Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, October 7, 2018
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
The Truth to Live and Die For
Epistle: Galatians 1:11-19
Gospel: Luke 7:11-16
St. Paul says today, “Brothers, I want you to know that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul’s conversion was certainly a dramatic one and he wants to emphasize the fact that he wasn’t convinced that Christ is the Son of God because others convinced him that it was true. Jesus personally convinced him that He was the Son of God. We did not have that same kind of experience but that does make our faith any less important.
Paul makes it clear that this Christian faith he believes in, preaches and teaches is not faith created by the imaginations of people. It is a faith that is true and real. A faith in God the Father and the Holy Spirit confirmed by God the Son. It is not one version of the truth, but simply the truth. I think it is good for us to be reminded of that from time to time—that what we believe is true, and it has been revealed to us by God Himself.
Today for many people whether or not there is a God and whether or not Christianity tells us the truth about God is not very important to them. It is not so much that people reject God, deny His existence or believe the Christian faith is wrong. They may believe in God, they may even consider themselves to be Christian. But it makes very little difference in their own lives. Now stack that up against the witness of the two martyrs we remember today, Sergius and Bacchus. Men of high rank in the Roman army, believers in Christ, who were willing to undergo torture and death rather than deny Christ. They believed in a life after this life and were willing to give up this life so they would not lose eternal life. And so all the martyrs were the same. That is a faith that has a great deal of weight. The weight of their very lives.
And notice why they were killed. The Romans too had a system of pagan gods and most Roman families prayed to their household gods every day. Christianity was opposed to the Roman system, and the Romans believed in the importance of their gods. So much so that if you taught that the pagan gods were false it was an act of treason. People took their faith seriously. And why not?
It’s a different situation in our society today. Certainly there are atheists and some people who are anti-Christian. But for the most part the majority of people find little place for active faith in their lives. They may believe in God but on a daily basis it has little impact on how they live.
If we look around our society in so many places, where do we see many examples that there actually is an active Christian Church? Sergius and Bacchus kept their faith secret because it was considered almost a type of suicide to openly declare your belief in times of persecution. And yet at this same time if you were accused of being a Christian during a persecution and you denied it you committed the deadly sin of apostasy.
Where do you find evidence of faith in films, TV and public culture? Where in our newspapers or magazines, unless it’s about a scandal? Why are marathons and children’s sporting events held on Sunday mornings? Why not Saturday mornings? I remember one time I was asked to serve Mass at a rural parish because there was no priest that weekend. The tiny parish shared a priest with one or two other parishes and so they only had Mass on Saturday afternoons. It was summer time and a woman told me a lot of the kids wouldn’t be at Mass because they had their baseball games on Saturday afternoons. Now I sure can’t complain about Saturday baseball games, but if that’s the only time your kids can go to Mass don’t you think you are teaching them a lesson here about their faith and its place in their lives if they play sports instead of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ?
If we believe our faith in Jesus Christ is true should we not base our whole lives on that truth? And if our faith is true should we allow secularism to weaken it or downplay it for ourselves and our families? I understand the pressure to fit in, to not want to stand out, to seem like “normal people” and to go with the flow is a very strong pressure. But what does it lead to? Bishop Benedict wrote, “People don’t want to seem odd or different most of the time. They want to fit in. They want to do what everybody else is doing and trust that will work. But one day the people shout ‘Hosanna’ and the next day they shout ‘Crucify Him!’ Shouldn’t we put all our trust in what Christ says to us? Because what He says to us will never change, and it is always, always for our good.”
So why do I bring all this up? I think it’s good that every so often we make an affirmation of our faith for ourselves and to God. I think very few people suddenly reject belief in Christ and His word, even though sometimes it may appear that way. It is almost always a rejection, or a neglect or a denial that comes piece by piece and little by little people pulling away. And as pressure from society to accept behaviors and ideas that are contrary to our faith, I think it is good, every so often that freely and with conviction recommit ourselves to Christ’s truth and to His Church. Today’s a good day to do that. When we sing the words of the Creed today let us do it with a true focus on our faith, a genuine sense of believing and a renewed commitment to Christ our Lord, that this is the truth I want to live in today and tomorrow. This is the truth I want to die in. This is what I live and believe. O Lord grant me the grace to always do so.