, together, at the Nomadic Shelter.  Angela Johnson will share her path to receiving God’s seeds here at Holy Trinity.

 

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 103

Dan’s homily for Sunday, June 21, 2020

“What are you afraid of?”

What are you afraid of?  Is it the dark, horror films, spiders, or heights. Today, many of us are fearful of catching the Coronovirus, financial or business well-being because of the shut-down, or perhaps the violence and protests against racism in our communities.

 

One of my worst fears is snakes; which began as a child after being startled by a snake.  Even today, an encounter with a rattlesnake around our house will keep me awake at night and cause me to jerk my leg up when I think about it slithering about. 

 

Fear is one of the strongest emotions and is the one emotion that prevents us from doing something, from moving forward.

 

Today’s readings present fear in the life of Jeremiah, the prophet who is facing threats of violence from all sides; and the fear the disciples will certainly experience in proclaiming the news of Jesus Christ to the world. 

 

First, Jeremiah, you may remember, was called by God to be His oracle to Israel at a very young age.  But, even then, God told him not to be afraid.  The Book of Jeremiah begins this way:

 

The word of the LORD came to me:”….’Ah, Lord GOD!’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak. I am too young!’  But the LORD answered me, Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them,  for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD. “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you”.

 

This has been the promise of God to His people, to us,  since the beginning: Don’t be afraid, I’m right alongside you.  In fact He doesn’t just want us to not be afraid, He wants us to be bold in our telling others about who Jesus is, why He came to take on a human body and live a human life, to live with us so we could know Him better, and what He did for us in redeeming us from sin in us and in the world, through the Cross, and overcoming death in His Resurrection.  And, especially, how Jesus’ teachings, how all of this is relevant, has meaning in people’s lives, in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives today…how it brings meaning to today’s problems and life challenges; to our lives.

 

In the short Gospel we just heard, Jesus speaks of fear four times. He speaks of two areas of fear in our lives: fear of things of the world, of people in the world, and fear of God.  Within the context of proclaiming the Gospel, of living a Christian way of life, He cautions His followers not to fear people or the world because while they can cause us harm, they don’t have power to harm our soul. 

 

Did you know that in the last 100 years there were more Christian martyrs, Christian persecutions, than in the 19 prior centuries combined.  And, while we live in a Country with religious freedoms, the ability to practice our Catholic Faith continues to shrink and be threatened.

 

The second fear Jesus speaks of is, “be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.”  This is fear of the Lord.  Fear of the Lord is often misunderstood.  It is a Gift of the Holy Spirit; so we ask, how can fear be a gift?

 

Pope Francis reflected on fear of the Lord:

 

“This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of Our Father who loves us so. … This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy … with the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father.”

 

Therefore, this great gift of fear of the Lord allows us to have an intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity.  The Father is total love; love for His Son, Jesus, love for us. 

 

Today is Father’s Day.  Dad’s, when we’re striving to be our best of selves, give ourselves unselfishly to our wives, children, our family.  And, as a teenager, when I was acting at my worst, was very selfish, unloving and taking only for myself.  And, I caused my Dad pain and sorrow.  What brought me back to the straight and narrow was fear of the Father.  Fear that I was separating myself from my good Dad, and causing him such disappointment and sorrow.

 

Listen to the first part of our Act of Contrition, “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love.”

 

In recognizing the endless love of God for us, we fear any distancing or separation from Him because of our sin.  On the one hand God gives us endless graces throughout our life; our skills, food, housing, our intellect and reason, loved ones, our very breath…and the Gift of Fear of the Lord to help us along our path to holiness.

 

There are no unimportant creatures in God’s eyes.  We are the ones made in His image and likeness.  If He knows the destiny of the little sparrows, how much more will He care for us? 

He gives us Himself, His accompaniment, fortitude, to overcome the fears that come from worldly threats.  He is alongside us and invites us on our mission to speak of Him in the light and proclaim Him from the rooftops.  He invites us to acknowledge Him before others.

 

And, acknowledging Him is more than just saying I’m a Christian.  It is being that example, that person, on the ballfield, in the grocery store, on the roadway, or in the workplace who people see and hear and wonder why you are so loving, so kind, so forgiving.  It is being that person who stands up for the vulnerable, speaks up for homeless, loves the unlovable and comforts the downhearted.

Fears are part of our make-up.  But, we need only turn to God to overcome our fears, be courageous, and be the witnesses for Jesus Christ in our lives for others.


 

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 94

Deacon Dan’s homily for Sunday, March 15, 2020
“The Samaritan Woman at the Well: Well Water vs. Living Water”

The Church places the story of the Samaritan Woman at the Well as our 3rd Sunday of Lent precisely at this time of preparation and reflection to more thoughtfully consider our relationship with Jesus the Christ and our response to His presence. 

Today, we celebrate the first Scrutiny for the elect by the Parish community.  Scrutiny may sound a little like someone is scrutinizing our friends who are coming into the Church, an interrogation or examination of some sort.  Well, the three Scrutinies are intended to be an examination, but a self-examination to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective or sinful in the hearts of the Elect, in our hearts, too.  This examination is also meant to bring out all that is good, strong and upright within us.  So, as the Elect engage in today’s First Scrutiny, let us both pray for them and scrutinize ourselves.  So, how does John’s Gospel help in this effort? 

There are four lessons for us to understand and use:

1. God is relentless in His pursuit of us;

2.  God invites us to enter into a close, intimate relationship with Him;

3. We have an intended response to this invitation; and

4. Once we have encountered God this way, we just can’t hold onto this gift for ourselves. 

 

In the story we just heard, what are the main actors and objects?  Certainly, Jesus, the Samaritan woman, who remains unnamed, the Disciples and the townspeople.  When an unnamed person is presented in Scripture, such as this woman, she is intended to represent a larger group.  She represents the Church…us.  The objects are only the water, the well or cistern it’s called, and the water pot. 

Jesus sits down at Jacob’s Well outside the Samarian capitol city of Sychar, at noon and he’s tired and thirsty.  Samaria is located between Jesus’ home area around Galilee, in the north where He is returning, and Jerusalem to the south.  Jews and Samaritans got along about as good as Giants and Dodger fans…well much worse, actually, as they really hated each other.  Most good Jews, at this time, would have just gone around Samaria on their travels, avoiding any contact with them. However, Jesus goes right into that land, crossing all sorts of boundaries. 

The woman comes to draw water from the well and finds Jesus already there.  She comes alone, at mid-day.  Why alone at the hottest part of the day?  We later learn that she is a public sinner, an outcast, alone herself.  Both, because of their tribal animosity and because men, socially, do not talk to women in public places, especially alone, when Jesus asks her for some water, she is shocked. 

Knowing her life and her heart, Jesus turns the question of who gives water to who around by saying,” “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 

This scene shows us that Jesus is always there waiting for us to come, to recognize him, to ask him for what we really need to have happiness in our lives, life-giving water.  God is relentless in his pursuit for us, always there ahead of us, waiting for us and inviting us to share in His love. 

The woman has been coming to the well for years, perhaps, getting water, and yet, becoming thirsty again.  That is the way for the water, the things of the world.  The world cannot satisfy in any lasting way.  We always become thirsty for something more, something greater, something more exciting.  We all have something, some worldly desire that we come to the well for, which never fully satisfies, never quenches our thirst.  What a share in the Divine life of Jesus which he offers is, “… whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” St. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

The second point, when this Gospel was written, a first-century Jew knew that meeting at a well had a special meaning.  It meant marriage.  Abraham sent his servant to get a wife for Isaac at a well (Genesis 24:11);  Jacob met his love, Rachel, at a well (Genesis 29:2). And, Moses sitting at a well met his future wife, Zipporah (Exodus 2:16).  Isaiah states, “Your builder shall marry you”.  The builder is God. 

In this Gospel passage, the woman at the well represents the Church, the bride of Christ; we, the people of God, are the Church.  There is no closer relationship than between two people in a marriage covenant.  Jesus wants to enter into an intimate relationship with each one of us, as two people in a marriage. 

Jesus knows us, as he knew the woman.  He asks her to go and get her husband.  And her reply is, ““I do not have a husband.”  Correct, she has had five and is living with another man now. 

Whenever we are in a close relationship with someone, and honest in our relationship, our wrinkles show through, our foibles become apparent to the other person, it is clear to the one who loves us, when we are going down a destructive path.  And, out of love, that person will correct us, point out the destruction.   Jesus did this, reading the words of Jesus in Scripture, going to confession, honest reflection on our lives does this for us today. 

 

This seems to be the turning point for the woman.  Notice she first refers to Jesus as a Jew, then as Sir, now as prophet.  But, it seems as though she is now uncomfortable with the conversation because here, she tries to divert the interaction by kind of taking a left turn to the subject where Jews and her people worship. 

That’s still a common tactic when things hit too close to home, right?  New subject, divert, divert…Until this happens, “The woman says to him, ‘I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one speaking with you.”

Now, we get to the water pot.  After the disciples return, the woman leaves her water pot and returns to her townspeople to tell them about what just happened.  To God’s invitation, there must be a response on our part to move forward. 

 

When Terri and I first met, if I’d just listened to her asking me out all the time…okay, it was me asking her out…well, if she’d just listened to my invitation, but never said yes, never went with me for pizza or for walks along the American River, we would never have gotten to know each other, never gotten married, never had any of the gifts or the love God has in store for us. 

 

It’s the same with God’s invitation.  We have to act.  We have to turn away from some things in our life that come between God and us, so we can turn full face to Him.  The woman left her pot at the well of earthly water.  The pot is what we carry around holding onto the things of the world that distance us from God’s love: seeking honor and power for the wrong reasons, indulging destructively into pleasures, or accumulating wealth, material things without using them as a steward of those gifts.  The woman left her pot of worldly desires at the well, so she could be free of them to share what she has learned.

 

If one looks through the Bible, you’ll find that everyone who encounters God and accepts Him into their life, goes on mission.  The woman at the well was the first missionary of Jesus Christ.  She returned to her town and seemingly told everybody whom she met and how He knew everything about her.  And, at her word, they went to the well to see for themselves, finding Jesus.  So, taken with His teaching and with His person, that they asked Him to stay with them and He did, for two days. 

 

When we come to know our Lord, hear His teaching, welcome Him into our lives, He sends us on mission.  He gives to us unending love, accompaniment throughout our lives, gifts of grace and peace, strengthening us along the way.  Those gifts of the Divine life are intended to be given away to others.  If we hold onto them we will shrink, if we share them we will grow.  It’s just the opposite of what the world tells us.  But, it works.  God will not be outdone in giving. 

 

Where are you in this story?  Are you coming to the well?  Are you ready to accept God’s invitation of marriage?  Are you ready to leave your jar at the well and turn more closely to Jesus, or are you giving away the gifts you’ve received and receiving even more from our Heavenly Father?

Third Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 28

Deacon Dan’s homily for Sunday, February 16, 2020
“Just Okay is not Okay”

There is a series of AT&T commercials on TV now that has the tag line “Just Okay is not Okay.”  I’m sure you’ve seen them; there’s the one with the Dutch translator who gets the translation all wrong and has clients hugging one another; the one with the boy band that doesn’t dance surprising the audience; and the one with surgeon about to do surgery on a patient, who’s “just okay.” 

 

Well, the big lesson for this weekend’s readings is Jesus teaches us, “Just okay, is not okay.”  He says, “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  He doesn’t say be pretty good…He says to be perfect! He doesn’t just raise the spiritual bar; he raises it to the extreme. 

 

The first reading from the Book of Sirach, a writing known as the Wisdom of Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus, not Ecclesiastes, that’s another Wisdom book.  Its name means Church Book.  It comes from the genre of the Bible known as the Wisdom literature.  It was written to help the people maintain the religious faith; what today we frequently refer to as our Path to Holiness.  This excerpt speaks of our ability to choose from among good and evil, life and death.  The line that precedes the reading we heard says, “God, in the beginning, created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice” that is free will. 

 

And the choices we make based on our free will are known to God, for he knows our heart, our intent…both good and evil. 

 

Okay, so with this foundation, we are presented with the Gospel.  To set the scene a bit, this text is from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  And Jesus has already symbolically established himself as the new Moses.  He climbed the mountain and brings the people a new teaching.  Jesus spoke to the people, saying, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, … But I say to you.” 

 

Can you imagine how radical this must have been for them to hear this?  Moses told you such and such, but, I am telling you this!  Jesus was saying to them, I am the new Moses for you to listen to, to believe, to follow.  And, he was not belittling or undermining the old Law, the Law of Moses that was their religious foundation, but He was raising it up, giving it a new intensity, fulfilling it.  As He said, “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

 

From its origin, when God gave to Moses the 10 Commandments, the Law was intended to bring humanity into alignment with divinity.  Jesus’ Incarnation, His becoming a human person, one of us, that loving act of God, finally brought humanity and divinity together, into alignment.  

 

That, “bringing it into alignment” is inviting us to become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  To do this, to cooperate with the gifts of grace, we must get at the root of the sin that distances us from God.  That is, before the act of sin, whatever sin may be the one that tempts us, we must root out the thought of sin. 

 

Before one steals another’s goods, we covet, thinks about, desires to have another’s goods.  Before one commits a hurtful or hateful act to another person, we think evil about that person.   The act of sin begins with a compromise of the soul. 

 

Jesus set a new standard for loving, and that is to not only eliminate cruel and hateful action but to also eliminate cruel and hateful thoughts, even hateful attitudes.  The underlying problem, the disorder of sin has to be corrected.

 

Emmanuel Kant wrote, “Never treat another human being as a means, but only as an end.”  John Paul II built upon this saying, “Human Beings should never be subordinated to be simple a means for somebody.”  Isn’t this what pornography does?  It turns a person into an object to a means for the viewer. 

 

Jesus’ teaching was to not just achieve conformity to the Law externally…the act, but alignment to God internally, in the heart and mind. And, the Church that Jesus founded, its mission, its job is to bring us to perfection; to make saints; Therefore, to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, it is a radical mission. 

 

Fellow parishioners pointed out something that emphasizes this to me a while ago, and we use it at every preBaptism class with parents and godparents.  If you’ve had a chance to visit the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in downtown Sacramento and taken the time to walk up the left side, you may have seen the very large painting of 14 Saints of the Americas.  Within these beautifully arranged portraits of saints such as Elizabeth Ann Seton, Kateri Tekakwitha, Katherine Drexel and Juan Diego is one empty frame.  It is a reminder for us to see that that empty space is for our portrait, our saintly image; because we are intended to become saints. 
 

Jesus isn’t teaching to help people choose to be “mediocre Christians”, the Church’s mission isn’t to form a “pretty good” Catholic people.  Just okay, isn’t okay.  Therefore, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

 

He wouldn’t tell is to do this, if He didn’t know that it is possible for us.  It may seem extreme, an impossible path to holiness, but He accompanies us on this path.  He gives us all we need to do this; to be a saintly people; to be a saintly person. 

 

This extreme expectation of saintliness is complemented by God’s extreme mercy and forgiveness.  God, through His Church, the Sacrament of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick which [will take place in just a few minutes], [took place at the 5:30 Mass last night and this morning at the 11:00 Mass]  offers complete forgiveness to the repentant sinner.  This forgiveness resets, it heals, reconnects, renews our spiritual relationship with God.  We can begin again, get back on that path leading to forever joy and become all that we are intended to be, a saintly person. 

 

The choice is ours…free will.  The gift of choice to choose light or darkness; perfection or just okay.  Who would want to be a just okay dad, a just okay mom, a just okay student, a just okay Catholic believer in our Savior!

 

We choose holiness!  We choose holiness!

 

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 76