Sunday, October 04, 2020

In a World of Moral Confusion, There Can be no Peace

(Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 4, 2020 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-seventh Sunday 2020]


In the movie, Schindler’s List, Amon Goeth, the commandant of the Nazi labor camp, took a young, Jewish girl to be his personal maidservant.  At one point in the film, this girl had a private and very disturbing conversation with Oskar Schindler.  With deep fear in her voice she said to him, “I know that someday my master will shoot me.”  Schindler, at first, couldn’t believe it, and he tried to assure her that the commandant was really quite fond of her.  But she insisted, “No, someday he will shoot me.”  She then spoke of what she had seen the previous day.  She said that she had seen him walk out of his quarters, draw his gun, and shoot a Jewish woman who was walking by with a bundle in her hand. 

Listen, now, to her description of the woman—and her very insightful comment.  She said, “Just a woman on her way somewhere.  No fatter, or thinner, or slower, or faster than anyone else; and I couldn’t guess what she had done [to provoke him].  The more you see of the commandant, the more you see there are no set rules that you can live by.  You can’t say to yourself, ‘If I follow these rules, I will be safe.’”

That girl was absolutely correct: In a world of moral confusion, there can be no safety, and, consequently, no peace.  She understood that in the “world” of that Nazi labor camp, right and wrong had been blurred to such an extent, that she couldn’t determine what was “right” in the mind of the commandant.  What pleased him at one moment might not please him in the next.  And if he happened to have a gun in his hand when he wasn’t pleased, she knew she could easily end up like the woman with the bundle in her hand.

In today’s world, most people say they want peace, do they not?  And yet, many of them also want their moral relativism: that is to say, they want to be able to define right and wrong for themselves.  But you cannot have both.  It’s not—and it never can be—peace and moral relativism; it’s either peace or it’s moral relativism. 

Consider, for example, terrorism.  Terrorism—which has been undermining efforts for peace all over the world for decades now—is a practice rooted in moral relativism.  The terrorist does not accept the objective, moral truth that the direct killing of innocent people is always wrong.  In his moral relativism, he’s convinced himself that killing innocent men, women, and children is acceptable—and sometimes even virtuous.

The people at Planned Parenthood think the very same way with respect to unborn babies.  So do many of the people who’ve been inciting riots and attacking the police in major cities all over the country since the horrible killing of George Floyd.  A lot of these rioters are professed Marxists—like the founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement—who want to literally tear our society and culture down and try to create their own socialist utopia.  They don’t want to reform the culture we have (which is what we should all want), rather they want to REPLACE the culture—ultimately, with chaos!  Defund the police?  Are they nuts?  Most African Americans in this country want MORE POLICE on the streets of their communities, not less!

If there’s ever going to be peace, the terrorists of the world (and that includes the domestic terrorists on our city streets) have to accept the objective, moral norm that innocent human life is always to be respected.

In a world of moral confusion, there can be no safety, and, consequently, no peace.

Please remember this when you go and vote in November.  If you vote for people who reject objective, moral standards, and support things like abortion, sexual immorality, violence and the like, then you are indirectly undermining world peace—whether you realize it or not.

Now I know this message about objective morality is not a popular one these days.  But the fact of the matter is it never has been!—as today’s Gospel text from Matthew 21 makes very clear.  Here Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who leased his vineyard out to tenants and then sent servants to the tenants at harvest time.  Those “servants” were the Old Testament prophets, who preached the Ten Commandments and “objective morality” to the people of Israel.  And what kind of reception did these prophets receive from the moral relativists in Old Testament Israel (of which there were many!)?  Jesus told us, using the imagery of the parable.  He said, “The tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.  Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.”

What a comforting thought to those of us who continue to preach this message!

I’ll give the final word today to St. Paul, who also knew and taught that objective morality is the only path to happiness and peace.  What he said to the Philippians in this second reading, he says to all of us this morning:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about THESE things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then [and I might add ONLY then] will the God of peace be with you.