Monday, September 29, 2014

Homily - "You are good and you are loved"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

We had some excitement at Kogan Plaza on Wednesday as you might have "overheard (at GW)". Four men were preaching in the name of Christ all day with a bullhorn, but they weren't preaching Christ’s love. They were holding up the Bible, but misrepresenting it, misinterpreting it, and misusing it. When I walked up, they were saying Catholics aren't Christians.  Within a few minutes, I was being told that I perform "witchcraft" with the sacraments.  There was a small crowd of students there, most of whom were bewildered and angry.  Some came up to me to join forces, and really to urge me to speak to the men which I did. My first question to them was, "what are you trying to do here?"

What offended me most was not being called a witch or sorcerer or magician or whatever personal attacks they launched. (Btw, the one guy apologized for his personal attacks).  The thing that offended me the most was that they didn't even know you, and they were condemning you.  In twenty plus years of doing youth ministry, I've learned that you have to first establish trust, respect, and love with young people before you can preach to them....before you can reach them.  Those men were there just to preach, not to reach.

The second most offensive part of their "preaching" was that it was faith without reason.  They were unreasonable in their approach (preaching and not reaching), but also in the points they made.  The man on the bullhorn exclaimed, "baptism doesn't save!", while holding a Bible. In our conversation, I pointed out that the Bible says, "whoever is baptized will be saved" (Mk 16:16).  His main point was that we don't need the Church or the sacraments.  I pointed out that Jesus said we need the Eucharist in John 6: "unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (53,54).  To that he said: "you make a good point".

There were about twenty to thirty students gathered around him and me while we discussed these things.  So, while I was focused on talking with him, I was really teaching them....many of whom were Catholic.  One came up to me afterwards and asked, "so, when did Jesus give his power to the Apostles?" Matthew 16, Matthew 18, Luke 10, John 20, and other places, I answered (and had quoted all this to the man).  He then asked, "how did they give it to others?" I said, "they ordained other priests and passed on the power...for 2000 years. It's called Apostolic Succession". He was taking notes at this point, looked up, and said, "Apostolic Succession! That is so cool!".  Yes, it is very cool! So, all that plus the positive media coverage showed that God brought good out of this bad situation.

Tonight's second reading says, "humbly regard others as more important than yourselves". Those men were on Wednesday primarily for themselves, not for you.  They were there to preach just to preach, not preach to reach.  Jesus mentions John in the Gospel; St. John the Baptist preached a tough message.  But, he reached tax collectors and prostitutes. They changed after hearing his preaching.  He preached "tough love".  But, those who heard it knew that he loved them.  What we heard on Wednesday was not tough love; it wasn't love.  It was just...tough.

Finally, I would really like to start a campaign of t-shirts or signs that say, “YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED”.  I have heard that these men come to campus regularly, although Wednesday was the first time in five years that I’ve seen them here.  Let’s be ready the next time they come with signs or shirts.  Students protested with signs the other day, and I wish that I had thought to make a sign saying “YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED” and hold it next to the men.  That is the message to give to young people, especially college students.  That is Christ’s attitude toward you, first and foremost! Everything starts there, and then later we get into more challenging stuff.  I will challenge you this year to say “yes” to Christ.  I will challenge you to say no to premarital sex and drunkenness, but will more emphasize saying yes to chastity, self-control, and virtue…to freedom.  I will encourage you to say yes to Christ!  On Wednesday, all you heard preached was “no”.  Who’s going to choose that? It’s much more attractive to say yes to good than to say no to bad. I will challenge you to say yes to Christ and what’s good because that is what is best for you.  When you love someone, you want what is best for them.  You know that I love you. You know I want what is best for you.

“Have the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus”.  Believe deeply in your hearts and minds what He thinks of you: YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED.


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