Shaking Up the Church

A recent batch of WikiLeak documents reveals high-level Clinton campaign officials and supporters suggesting that that political forces should engineer a so-called “Catholic Spring” to rebel against the “middle-ages dictatorship” of the Catholic Church (folks like me, I’d guess). The emails also indicate that organizations have been formed and funded to divide the Church, apparently with the approval and support of these same high-level operatives.

Various writers have ably pointed out how egregious are such plans to interfere with the inner life of the Roman Catholic Church. They explain that this represents a serious breach in relations between Church and state, a disregard for basic human rights and liberties, and a special mark of contempt for Catholics as well as Evangelicals. I agree with these views. I also have to note at the outset the across-the-board moral bankruptcy of the current presidential campaign. At the same time, I’d like to take the discussion in another direction.

WikiLeaks revealed political operatives hoping to shake up the Church so that it would be conformed to their view of the world. Truth to tell, the Church does need to be shaken up, but not in the way these politicos imagine. It’s Pope Francis who’s shaking up the Church in a good way through an approach far different from that of these operatives. If we follow the Pope’s lead, not only will the Church be strengthened, so too society will become a more just, peaceful, and merciful place. Let me offer a few examples.

All it takes is a look at a recent report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to know that powerful political forces insist that the Church’s social service institutions be mere extensions of the government, with a moral compass indistinguishable from that which drives government policy. But Pope Francis insists that Catholic charitable and social service institutions must be more than mere NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). Rather, they must bind up the wounds of society with the compassion of Christ who alone fully reveals the dignity of each person. The Pope teaches us to think of the Church as a field hospital, and his arresting image highlights what Catholics bring to our public work: love of our neighbors rooted in our love of God. That’s not something on offer from the government.

Powerful political forces seek to provoke strong opposition to the Church because of its teaching on marriage as between one man and one woman. Yet Pope Francis called not one but two synods on marriage because it’s urgent that we strengthen the vocation of marriage and family life. His beautiful exhortation on marriage, “The Joy of Love,” guides married couples, the young, and the Church’s pastors in renewing marriage and family in our day. In fact, he’s jolting us out of our complacency as the true meaning and purpose of marriage are obscured and family life continues to break down. Pope Francis knows that it’s the young and the poor who will suffer disproportionately if this societal trend continues. Healthy societies and a healthy Church rest on healthy families.

Powerful political forces ridicule the Church’s teaching that one’s biological sex and one’s gender cannot be separated. They would force the Church to abandon a most elemental teaching of faith and reason: “male and female He created them.” But Pope Francis has forcefully challenged contemporary gender theory because he knows it’s the potential undoing not only of marriage but of a right understanding of human identity and dignity. When young people were told “you can be anything,” it used to mean that a wide range of careers was open to them. Now it means you can be a man or a woman or some other version of sexuality and that you can, God-like, create your own alternative universe. Pope Francis knows this is false and he wants us to make sure we know it, too.

Powerful political operatives have suggested that well-educated, professional people embrace the Catholic religion because it is more acceptable than the evangelical churches, thus insulting both faith communities. They have derided Catholics who take seriously the Christian formation of their children, who have had their children baptized in the Jordan River (where Christ was baptized), and who advance principles of Catholic social teaching such as subsidiarity (which stresses the importance of addressing problems and issues at the local level when possible). It doesn’t seem to occur to these political operatives that many people embrace religious faith because they actually believe it to be true and good.

Here, too, Francis is out to shake up the Church by calling us to authenticity, to become missionary disciples who go out to the margins. He’s challenging each of us truly to encounter the living Christ and to embrace the Gospel with enthusiasm, prompting us to compassionate action outside the sanctuary, at risk not only to our social standing but even to our personal security. He is urging us to be not only true believers but indeed the Lord’s messengers who bring the joy and healing of the Gospel to the peripheries of society.

These political operatives aren’t seeking to shake up the Church; they’re seeking to domesticate it. Pope Francis wants to revitalize it. Where the tactics of these operatives reveal a view of religion as something to be informed by political values, the Holy Father, in his book “On Heaven and Earth,” makes the case that religion should be informing politics with values, not engaging in partisan politics. Let’s follow his lead, not theirs.

Wednesday, Octave of Easter; 25th Anniversary of The Gift of Hope

“It is a joy to share with you this wonderful anniversary – the 25th Anniversary of The Gift of Hope – and to do so in the midst of the Octave of Easter, the intensely joyful eight-day celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. It’s like having eight Easter Sundays in a row!

“Easter is preeminently a celebration of hope. As Pope Francis notes, hope is not mere optimism that things will get better. Rather, hope is a gift that enables us to trust in the Lord’s promises, to experience the new life of grace here on earth, in the midst of our trials, while pressing ahead toward the fullness of life in heaven. St. Teresa of Calcutta, at Cardinal Keeler’s invitation, established this home on the foundation of the hope that is ours in the Risen Lord. Indeed, it was only a few weeks ago that we commended Cardinal Keeler to the Lord and I like to think that Mother Teresa greeted him upon his arrival in eternity – and that the Cardinal was even happier to see her there than when he welcomed her to Baltimore a quarter century ago . . . We pray that Cardinal Keeler now experiences the fulfillment of all he hoped for, in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Easter Sunday 2017 Homily

“John the Evangelist’s account of the Resurrection tells how Mary Magdalene came the tomb of Jesus while it was still dark. There she found the stone removed from his burial place. The Gospel of Matthew also tells how the stone was rolled back as do the evangelists Mark and Luke.

“Upon seeing the stone rolled back, Mary Magdalene’s first thought is not that the Lord had been raised from the dead but rather that someone had stolen the Lord’s body. In fact, widespread rumors of a grave-robbery were used by the authorities of the day to explain why the stone was rolled back and the tomb was empty. Yet the evidence offered by the burial cloths inside the tomb tells another story. It is unlikely that grave robbers would have unbound Jesus hand and foot and equally unlikely they would have neatly rolled up the burial cloths and put them in a separate place. No, all this doesn’t look like the work of robbers but rather the handiwork of God in whose Spirit Jesus was raised from the dead.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Holy Saturday Vigil Homily: Unearthing Jesus

“Perhaps it’s just me – but I often experience Holy Saturday as a day of deep silence, a haunting stillness. After the joy of the Last Supper and the immeasurable sorrow of the Crucifixion, Holy Saturday commemorates the day when Jesus lay in a borrowed tomb. As Jesus’s friends and followers attend to the details of his burial, and the tomb is sealed with a great stone – a certain heaviness hangs in the air … surely for the disciples who participated in that event so long also but also for me and I daresay for many others living at the present time.

“For, on Holy Thursday, as Jesus sat at table with his disciples, we felt the warmth of the Upper Room, even if betrayal was in the air. As Jesus wept in the Garden for our sins, we could at least make a feeble attempt to pray along with him. As Jesus walked toward Calvary and was hoisted upon the Cross, we could at least ‘look upon him who was pierced’. But on Holy Saturday, the Savior lay in the tomb. The Redeemer is hidden. We feel his absence. There is a chasm of silence. Even the world around us somehow seems a little less noisy.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Good Friday Homily: “The Good Friday Leadership Institute”

“Leadership is a hot topic these days. There is endless commentary about political leadership around the world. Opinion leaders delight in demonstrating that such leaders have feet of clay – that is to say, for all their power and influence, these leaders have some fatal flaw that could bring them down. The spotlight directs its glare also onto another form of leadership – celebrities. Like it or not, celebrities from the sports and entertainment worlds greatly influence the character and direction of the culture we live in. Some live virtuously and serve generously; others display arrogance and vulgarity.

“In the meantime, people of all persuasions are uneasy about the culture we live in. Almost everywhere there is a cry for better leadership. We look for good leadership in government, education, healthcare, business, and, yes, the Church. We want parents to be good leaders for their children And while it’s not easy to be a good leader in today’s jaded and cynical culture, the fact remains, every community needs and deserves good leadership.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Holy Thursday Homily: “Connecting the Dots”

“We’ve all heard the expression, “connecting the dots”. It’s a popular way of speaking and so it’s not very exact. In general, though, it refers to the human experience of coming to see how things and persons are related one to another. For example, I might meet the father of a family in one church, greet the mother of that same family in another parish, and visit their children in a Catholic school. Then, one Sunday, the whole family comes to church together. Previously I had no idea they were members of the same family but now I do. Having connected the dots, I have a better chance to get to know this family better.

“Connecting the dots can be exciting – as when we discover interrelationships in and among various branches of knowledge. Connecting the dots can also be illuminating; for example, while praying quietly we might discover how one vice gives rise to another or how one virtue reinforces another. I consider these prayerful “eureka moments” a special gift from God.”

Read the complete homily HERE.

Statement from Archbishop Lori following the deaths of 44 Egyptian Coptic Christians on Sunday

Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore, issued the following statement following the deaths of 44 Egyptian Coptic Christians on Sunday:

“The murder of so many innocent Christians, coming on the first day of Holy Week, is a horrific reminder of the religious persecution that still takes place in many parts of our world today.  As we prepare to mark the persecution and crucifixion of our Lord, Jesus, I invite all people of faith to remember these 44 modern day martyrs and the loved ones they leave behind and to pray for the protection of religious freedom throughout the world and for an end to terror and religious persecution.”

Palm Sunday Homily: In Praise of the Lowly Donkey

“The editors of the popular worship-aid known as Magnificat, published a wonderful Palm Sunday reflection by St. Francis de Sales. Its point of departure is the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem. With apologies both to Magnifcat and St. Francis de Sales, I’d also like to make that donkey my point of departure for this brief homily.

“I’d note in passing that few of us have firsthand experience with donkeys but that doesn’t stop us from having a low opinion of them. We may think of donkeys as stubborn and unintelligent and of little worth. Evidently, Jesus didn’t see it that way. When Jesus entered the City of Jerusalem, he chose to ride a donkey. What did he see in the donkey what we don’t? Let me suggest three qualities:”

Read the complete homily HERE.