Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finding the prophetic love of God

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Peace be with you. On July 28th of last year, Pope Francis was on his way back from World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro when he was asked a question about a controversial Italian priest who was being accused of having inappropriate relationships with men. The Pope answered the questioned very thoroughly but there was one part of his answer that has absolutely captivated the media. The Pope said

“If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?

I imagine most of you have heard about this quote…or at least part of this quote. The problem is that five words out of this answer became the entirety of what the Pope said, namely, “who am I to judge.” The media made it sound like the Pope was changing church teaching in this off-hand comment. They treated him like he was a president deciding that he was no longer going to enforce laws that are on the books. In truth, as you just heard, Pope Francis was simply attempting to articulate the old teaching using new words. He was trying to be a prophet.

Our readings today invite us to listen to two great Prophets. First, we hear the Prophet Isaiah say that from his Mother’s womb the Lord challenged him to reach out to the ends of the earth. The message of God isn’t intended to be hoarded by a few people, a privileged minority. God wants his message to reach out to all parts of this world, to everyone. This is echoed in the Gospel when John the Baptist says that Jesus is the very embodiment of this message, the one who will take away the sin of the entire world.

The challenge, of course, in today’s world is that, for many, the message isn’t all that new and doesn’t seem to affect their daily lives. Many have written it off and no longer follow the teachings of the church in lieu of their own teachings. And, oftentimes, when the media sets the context for the debate, it does so by asking questions intended to make the church’s teachings untenable. For instance, this week we will remember the horrific Supreme Court decision of Roe V. Wade. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will protest this decision in Washington DC and will be either completely ignored by the media or will get equal time with the hand full of pro abortion protestors present. And, if any media outlets do dare to go deeper, they will focus on the topics of rape and incest and will use phrases like “a woman’s right to choose” and “women’s reproductive health” instead of “infanticide” or “murder of innocent children.” Pro lifers will be painted as a group of old, sexist men determined to make women second-class citizens instead of focusing on the actual participants in the March who are overwhelmingly women.

The problem is that we see abortion through a political prism with Democrats and Republicans putting their own political spin on it. However, abortion is a justice issue. It is an issue at the core of human dignity. It calls for prophets to stand up and remind people that life has dignity, that a fetus doesn’t get dignity because of the desire of parents but has it because of its nature as human life. We need prophets to listen to the voice of God and preach respect of human life to the ends of the earth. That’s our job as Christians: to remind people that the important thing in life is the respect for the dignity of the human person from natural conception until natural death.

The message that we hear from the prophets and, in the end, are invited to profess, is that God loves us and that God loves us so much that he wants to enter into a profound relationship with us. We are not his pets. Earth is not his ant farm. We are his sons and daughters in dignity. He not only knit us together in his image and likeness in the womb, but he set us up to have a special place in this world. God loves us so much that he wants to be in a relationship with us throughout the entirety of our lives. He walks with us and invites us to get to know him and love him, not as a fickle god that punishes us when we don’t do what he wants. But as a God that freely offers himself to us in this Eucharist, in the sacraments, and in our personal prayers. There are so many people who don’t know of the love God has for them. This week, make it a point to let other people know how much God loves us.