(Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 20, 2014 at St. Pius X Church,
R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read
Matthew 22: 34-40.) Westerly
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Thirtieth Sunday 2014]
It was “Love Week” at St. Pius.
I’m talking about the 7 days beginning on Monday, October the 13th and ending on Sunday, October the 20th.
To be sure, nobody actually called it that when it was happening; this is a name that I’m giving to those 7 days now in retrospect.
Because that’s really what the week was!
In today’s gospel reading from Matthew 22, a Pharisee asks Jesus a question. He asks him which commandment of the law is the greatest. Our Lord responds by saying that the greatest commandment is to love Almighty God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. But he doesn’t leave it at that; Jesus immediately makes reference to a second commandment which is just as binding as the first, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
And what does it mean to love your neighbor?
Here’s where many people in our modern world get things all mixed-up. For example, to some men and women in our country right now to “love your neighbor” who is terminally ill means to give that person the drugs they want so that they can kill themselves. Or it means to deprive a sick person of food and water, such that they actually die of starvation and dehydration and not the physical disease they were diagnosed with.
To some adults—even to some adults here in Westerly—to love our teenage “neighbors” means to put them in embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations with their peers in the restrooms of their high school. I guess that’s what you call, “politically-correct love” (for lack of a better expression). And that exists in many places; it’s not only here in Westerly.
To some people these days love of neighbor means allowing others—including one’s own children—to do whatever they want to do, whatever they “feel” like doing—even if they hurt themselves spiritually and emotionally in the process.
To a significant segment of our population “love of neighbor” actually means killing that neighbor in the womb before he or she is born—or AS he or she is being born (although, thankfully, according to the latest polls, this “significant segment of the population” is decreasing in size. For once, I hope the polls are right!).
I use these four examples this morning for a reason. It’s because each of them relates either to an event that took place here at St. Pius during the week of October 13-20, or to an event in our community that week which involved our parishioners.
And, in each instance—I’m happy to say!—our people stood up for and promoted real, genuine “love of neighbor,” and stood against one or more of the four FALSE versions of love of neighbor that I just mentioned.
Recall the first. I said, “To some men and women in our country right now to “love your neighbor” who is terminally ill means to give that person the drugs they want so that they can kill themselves. Or it means to deprive a sick person of food and water, such that they actually die of starvation and dehydration and not the physical disease they were diagnosed with.”
Which is precisely why our pro-life committee brought in Fr. Tad to speak about end-of-life decisions on the evening of October the 14th. Fr. Tad is both a moral theologian and a man of science (he has his PhD in neuroscience from Yale), and because he’s so knowledgeable in both those fields he was able to teach those who were here that night a lot of things about love. In fact, that’s really what his talk was about (although it wasn’t advertised as such). He dealt with the issue of how to love yourself and your neighbors when either you or they are faced with a serious and/or terminal illness.
When is giving a certain medication or therapy the loving thing to do?
When is withholding a certain medication or therapy the loving thing to do?
When is discontinuing a certain medication or therapy the loving thing to do?
Those are some of the important questions he addressed.
The second example of false love I gave was this one: “To some adults—even to some adults here in Westerly—to love our teenage ‘neighbors’ means to put them in embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations with their peers in the restrooms of their high school.” That, of course, was a reference to the proposed (and now tabled) policy that would have allowed so-called ‘transgender’ students to use the bathroom and locker room of the gender with which they identify, as opposed to the gender that they are biologically.
It was not adopted, thank God, in part because of the protests of some high school students—from our parish—who reminded the superintendent of schools and the school committee on October the 15th that it’s NOT an act of loving your neighbor to put a significant number of students in embarrassing and potentially dangerous situations.
As Angela Tafone put it, “As a student, I would feel unsafe with this policy.”
We don’t intentionally put people we love in situations where they could be seriously hurt.
Angela understands that; hopefully the superintendent and the members of the school committee now understand it as well.
The third example of false love of neighbor that I gave was allowing others—including one’s own children—to do whatever they want to do, even if in the process they hurt themselves emotionally and spiritually.
This is why we had Fr. Paul Desmarais here on the 16th of October to talk to our young people and their parents about the occult.
This was timely given the movie that just came out this weekend, “Ouija”—which is a film that I would recommend you do NOT see!
Many young people today are being drawn into the occult—sometimes with the support of their parents—by things like psychic readings and Ouija boards and tarot cards and horoscopes and séances at sleepovers.
Well, as Fr. Desmarais made clear in his talk, these kinds of activities can easily open the door to demonic forces: demonic forces which are beyond our ability to control with our limited strength and human resources.
And he shared several stories of young people he’s helped over the years who did open the door—and who lived to regret it.
His message that night, put in the terms of this homily, was that if you really love your neighbor, you will do your best to steer that neighbor away from the occult, not toward it.
And that’s especially true if the “neighbor” in question is your own child!
Which brings me to the final false love of neighbor that I mentioned earlier: the killing of the “neighbor” in the womb before he or she is born (or as he or she is being born).
That false version of love was addressed last Sunday (October the 20th) with our annual Walk for Life, through which we raised over $2,200 for local pro-life activities.
Thanks, incidentally, to everyone who either walked or donated or sponsored me. And yes, I did walk the whole way (just in case there are any doubters out there!).
Contrary to what the pro-choice media would have you believe, the pro-life movement is about love: love for babies AND love for their mothers.
It’s about loving our infant “neighbor” in the womb; it’s about loving our infant neighbor’s mother (especially if she’s in a difficult situation); it’s even about loving those mothers who have made mistakes and aborted their children—because those mothers are also our “neighbors”: our neighbors in need of forgiveness and healing.
So now you know why I said that October 13-20 was “Love Week” at St. Pius X Church.
Of course, according to Jesus in this gospel, EVERY week is supposed to be a “Love Week” for us, his disciples.
That’s the Lord’s great desire.
By the grace of the Eucharist that we receive at this Mass, may God help each and every one of us to do all we can to make that desire of Jesus Christ become a reality.