Friday, May 26, 2006

It’s Your Choice: You Can Be ‘Consecrated In Truth’ Or ‘Desecrated In Lies’

Is yours a place of 'desecration'?

(Seventh Sunday of Easter (B): This homily was given on May 28, 2006 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Acts 1:15-26; John 17: 11-19.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Seventh Sunday of Easter 2006]

A teenager from Westerly High wrote this on his blog a couple of weeks ago:

Yesterday, at school, I was sitting in my Health II class as a guest speaker was talking about different laws regarding sexual behavior. As he reviewed the three levels of sexual assault, he alerted the class to the fact that fornication is indeed illegal, and although an offender probably wouldn't get locked up for it, there would be consequences if his or her actions were brought to court. The room became dead silent, and a heartbeat after he had made this statement, a young woman raised her hand and asked, "I don't understand. I thought that the Catholic Church was the only religion that forbade sex before marriage. How can the government impose morals on us like that?" The speaker was equally confused at the question, "Uh... It's the law. It's there to protect you. Morality has nothing to do with it." This was followed by a string of disagreements from the rest of the class, and we literally could not progress with the conversation because everyone would keep coming back to this.

I have it on good authority that two devils from hell were listening in on this discussion when it took place the other day. And as they listened intently they also laughed—like hell (if you’ll pardon the expression).

One said to the other:

Can you believe how stupid these humans are? Our father, Satan, told us we’d have great success in clouding their thoughts and poisoning their minds, but he didn’t tell us it would be this easy! And what a job we’ve done with this young high school student! We should be so proud (and, of course, we are!). She’s listened to all the lies and propaganda we’ve thrown at her in her music, and through the mass media, and she’s bought the whole package—hook, line and sinker! So much so that she now actually thinks that our enemy’s Church is against sex. Isn’t that amazing? She doesn’t realize that our enemy was the one who invented sex in the first place! He’s the one that said to the first man and woman, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

She also thinks that our enemy’s Church is anti-American and anti-freedom. That’s awesome, because it ultimately will cause her to leave her faith in church and keep it out of her everyday life as an American citizen.

And as if all this wasn’t good enough, she’s even come to believe the lie which says that law and morality are mutually exclusive categories! How great is that?!!! She’s been so deluded by us that she can’t see the obvious truth that every good law—good, that is, from our enemy’s perspective—is rooted in a moral principle!

But perhaps our greatest victory today was with this guest speaker who came to talk to her class. After all, he was the adult who should have set them straight! But out of fear—out of a desire to be ‘politically correct’—he only made matters worse! In talking about the law, he merely reinforced the teenager’s error when he said, “Morality has nothing to do with it.”

That was music to our ears, was it not?

Our father in the eternal flames will be so pleased with us for what we’ve done in this little Rhode Island town today. Perhaps he will give us a big de-motion for our efforts!

Let’s hope so!

“Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: ‘Father . . . I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.’”

We heard those words in today’s Gospel text from John 17.

This incident at Westerly High provides a vivid illustration of WHY Jesus prayed that prayer to his heavenly Father on the night before he died: He knew how prevalent the lies would be! He knew that the lies which can undermine faith and destroy virtue—and ultimately lead people to hell—are literally all around us! As we all know, the kind of interaction that took place in that classroom the other day on Ward Avenue also takes place on a daily basis in many other locations.

In his prayer in John 17, Jesus indicates that if we want to be kept from the evil one (in other words, if we want to be protected from his lies and evil promptings), we must be consecrated in the truth of the Gospel. In other words, we must know the truth, and believe the truth, and live the truth—by the grace of our Baptism. And that makes perfect sense, does it not? If we know and believe and live the Gospel message, we will be holy. And that holiness will keep us out of hell and get us into heaven when we leave this life!

But how do we know the truth? How do we know that what we’re hearing is the Gospel message in its fullness?

The simple answer is that we know the truth of the Gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the assistance of the magisterium of the Church. The magisterium is the teaching authority that JESUS established in his spiritual family. It consists of the pope and the bishops in union with him. When they teach as a body either in a council document or in some other official proclamation concerning faith and morals, they teach with the authority of Jesus Christ himself (which means that we’d better take what they say seriously!).

In this regard, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that today’s first reading was about the choosing of Matthias. That, I would say, was definitely arranged by the Holy Spirit. Matthias was the man who was chosen by God to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the 12 apostles, after Judas had committed suicide.

At one point in this scene St. Peter stands up and quotes a line from the book of Psalms (“May another take his office”), indicating that an office—that is to say, an official position in the Church’s magisterium—was vacant, and it needed to be filled as soon as possible, so that the truth in its fullness could be proclaimed as God wanted it proclaimed.

When Jesus indicates in John 17 that a person needs to be consecrated in truth in order to be protected from the evil one, he talking about the truth that would soon be taught by St. Matthias, and St. Peter, and the other 10 apostles—and by their modern-day successors, the bishops!

We find their teaching summarized, incidentally, in that book known as The Catechism of the Catholic Church. How often do you consult that most important reference book of Catholic teaching? Do you ever consult it?

The thought occurred to me as I was preparing this homily: Wouldn’t it be great if Catholics were as excited about reading the Catechism as many of them are about reading The DaVinci Code?

In The DaVinci Code they read lie after lie and they can’t get enough of it; in the Catechism they get the pure, unadulterated truth, and they want nothing to do with it.

How tragic—and how revealing!

When I read that story on that teenager’s blog the other day, I realized that all of us, young and not-so-young, face a very simple but challenging choice throughout our lives: We can choose either to be consecrated in truth by following the Church’s magisterium, or we can choose to be desecrated in lies by listening to the world.

Consecrated in truth or desecrated in lies.

Jesus wants us to choose the first—he prayed for that on the night before he died. The two little devils from hell and their diabolical father want us to choose the second.

By the grace of God may we all choose “consecration” and not “desecration”—today and every day.