Catholics love to talk about the Church, and today’s Gospel is a great one. Yet, we must learn from the Gospel that the Church is built on personal faith. Specifically, it’s founded on the confession of faith given by Peter himself. Each of us must ground our faith in a similar personal encounter with Jesus. When we have a personal relationship with Jesus, then the Church helps this faith to become powerful. The Church gives that personal faith a communal direction. Today’s homily focuses on both of these important aspects of life in Christ.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses an encounter with a Canaanite woman to teach us about prayer. He delays answering her prayer immediately so that her desire might be increased. God does the same with us. He wants us to desire him. Sometimes is takes a long time of asking and even suffering. In the end, the answer to our prayer is not as important as our desire for God. He wants us to end up chanting as they did when St. John Paul II visited Warsaw, “We want God!”
How do you normally expect to encounter God? Each of today’s three readings point to three different ways that we might have such an encounter with God.
Leading up to and following the recent Supreme Court case involving Hobby Hobby I have seen many people on the left using the phrase “not my boss’s business” to describe their opposition. Liberals all over are now using this phrase and making the claim that the Supreme Court decision allows business owners to deprive women of contraception. I am fully aware that politicians are masters at taking facts and then twisting them to tell the story that they want their voters to hear.
I just wonder, with this case, will women realize that they are being treated as nothing more than pawns in a voting block. The very people that are yelling for the rights of women are really hoping that most women are stupid and will vote for them just because they yell the loudest for women. The facts of the Hobby Lobby case are pretty plain, but perhaps there is need to explain the way employment and compensation work. As simple as I can explain it, here is how it works:
- People want stuff (car, house, contraception, other medical care, etc.).
- There are two ways to get stuff:
- You buy it
- Someone gives it to you
- In order to buy stuff you get a job.
- When you consider taking a job, the potential employer will explain what compensation he or she is offering. This compensation comes in two forms:
- Other benefits
- Perhaps the “other benefits” include some of the “stuff” you want like:
- A company car
- Dental or Eyecare
- If there is some stuff that you want, or even “need,” that is not included among the “other benefits” then YOU MAY HAVE TO BUY IT.
- Given the “other benefits” provided, or lack thereof, one must then consider whether the salary is sufficient to buy all the stuff that one still wants/needs.
- If I know I need eyecare, I might be willing to work for a lower salary if the employer offers vision coverage since I won’t have to buy it.
- If I know I need food and the employer offers free meals in the cafeteria, that will influence my evaluation of my potential salary since I’ll have to buy less food.
- If I know I need healthcare and my employer DOES NOT provide it, then this will really effect how I look at the salary since I know I will also need to buy healthcare.
- Given the entire package of compensation, including salary and the value of all the extra benefits, YOU DECIDE if you will except that job.
- Note that the employer is not forcing a compensation package on you. YOU DECIDE.
- It is NOT YOUR BOSS’S BUSINESS how you spend your salary.
- It is completely your boss’s business what amount of compensation he or she chooses to offer.
The Hobby Lobby decision primarily centered on abortion causing drugs, but lets take the slippery slope all the way to the liberals’ extreme scenario of a Jehovah’s Witness employer excluding blood transfusions from the healthcare benefits he or she provides. The decision explicitly excludes this, but we’ll go with it. What would this mean for an employee?
- You might be a Jehovah’s Witness employee yourself and are very happy that your employer is not wasting money on things you don’t need.
- You might be someone who really thinks they want healthcare coverage for blood transfusions.
- This means that you will have to consider the fact that a part of your salary will now have to go to paying for a separate insurance rider to cover blood transfusions.
- Is this the end of the world? Does this deny you healthcare? No. It just means that you will have to use your salary to buy it instead of having it as part of your compensation package.
- In the end, YOU DECIDE if you are willing to work for the given salary considering the lack of a certain benefit which you will have to buy.
We make these decisions all the time when we accept a job. Most employers do not provide food, yet we certainly can’t live without food. Are employers denying people food by not providing it? No. Neither are employers denying anyone contraception by not proving it. The irony is that Hobby Lobby pays their employees so well that most low-level employees would actually come out better working at Hobby Lobby and paying for the contraception themselves. Why can’t reasonable people just deal with the facts of what the Hobby Lobby decision said rather than twisting it to tell some story that they hope their base will be stupid enough to believe?
The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. Listening to Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” while watching fireworks with friends and family always seems to bring a tear to my eye. This year I celebrated by exercising multiple constitutional rights, including going to Mass in the morning, going to a shooting range, blowing things up, and drinking some beer. I even managed to avoid having to quarter any British soldiers against my will (thank you 3rd amendment!).
This year’s Independence Day was also a little sobering. I fear that the freedoms we celebrate today may not be there for the coming generations. This past Monday the Supreme Court gave a narrow victory to religious people saying that, in certain narrow cases, we don’t have to pay for abortion, sterilization, and contraception. Yet, something so obvious as this, something so fundamental to the freedom of religion, carried the day by only a 5-4 margin. What’s even more alarming is that the most important issues in our society are being decided in courtrooms, by unelected rulers. The Executive and Judicial branches of our government, designed to be the weakest branches, now rule supreme. One can argue that we are no longer a republic.
This past Monday I admit that I celebrated a little to hear the Supreme Court’s decision. We’ve been losing so many of these battles in the courts. Yet, I was also sad that I have been reduced to the seemingly helpless position of waiting for the opinion of a few people on a court to decide the fate of our country. Hardly ever do we see a rally at the U.S. Capitol, the people’s house. No, we are constantly gathering outside the Supreme Court building, praying that the all-wise rulers from on high will benevolently grant us our rights.
On this Independence Day weekend, I look back and am grateful, grateful to have been raised in the time of some of the greatest moments in this country. I pray for our future. We can’t simply look to Washington to fix our problems. The real problems are in the hearts of each and every American. This country was founded on the idea that “we the people” are people of virtue. We are a nation of people that have time and again been willing to sacrifice our own interests and even our lives for the greater good of our country and of the world. I fear that we have now become a nation of selfish navel-gazers who only look out for ourselves and try to get as much as we can. No system of government can protect us from a citizenry that lacks virtue, nor can such a nation long endure.
It’s been two and a half years since the HHS mandate came down. Monday’s Supreme Court decision closes a certain chapter in the fight that began that day. There are more battles surrounding the mandate still making their way through the courts, but perhaps things may briefly head in the right direction on this issue. Two and half years ago the bishops of the United States came together with people of all faiths to defend our religious freedom. That Sunday I read a letter from Archbishop Naumann and gave a homily on religious freedom. I just listened to it again. I invite you to listen to it again as well. Then go listen to Lee Greenwood and be thankful, thankful that we still have the freedom to work for a better future for this great country.
The following homily was given to scouts gathered for Mass in the Chapel of the Twelve Apostles at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Missouri.
Lots of people are talking about the World Cup of soccer. It seems these days we really love our sports. We might therefore be happy to see that apparently St. Paul did too. He frequently uses sports analogies in his writings. In today’s second reading he sums up his whole life by saying he had “competed well” and “run the race.” We know a lot about sports, but how much do we know about our faith? We put a lot of effort into competing well on the field, but what about competing for the faith? Surely God expects as much effort out of us with regard to our faith as we would put into soccer. Today’s homily shows how even the World Cup can teach us something about life.
After appearing to his disciples for forty days after his resurrection, Jesus is asked, “Are you going to restore the kingdom now?” To the shock of the apostles, Jesus says instead that he is leaving. He says that it is better that he go, so that the Holy Spirit will come. Jesus doesn’t do the things that apostles might have been implying in their question. He doesn’t kick the Romans out. He doesn’t fix the world. He leaves. Yet, he promises, “I will be with you always.”
We too can find many ways in which we would like Jesus to come and “restore the kingdom,” to “fix the world.” Like with the apostles, Jesus doesn’t promise to fix all the problems we encounter in this world. Rather, he promises to be with us. He has sent us his Spirit, and in doing so is more present to us today than he was when walking the earth with his apostles. Pentecost is a chance to remember the presence of Jesus in his Spirit and hear his calming reassurance, “I am with you…peace.”
The following homily was given at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Olathe, KS
Right on the top of the parish web site for St. Paul’s are three big words: “Inspire. Educate. Evangelize.” These three words fit nicely with the celebration of the Lord’s Ascension which we celebrate today. First, this day is meant to inspire us. Heave is for real…and our lives are meant to be ordered toward this final end. Secondly, today is a chance to be educated and educate others about what heaven really is. It’s not a cookie for good behavior at the end of life. Heaven is about a relationship…one that starts now. If what we want most of all with our life is God, then we’ll have him for all eternity. If we prefer ourselves and “our way” more than God, then we’ll have that for all eternity. This we call hell. Finally, when we’ve found this relationship with God, we have to go share it. That’s what evangelization is all about. When we’re inspired and educated, then we are sent. Jesus has given us the power. Let’s go spread the good news.
The following homily was given at the Lumen Christi monastery of the Little Sisters of Lamb in Kansas City, KS
Our society today is very focused on romantic love. One would think that this is greatest love one could desire or find. Yet, when Jesus wanted to describe the love he had for his disciples, a love so great that it would cause him to lay down his life, he uses the word “friend.” Sometimes people of the opposite sex who are not romantically interested in each other will say that they are “just friends.” Today’s Gospel teaches us that there is no greater honor that you could ever have than to be someone’s friend.
The following homily was given at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS on the occasion of the closing of the “Scouting 500” gathering of scouts from all over the Kansas City area. Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn were present and I was the homilist.
Scouts know a lot about finding the way. We’re famous for it. Here are some thoughts that come to my mind when I think about scouting and finding the way:
1) While we scouts are famous for using a map and compass, a lot of us use GPS these day, especially in our cars. If you hit the “home” button on your GPS, no matter how lost you are, the GPS will calculate the perfect route home. If you take a wrong turn, it will automatically recalculate a new best route, which may not be the same as original best route. In life, we’re trying to get home too, but our home is in heaven. Like a good GPS, God has calculated the perfect route for our life. Yet, sometimes we take some wrong turns and even stop listening to the GPS. When we realize that we’re lost, we don’t need to try to find our way back, we just need to tell God we’re ready to head for home again and he’ll calculate a new best route. So don’t be surprised that the best way through life will most likely be a “recalculated” way.
2) The hard way is normally the best way. We scouts like hard. Anyone can sleep inside. We like to get outside, sleep on the ground, cook over a fire, and have fun doing it. Bad weather isn’t a letdown; it’s a challenge. Sometimes the colder and wetter it is, the more we rise to the challenge. Life throws lots of challenges at us. Jesus didn’t promise that it would be easy to be his followers. Quite the opposite. We scouts should make great disciples of Jesus because we’re not afraid of taking the hard way, even if not many others are going that way.
3) Don’t make things harder than you have to. Although we like hard, we also like being smart and going light. Backpacking is a true test of being smart about the challenges we take on. There is no reason to carry around a bunch of stuff we don’t need when backpacking. Philmont is the ultimate challenge for this. Twelve days with everything you need on your back. In my time at Philmont I’ve been surprised to discover just how little I really need to be comfortable and happy. As we go through life, we should also be careful about what we’re dragging along with us. Are we trying to acquire a bunch of “stuff” thinking it will make us happy? The truth is that we are most happy when we travel light through this world.
4) Freedom does not mean going in as many ways as possible. We are blessed with many opportunities and talents, and for young scouts especially there are so many things that you can do. Sometimes though we try to do too much. We’re afraid of missing out on something, so we play three sports at once, want to be in the band, on the debate team, in the play, in all these different clubs. In the end this leaves us not free, but exhausted. The most important decisions in life often come when we have to say no to one or more good things, so as to say a great yes to one thing. Finding your way through life will meaning saying no to many ways so that you can say yes to the way God has planned for you.
5) Finally, as we try to find our way through life, we are told in today’s Gospel that the way we are looking for is not some new technique or method. The “way” we are looking for is a person, Jesus Christ. He tells us plainly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This is an astounding statement. Lots of other religious figures have coming and gone proposing various “ways” that people might go. Jesus comes not with “a” way, but says there is only one way, “the” way. Most radically of all, he says that “the” way is really he himself. Jesus Christ is the only way. That means we’ve got to find this way and then go tell others about it. It’s worth it to say no to every other way to follow the one way that leads us to our ultimate home.