Homily for September 4th/5th – Fear Not!
“Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!”
Fear is thick in the air right now. Fear about the coronavirus. Fear about inflation. Fear about Afghanistan. Fear about potential lockdowns. Fear at the grocery stores, fear at the schools, fear at Church and on and on.
And God breaks into our day and says to us whose hearts are frightened: “BE STRONG, FEAR NOT!”
“How could He possibly say that?” we might ask. And it is here I’d like to give a brief medical update. My tumor surgery went well but they had to leave about 20% of the tumor in there. The type of tumor I have is considered curable with radiation and chemo, but the infection that I suffered from the first surgery delayed radiation and chemo for about 2 months, and so the radiation and chemo did not make much of a dent in the tumor at all. And I have decided that if the tumor ever starts to grow back, I will let nature take its course. It some ways I feel like chemo therapy on your brain is worse than death. Also, I have prayed that if it is God’s Will, that I might be allowed to make the ultimate sacrifice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and harassment and assault – I have asked that God might allow me to offer my life up completely, but with the caveat that makes all the difference…”not my will but Yours, Lord, be done.”
And here is the thing: I am at total peace. I could be miraculously healed, I could live another 10 years, or I could only have 1 year left, or Christ could return tomorrow. When I first got word at Mayo Clinic about my tumor, I knew the tumor was an answer to a prayer that I had made to be able to suffer for clergy sex abuse/harassment/assault victims. But as I’ve moved through the last two years, I’ve realized there may be another benefit – to get to show people how to die without fear. How to face down the very real prospect of death and not blink, but rather be thankful to God for all his blessings! The blessings that have come about these last 2 years have been TREMENDOUS and almost too many to count.
1) I got away from social media, which I can’t recommend enough. The whole playing field of social media is slanted, not against a particular political party or ideology so much as it is slanted against REALITY! And Catholicism is meant to be lived in community, not lived online.
2) In stepping away from the parishes, I got a fresh view of my priesthood. I have put things back in their proper order, started praying with purpose again, seeking the Face of the Lord with all my being, maybe for the first time,
3) cutting out TV, and movies and the radio…
4) I downgraded to a dumb phone.
All these changes have given me enough space to breathe and I am actually able to answer the phone sometimes at the parishes. In a word I am more at peace now than I have ever been.
I would also like to say here that the Catholic Church teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church. Modern theologians have debated about what exactly that means. Instead of arguing exactly how expansive the pool of the Church is, and whether or not a person with one pinky toe in the shallow end of the pool is in the Church, I would like to refocus the discussion on the need to dive into the deep end of the Church. If you have fallen away from the Church, come back and go to Mass every weekend unless you are sick. Confess your sins at least once a year. If you aren’t Catholic yet, become Catholic. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and it pointed me, in college, away from a lukewarm Catholicism and allowed me to hear the Call to become a priest. But I would not have the strength to face death down without the Sacraments of the Church.
And I want everyone to know that strength.
The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist,
the unbelievable freedom that comes from confessing your sins to a priest,
the anointing of the sick.
I have prayed throughout that if it be God’s will, I have a priest praying the Apostolic Pardon over me as I lay dying.
Become Catholic. Whether you have fallen away from the Church or are not Catholic yet, do not let the sins of others stop you from knowing what I know swimming in the deep end of the Church.
The fact is any of us could die tomorrow, and we need to be ready. There is no room for fear in the heart of a true follower of Jesus and the Church He established as His Bride. Our knees may buckle briefly at the prospect of dying, but we need to carry on without fear. As God says through Isaiah – “Fear not! Here is your God. He comes with vindication to save YOU!”