Thursday, July 13, 2017

"YOU WILL BE HATED BY ALL."


Homily for July 14th, 2017: Matthew 10:16-23.

          A priest fifteen or perhaps more years ordained, told me recently that he was concerned about the overly rosy image of priesthood being offered to today’s seminarians. The recruitment material sent out by Vocation Directors is full of success stories. The photos on the websites of today’s seminaries show young men laughing, smiling, and joking. None of this is false. Thousands of priests testify to the joy of serving God and his holy people as a priest. I’m happy to be one of them. The late Chicago priest-sociologist and novelist Fr. Andrew Greely said: “Priests who like being priests are among the happiest men in the world.” And he cited sociological surveys to back up that statement.

          The result of all this happy talk, my priest-friend told me, was that young priests who have a bad day, a bad week, or who encounter rejection or failure, start thinking that perhaps they have chosen the wrong vocation and should abandon priesthood. Jesus never promised his disciples that they would have only joy, success, and happiness. Our gospel reading today is about the price of discipleship. “You will be hated by all because of my name,” Jesus says. Only after these words warning about the cost of discipleship does he proclaim the good news: “But whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Friends, the days of socially respected Catholicism are over. Powerful forces and currents in our society press us to be ashamed of the Gospel — ashamed of our faith’s teachings on the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, ashamed of our faith’s teachings on marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Our courts, the entertainment industry, and the powerful shapers of opinion in today’s media, insist that the Church’s teachings are out of date, retrograde, insensitive, uncompassionate, illiberal, bigoted. They insist day in and day out that we who defend Church teaching are hateful people. They threaten us with consequences if we refuse to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. They command us to conform our thinking to their orthodoxy, or else say nothing at all.

Speaking a few years ago to a group of priests about the increasing secularization of our society, the late Cardinal George of Chicago said, in what he later admitted was an “overly dramatic fashion”: “I expect to die in bed; my successor will die in prison; and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” Mostly omitted by those who quote these words, is the good news which the cardinal spoke in conclusion: “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”