Reason# 24 – Martyrs have died to give us the faith. Every Sunday at Mass we recite the Creed: I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty…. I often think of the blood of Martyrs as I pray the Creed. They died for the faith that I can so easily take for granted. Others, though not suffering death lost property and jobs, or were imprisoned and disowned. For many of us in modern day America the idea of suffering death or extreme punishment for the faith seems remote. At worse, we are verbally scorned for our faith or laughed at; maybe a raised eyebrow or a smirk. We may suffer more in days ahead but for now, we have it easy compared to others. And consider this too, martyrdom is not something from the remote past. Many suffer intensely and are killed for the faith in many parts of the world even today. See how precious the faith was and is to them! They willingly suffered for it.
So here is an important reason to come home. The faith that we celebrate each Sunday is so precious that multitudes of martyrs down through the ages were willing to suffer extreme punishment, torture and death for it. Rolling out of bed on Sunday mornings may seem an inconvenience, living the faith may have its demands, but these things do not compare to what Jesus and the martyrs experienced to hand on the faith to us. When I roll out of bed early on Sunday morning to unlock the Church I may grumble at having to end my sleep. But others suffered far worse for me so that I could celebrate Mass and know that Jesus is Lord. When someone told them to be silent and not speak of Jesus they spoke anyway and suffered on account of it. My faith has come at great price and I think of that each Sunday, especially as I so easily say the Creed, a creed written in the Blood of Jesus and the Martyrs of every age. Come home to the faith of Jesus and the Martyrs.
Be careful of the following video. It is graphic in its depictions of the suffering of the early Christians in the Colosseum. But if you are able to look upon it, it is a powerful and moving depiction of the horrors they faced as they were thrown to the lions while hard hearted on-lookers were “entertained” by their sufferings. If this video is too much perhaps the second video will be more palatable.
In The Gospel in today’s Mass (Cycle B) is one of the most familiar texts of the New Testament. Many can quote it from memory: For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God sent not his Son in the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16). But it is interesting that most quote only the first part of the passage. But the second half contains a warning and announcement of the essence of our judgement. Jesus says, “Here is judgement, the light has come into the world but some have preferred the darkness….they hate the light and do not come near it.
It is a very profound teaching about the nature of our last judgement. And here is the teaching: In the end, our judgement is not so much about God’s decision as about ours. God wants to save us. But do we want to be saved? You might say, “Everyone wants to go to heaven!” But heaven is not just a place of our design, heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its perfection. The truth be told, there are many who do not love God’s kingdom! The Kingdom of God is about justice, mercy, love of enemies, chastity, mercy, truth, love of the poor, and so forth. There are things in this description that many hate! Many today hate chastity and calls for sexual purity. Many do not love the poor and stridently disagree with many fundamental and truthful teachings of the scriptures and the Church. But this is what the kingdom of heaven is! Yes, everyone wants to go to heaven, but it is a heaven of their own making, not necessarily the real heaven. Jesus says in the gospel today that some people hate the light. This is evident today. Hence this Gospel says two things. First, God wants to save us and invites us to His kingdom. Secondly, not everyone wants to live in God’s kingdom. The judgement in question is not God’s decision, but ours
If you’d like to listen to it my homily for today is here in mp3 format: Lighten Up!
In this homily we explore the following:
The desire that God has to save us.
But what do we desire? Jesus says some prefer darkness and hate the Light? What does he mean?
Our final judgement is ultimately God’s acceptance of our choice to love or hate the light.
But how is it that some end up hating the light? In effect they go to sleep, enter a moral night-time and come to hate the light like a grouchy sleeper who doesn’t want to wake up and who curses the morning light that bids them to get up.
Well then, walk in the light. Don’t go into moral darkness and sleep such that you grow so accustomed to the dark that you come to hate the light.
Reason # 21 – The Command. Not uncommonly today I hear some people say that they do not go to Church because they “don’t get anything out of it.” We can address the substance of this complaint in a moment but first it must be said that we don’t go to Church merely to get something out of it. We go because we are commanded by God to do so. The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” The Book of Leviticus spells the commandment out for us further: “For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly.” (Lev 23:3). Let’s be clear, God is not merely suggesting or requesting that we keep holy the Sabbath, he is commanding it. We are to avoid unnecessary work and to keep “sacred assembly,” Sacred assembly means, getting to Church. The notion that we should simply go because we get something out of it is rather an ego-centric approach and misses the more simple reason of obedience. We ought to go simply because God commands it.
Now we may wonder as to why God commands it. It remains true that God does not command things of us merely for arbitrary reasons. The most obvious answers as to why he commands it would seem to be these:
He has many graces to bestow on us at Mass
He knows we need community and fellowship in order to be spiritually healthy
We need to be instructed in his Holy Word
We need to be fed on his Body and Blood
Alone, we do not have all the gifts we need, but together and with Christ we have all the gifts we need.
We need the blessings and minsitry of the priest who acts in the person of Christ.
Now as to the point that some raise that they don’t get anything out of Mass there are many possible answers. I would first say that it is a call and reminder to the clergy and to parishes that the Mass and all liturgical celebrations should be well planned, beautifully celebrated, and reverently prayed. The Mass, well celebrated, should never be boring. Every priest or deacon who preaches should be prepared, enthusiastic and prophetic. The choirs, lectors, ushers and others should all be prepared and enthusiastic about what they do. Every priest should celebrate Mass with piety and devotion. So, in the first place I think that we who are tasked with planning and celebrating the Sacred Liturgy should take to heart the complaint that some (not a few) make when they claim to get little out of it.
However, it also remains true that in order to get something out of Mass, everyone has to come prepared and with plans to participate. The Mass is not spectator sport. We are all to pray and take part in the Sacred liturgy. We ought to grow in our understanding of the Mass over the years and be as attentive as possible. In the end, if we receive Jesus in Holy Communion can we really say we “got nothing out of Mass?” So here is a call to faith as well.
But let’s end where we started. We go to Mass in the first place because we are commanded by God to do so. Hence, even if the choir is off for the summer or my favorite priest is away on vacation, or the new pastor isn’t to my liking etc, we go anyway. We go because we love God and want to obey him. We don’t just go to get entertained. We go to worship God. And God is worthy of our praise, worthy of our obedience. Here’s a reason to come home: He’s worthy of our praise and our obedience.
Because of the hype surrounding Stem Cell Research, Catholic teaching on this matter is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The basic facts on Catholic teaching are these:
The Catholic Church does not oppose all stem cell research. We oppose embryonic stem cell research but we support adult stem cell research.
We oppose embryonic stem cell research because it involves the killing of a human being. Some may say it is only an embryo but, raise your hand if YOU started out as an embryo. The truth is that human life proceeds in stages from conception to natural death. No one of these stages is more or less sacred than another. At the moment of conception a unique human person is created. Everything we will physically ever be is present at the moment of conception. The truth is that every human person goes through stages. I spent time in my mother’s womb. When I was in my 20s I was young , tan and trim, lately I am more old, white and fat. I currently am 47, balding, graying, and carrying a bit more weight than I should. Before you know it I’ll be getting my AARP invitation. Before I least expect I will become a senior citizen and head into the autumn of my life. Every stage is sacred. We can’t just say, “Well, certain stages of human development are not deserving of our respect.
Adult stem cell research is a promising field and should be encouraged. In it we use our own stem cells which is safer and means that someone else doesn’t have to die to improve my life. Many cures already exist that have come from adult stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cell research has produced no cures. The body tissue produced through this procedure is unstable and tends to produce tumors. Further, and most importantly, another human being has to die so that I can possibly be cured.
Well, enough from me. I encourage you view the following videos when you have time. They set forth the basic Catholic teaching that we share with many other Christian denominations and others in the Scientific field.
This first video is six minutes in length and explains the opposition to embryonic stem cell research:
This second video (12 minutes in length) is produced by the Michigan Catholic Conference and expands on the first video