26th Sunday in Ordinary TimeCycle B
Stop them, Moses, they’re doing it all wrong.
Didn’t Moses know that these things had to be done a certain way? Only certain people were authorized to prophesize. There were rules to follow. These people over here are doing it right, those there are doing it wrong. As if God were limited by human beings on whom he chose to bestow his Spirit.
It is we who place limits on God’s grace. Not God. God wants all his people to be prophets. God calls everyone to prophesize his good news to everyone, not just while sitting in churches. Especially those who remain in the camp. The camp is our everyday lives. That’s where we are called to prophesize the most. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone was a prophet of the truth of the gospel just to those around us?
I think that has been the message of Pope Francis. It has been a regular Popeapalooza this week, hasn’t it? All Francis all the time. His message is one of mercy and less on the trappings of faith. Get out among the people and evangelize to them where they are. Bring the gospel to the world, since that’s where most of the people are. In the camp, not in the church. He has been a living example of that gospel himself. And it is wonderful to see how the world is reacting to him, no matter the reason. Is Francis just the latest celebrity. I hope not. All I really know is that he is a prophet, and everything he is saying and doing is calling us to also be prophets, especially to those on the peripheries of society. Exactly the same way Jesus did.
People are being moved to tears just to be in his presence. But surveys are showing that there is no real “Francis effect” yet, meaning folks are not returning to the pews because of him. There is still 30% of the American public who have become “nones” in the past ten years; people who have left the church and now profess no belief.
Some things are just not priorities and are not necessary for salvation. Too many times we get hung up on those things and overlook what is necessary. In some things it doesn’t matter if you get it just right. That’s what mercy is all about. But it is important to get it right in the things that truly matter. We are called to pass on the correct teachings of Jesus, as given to us by the apostles. It matters because our salvation depends upon it. There is a plan and there is truth. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all the nations, and teach them everything he has commanded us. Not just those commandments that are easy or that we agree with. They are commandments, after all, not suggestions.
It does matter what you believe and how you pass that on to others, especially to our children. I think we parents will be most harshly judged on how well we have prepared our children for heaven. You know, that’s the first and most important job of a parent, to help our kids get to heaven. I think our generation will be most harshly judged. At least our parents gave us some sort of Catholic identity. We have abandoned even that to the god of political correctness, and the result has been empty pews.
Are we doing it all wrong? Jesus is pretty harsh in condemning those who lead the little ones to sin.
There are two ways to get it wrong with our children. First, by our inaction and inattention. Do we teach them anything at all about their faith? Do we live up to the promise we made at their baptism that we will be their first and best teachers in the ways of faith? Or do we leave it up to the catechists who we take them to for 45 minutes once a week, until they get confirmed, then they’re on their own? We have over 500 children in our religious education programs here at St. Mary’s. Where are they today? They can’t drive themselves here.
What are we teaching them when we don’t come to Mass ourselves every week? What are we teaching them when we allow all the other activities in our lives to change our priorities? When they stand before Jesus, will he care if they were great soccer players or skiers? I hear all the time from parishioners that their greatest pain in life is that their children have left the faith. Well, what did they do themselves to give them a reason to stay? We would never dream of letting our children decide whether or not to go to school, because we know how important an education is for their success in this world. Why do we not think that their spiritual formation is that important? Is it because it is not that important to us?
And our responsibility to raise our children in the faith doesn’t stop once they’re confirmed. Studies show that the vast majority of adults between 18 and 30 who leave the Church lose their faith while at college. How could they not, with the pressures there to question their beliefs and replace them with…what exactly? Even if you have been doing everything right since they were little, I don’t know how you can fight the tide of secular society. We all struggle just to keep up. We are all trying our best to be faithful. But, how many of us with adult children even know what they believe? When was the last time you discussed your faith and theirs with them? When was the last time you prayed with them? How are you helping them raise your grandchildren for heaven?
If you look at all the social and moral hot buttons today, surveys show that Catholics hold the same basic beliefs as the general population. We have bought into the conventional wisdom of the day. We are not counter-cultural; we are the culture. We watch the same television shows and movies, listen to the same degrading music, and when the social activism d’jour pops up that turns everything on its head, we not only cower before it, we embrace it and wonder why our Church can’t keep up with the times. And then we complain and blame when our children leave.
And that’s how we lead the little ones astray. Is it because we do not know enough about our own faith to know that what we’re embracing is wrong? Wrong for our spiritual, mental and emotional health and wrong for humanity? Spirituality abhors a vacuum. If we do not fill that hole in our souls with the living God, then other things, unhealthy things, will fill it for us. Society will fill it for us.
Jesus slams the false teachers pretty hard today. If you do anything to lead a simple believer to sin it would be better if you were dead. Not just dead, but thrown into the sea with a huge stone tied around your neck. Dead and gone to the deep, forgotten. Jesus didn’t often get this graphic. He said something like it one other time, when talking about his betrayer. “It would be better if he had never been born”. Non-existence was preferable to the sin of betrayal. And that is what leading someone astray really is; a betrayal. Betrayal of the sacred trust given us by God to learn the truth about Him and then faithfully pass that on to others, especially to our children. That sacred trust calls us to be prophets.
Is Jesus just speaking in hyperbole today? I don’t think so. And he wasn’t given to euphemisms, either. Sometimes he could be pretty blunt.
If your technology causes you to sin because you are more concerned with answering that text than you are about hearing about what your son did in school today, cut it off.
If your viewing pornography has distorted the way you view your spouse to the point where you cannot be satisfied in your relationship any more, cut it off.
If your political beliefs have become so hardened that you cannot even bear to be in a relationship with someone with a different point of view, pluck them out.
If you judge yourself superior to another Catholic because they do not live up to your understanding of piety, cut it out.
If you have so bought into the conventional wisdom of our secular society that you reject the most basic teachings of your church because you know better, pluck it out. Even worse if you attack and try to destroy those who try to be faithful to them.
It is better that you enter heaven without these things then to enter Gehenna with them. Let go of what is keeping you from prophesying the truth. Let go of what is keeping you from being an effective, loving witness - a Francis - to those in your everyday world. To everyone. To those left in the camp. Especially to the children.