Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: On Being an American Catholic
This weekend we are continuing our Fourth of July celebrations. Here at St. Ignatius we had Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, inviting all to pray for our country before the Lord’s Eucharistic Presence. We love our country. We love America. But the path our country is on is troubling, to say the least. Many Americans have followed the Supreme Court and accepted abortion arguing that it is a right to be defended, allowing the Supreme Court to decide whether a human being exists within a mother. People seem to think that the Supreme Court is superior to the law of God. It is as though the Supreme Court must be correct if the majority of the justices agree on something. People forget that four years before the Civil War the Supreme Court defined slaves as pieces of property rather than human beings. That was the Dred Scott Decision. The Supreme Court went beyond its competency when it defined marriage. Many people would rather follow the Court than recognize the biblical definition of marriage given in the Book of Genesis. Our country is unable to pass reasonable gun control laws and would rather sacrifice the lives of our children then demand the most basic regulation such as universal background checks, elimination of assault weapons, etc. In the name of border security, our country was recently found to have been taking children away from their parents, parents who seek the same thing our ancestors sought: a better life for their children.
Our concern is not just for the institutions of our country, but for the people of our country who naively accept as true and good whatever path our nation chooses. There appears to be no limit to the absurdity promoted by those in power, and no limit to those who will support them no matter what the promote. We need to pray for our country, and we need to pray for the American people. At the same time, we need to pray for the courage to stand firm for God, to fight for morality, to fight for Jesus Christ and for His Way.
Jesus concluded the Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew with: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12.
We present day American Catholics are living this beatitude every day. We stand up for what is right and moral. We stand up for life and for the biblical definition of marriage, and we are reviled and insulted by those who never consider God’s presence in the world or even His existence. We stand up for charity to the poor and are mocked by those who dare to claim the Bible as supporting their perverse laws and tactics.
There is nothing new here. 2,500 years ago, Ezekiel was told to proclaim the truth, even though he would be rejected by the people and their leaders. That was this Sunday’s first reading. 2,000 years ago, people refused to accept the Messiah of God when He stood right before them because Jesus did not fit their pre-conceived notion of what the Messiah should be like. “He shouldn’t be one of us,” they said. “We shouldn’t know him or his family,” they argued. That was today’s Gospel.
If the prophets were ignored and if Jesus Himself was disregarded, then how can we expect people to listen to us when we proclaim God’s way? We are certainly no better than Paul who tells us about his weakness in today’s second reading. We are also weak. And we do dumb things. Lots of them. We sin. And yet we ask people to listen to us, turn from sin and put Christ into the center of their lives. Do we really have a right to even attempt to do this? Yes. In fact, we have more than a right. We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to lead others to God. We need to call others to Christ knowing that if they hear our call and follow Christ it will because Jesus worked though us, despite our weakness.
So, someone states, “I am fighting a horrible addiction: alcohol, chemical dependency, porn or other sexual addictions, what have you.” And then the person asks, “How can people hear God through me?” This person needs to know that others will hear God through him or her because God is more powerful than their addiction. Or someone says, “I have a huge temper.” Or another, “I am selfish. I am envious. There are a lot of times that I’m just not a nice person. How am I going to lead others to God?” We need to keep putting up the fight to follow Jesus and know that He will work through us, because of us, and, sometimes, despite us. “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord told St. Paul. “My power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9).
Do you remember the poem, The Old Violin? It really applies to all of us. Let me recite it:
'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.
"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its bow.
"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Master’s Hand."
by Myra Books Welch
It’s not the violin that produced the music. It was the touch of the Master’s hand. The work of God is accomplished not because of you or me with all our dust and our loose strings. The work of God is accomplished because we allow God to use us to bring His music to the world.
It is imperative that we do not allow anything to limit our battle for Jesus Christ. That includes what others think about us and what we think about ourselves. It does not matter if others think less of us because we reject the immorality of many elements of our society. The society that matters to us is the Kingdom of God. It does not matter that we might appear to be a minority. Jesus never promised us that ours would be the majority opinion. He just promised us that He would be with us until the end of time.
Nor does it matter that each of us in our own way is weak. We have the Lord, and He has us. We witness His working both because of us and, sometimes, even despite us. He does the work, not us. That is when we really come to a recognition of His Power. His Power is made perfect in our weakness.
We are American Catholics. We love our country. We pray for our country. It is our responsibility as committed Catholics and as patriotic Americans to lead the United States to be a nation under God.