Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, January 27, 2019
Thirty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Let Us Trust in the Peace of Christ and Not Fear Public Opinion
Epistle: 1st Timothy 1:15-17
Gospel: Luke 18:35-43
Probably most of you have heard at least some news about what happened to a group of teenage boys from Kentucky last Friday, but if you have not let me give you the basics. A large group of boys from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky, went to Washington DC to take part in the annual March for Life. Afterwards they were waiting for their buses at the Lincoln Memorial when a small group of men who belong to an extremist group called the Black Hebrew Israelites began yelling nasty comments at the high school boys. After a while a nearby Indian protest group approached the boys. Their leader, along with a few others, worked his way into the middle of the group, beating a hand drum and stopping in front of one of the boys.
Not long after this, a video is posted on the Internet, edited to look as though this Native American man had been surrounded by these terrible boys who mocked him by getting in his face to taunt him. The Internet jury goes crazy as one after another news agency runs the story of horrible white Catholic boys abusing an elderly Native American who was a Vietnam veteran to boot. Only many hours later do other people post their own videos which show the real situation. The man beating the drum moved his way into the crowd of boys and stopped at this one boy beating his drum and chanting within inches of his face. And then, with a little research, we learn he wasn’t a Vietnam veteran after all. A genuine piece of fake news posted on the Internet and taken as fact by countless people in positions of trust and authority.
So I just want to remind us all how very careful we have to be about reading reports and watching videos on the Internet, and, of course, anywhere else as well. Not only will people lie and distort the truth, video film will be edited to make it seem that lies are the truth. Online bloggers and news agencies make their money by how many people go to their website and read and watch their postings. If you want to be paid you will have to draw big crowds by catching as many people as possible to come to your site. Boring news will not do that. And if that means what you post may not be true, well nobody’s perfect. My friends, let us be very careful how we use the Internet and very slow to judge when sensational stories come our way. It is very easy to let yourself get riled up, and not so easy to always find the truth.
And one more item about the kind of news that comes your way, or perhaps I should say, the news that doesn’t come your way. The very next night this same Native American man and his small band of supporters walked across the street chanting and banging and tried to get into the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception so that they could disrupt Saturday evening Mass which was being celebrated. Security guards stopped them at the door and locked the entrance while some of the group were banging on the doors. You would think this elderly Indian who was so famous the day before would attract media attention here. But no major news people were interested. Do we wonder why?
Worst of all, in my opinion, was the fact that just hours after the original edited video appeared on the Internet, claiming these Covington High School Catholic boys were taunting a peaceful Native American elder, the boys’ principal and their own bishop condemned them based on an Internet video lasting a few minutes. They believed what the what the people said who posted that video. Then the Archbishop of Louisville joins in to condemn them, along with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Cincinnati. They claimed the boys “violated the dignity and respect of the human person” but none of them gave a thought to the dignity and respect of their own children in this event. Why not?
Jesus spoke about shepherds who do not care about their sheep and who run away, abandoning their flock as soon as they see the wolf. In my thoughts these bishops acted in the same way as they could not wait to publicly condemn their own. It’s not the cunning wolf’s fault, the sheep brought trouble on themselves by looking so tasty. Now my point is not to be bishop-bashing. I am not the perfect pastor and as St. Paul wrote to Timothy, Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the first. But it is true in the Church we have many who are so afraid of the liberal elites of this country that they fear the disapproval of the New York Times more than they do the Gospel of Christ. Very few of them are willing to speak against and act upon the public sins of people considered to be important in our society. St. John Chrysostom was willing to face physical exile when he spoke the truth to power. So many of our bishops fear simple criticism from those who are the enemies of Christ’s Church. And let me say here, I do not believe we have a bishop like this.
When you read the original statements of these Church authorities on this event—except for the word “church”—you get no sense of Christian faith. Their words could have been written by the Humanist Club of America. Where is the flavor of the Gospel in their statements? And I think it is not surprising that when the Bishop of Covington finally met with the student body of the boys’ high school that the principal opened the gathering with a prayer, not the bishop himself.
So what are my points today, again? Dear friends, let us be careful about what we read and see in the news today, very careful not to take what is offered to us without question. Let us not think that every bishop is a good shepherd of souls and not be surprised when they show they care much more for themselves than they do for their people. And for pastors of parishes, as well; I must also care more for my flock than for myself, more for Christ than for public opinion.
And finally, in all these things, let us not allow ourselves to be too disturbed, to lose our peace in Christ. Yes, shocks and bad news and bad behavior will often come our way and we may be knocked back a bit when they hit us but let us not lose our peace in Christ. Jesus taught us that the world will hate us, but we should not be afraid because He has overcome the world. I think things will not get better for us in the future, when we see the Catholic-raised governor of New York lighting up the World Trade Center to celebrate abortion. Let’s not be surprised.
Instead let us rest all our hope, not some of it, not part of it, let us rest all our hope in Jesus Christ so that we can shine with His light as darkness grows and let us, one way or another, encourage our family, friends and neighbors to live in His light so that we might walk together to that home He is calling us to share. There’s a lot of confusion and sin out there, so may we, as sinners also, remember “Christ is among us! He is and always will be!”