Friday, January 27, 2006

How Jesus Teaches Today—With Authority!

Icon of Christ the Teacher.

(Fourth Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on January 29, 2006 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Mark 1: 21-28.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of the Year 2006]

The other day I came across some interesting stories about teachers and those associated with the teaching profession. Perhaps you’ve heard some of these before.

A little girl came home from school one day and said to her mother, “Mommy, today I was punished in school for something that I didn’t do.”

The mother said, “What? I can’t believe it. That’s so unfair! I’m going to have a talk with your teacher about this. By the way, what was it that you didn’t do?”

The little girl answered, “My homework.”

A little boy came home from his very first day at school. His mother said to him, “What did you learn today, Johnny?”

Johnny replied, “Not enough. I have to go back tomorrow.”

Nine-year-old Joey came home from CCD one night, and his mother asked him what he had learned.

Joey said, “Well, our teacher told us how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked across safely. Then he used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters and call in an air strike. They sent in bombers to blow up the bridge, and all the Israelites were saved.”

His mother said, “Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?”

He said, “Well, no. But if I told you the story the way the teacher did, you’d never believe me!”

Finally, one day not too long ago the phone rang in a school office at 8am. The principal picked it up. The voice on the other end said, “My son has a bad cold and won’t be able to come to school today.”

The principal responded, “Okay. Thank you for calling. Now who is this?”

The voice on the other end replied, “Uh . . . uh . . . this is my father speaking!”

To the St. Pius students here present, Principal Fiore says, “Don’t get any ideas!”

Which brings us to Jesus Christ. First and foremost, Jesus is a Savior—our Lord and Savior. He came to die, so that we might live. If you’ve seen the movie, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” you understand this—or at least you should. The sacrifice of the great lion, Aslan, is meant to reflect, in some small way, the sacrifice Jesus made for all of us on Good Friday some 2,000 years ago.

But Jesus is not only a Savior; he is also a teacher. In fact, when you read the New Testament, you see that our Lord spent most of his earthly ministry doing three things: healing the sick, casting out demons, and teaching people the Gospel message in its fullness.

In today’s Gospel text from Mark 1, for example, we’re told that Jesus taught in a synagogue and then performed a spectacular exorcism. Immediately afterward he healed many people who were sick, including Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.

So here—in this one chapter of the Bible—we see Jesus engaged in all three of the activities I just mentioned: teaching, healing and casting out demons.

Obviously the healings and exorcisms Jesus performed were unique and extraordinary. Very few people would dispute that fact. But there was also something unique and extraordinary about the way our Lord taught.

To put it quite simply, Jesus was not your typical teacher!

That’s clear from this Gospel, in the line where St. Mark tells us, “The people were astonished at [Jesus’] teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”

Now what exactly does that mean? What is St. Mark telling us when he says that Jesus taught with “authority,” and not like the scribes did?

Basically he’s telling us that Jesus spoke with the voice and authority of God himself!

Whenever the scribes taught, they would always try to bolster their arguments by quoting other teachers and other scholars of the Law. And that’s quite understandable. They did that because they were fallible human beings. But Jesus was (and is) God! Consequently, he spoke in his own name. He didn’t need any other authority on this earth to verify the truth of what he said.

Thus it should come as no surprise to us that Jesus demanded obedience—total obedience from his listeners! Since his message was also God’s message, he expected everyone to heed his words and put them into practice—for their own good! As he said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock. When the rainy season set in, the torrents came and the winds blew and buffeted his house. [But] it did not collapse; it had been solidly set on rock.”

Isn’t it too bad that Jesus isn’t still with us today?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a teacher among us like him—a teacher with that type of God-given authority? Then we would know with absolute certitude what theLord expected of us in this life! Then we would know what we needed to do to be happy—and to save our souls!

Well, guess what?

We do have that teacher among us today! And it’s not the pope (although he’s her official spokesperson). This teacher—whose authority comes from Jesus himself—is a Bride and also a Mother; she’s the Bride of Christ, and our holy, spiritual Mother. We commonly refer to her as “the Church.”

Whenever the Church speaks to us officially on matters of faith and morals, we need to understand something: At those moments Jesus Christ is speaking to us as authoritatively as he spoke to people during his earthly ministry 2,000 years ago!

Do we listen? And, even more importantly, do we say “Amen” to what we hear?

Today, as we all know, many Catholics “pick-and-choose” which teachings of the Church they’re going to follow.

But that’s really nothing new. The very same phenomenon occurred back in the first century!

The fact is, people respond to the Church today in the very same ways that they responded to the historical Jesus 2,000 years ago: some believe; some don’t believe; and some “pick and choose” which teachings they will accept. Think, for example, of the many people who heard the famous Bread of Life discourse in John, chapter 6. Jesus told this crowd that in the near future he would give them his Body and Blood for their spiritual nourishment. He said (among other things), “I am the bread of life”; “If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever”; “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

When Jesus finished this incredible sermon, we’re told that many of those who heard him walked away! His 12 apostles didn’t, but the Bible tells us that many others who had previously been his devoted followers—his disciples—stopped being so that day!

They accepted everything else Jesus had said up to that point in his ministry, but they rejected this teaching on the Holy Eucharist.

The rich young man that we hear about in Mark 10 was another “picker-and-chooser”. Scripture tells us that he accepted all the commandments—he said “Amen” to all the precepts of the Decalogue—but he rejected Jesus’ command to sell his possessions and become his follower.

True disciples of Christ accept all of his teachings on faith and morals as well as all of his commands—not just the easy ones; not just the appealing ones.

On this day that begins Catholic Schools Week, I’m proud to say that here, at St. Pius (both in our school and CCD program) we strive to teach our young people the full truth of the Gospel as the Church—and Christ—would have us do. We do it because we want our young people to be happy, healthy and holy.

To underscore that point let me conclude my homily now with one last story. One day a second grade teacher said to her students, “Children, suppose there were 12 sheep, and 6 of them jumped off a cliff. How many would be left?”

Little Norman raised his hand and said, “None.”

The teacher responded, “Norman, you don’t know your arithmetic.”

Norman replied, “No, teacher. You don’t know your sheep. When one goes, they all go!”

As the Lord’s sheep, it’s essential that we follow the right teacher—and that we help our children to do the same: the teacher who wants what’s best for us; the teacher who speaks with the authority of Jesus; the teacher who will keep us—and our children—away from the “cliffs” of this life.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Repentance: It’s The Best Thing You Can Do—For Yourself!

(Third Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on January 22, 2006, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Mark 1: 14-20.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Third Sunday of the Year 2006]

Repentance is good for you.

Repentance is healthy.

Repentance is liberating.

Repentance is the best thing you can do for yourself—as well as the best thing you can do to improve your relationships with other people when they go sour.

And to all this, we should say, “Thank God,” because the other noteworthy fact about repentance is that it’s not an option!

It’s a requirement. It’s a mandate. It’s a command that comes from Jesus Christ himself! So the fact that it’s beneficial on so many levels is an added bonus!

The importance of repentance should be obvious from today’s Gospel passage. There Jesus says, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” According to St. Mark, these were the very first words our Lord spoke during his earthly ministry. In a certain sense, they form the foundation of everything else he taught during the next 3 years. And his message to his listeners was clear and direct. He said, in effect, “This is what you have been waiting for; this is what the entire nation of Israel has been anticipating for centuries! Old Testament prophecies are now being fulfilled, and God is beginning to establish his kingdom among you. If you want to be a part of it, you need to repent—and you need to believe!”

Repentance obviously improves your relationship with God: that’s a given. But it also improves your relationships with other people. The simple statement, “I’m sorry” (spoken from the heart), coupled with a desire to make amends for what you’ve done, can make a big difference in healing the rift between you and the people you’ve offended.

On the other hand, failing to repent and to say you’re sorry when you’ve done something wrong can have a disastrous effect on a relationship.

It reminds me of a little story that a parishioner emailed me a couple of weeks ago. . . .

A husband forgot his 25th wedding anniversary (which was definitely not a good idea!). His wife, as you might imagine, was extremely upset, especially since she was expecting a brand new car as an anniversary gift. (Her husband had promised her that several months earlier.)

She said to him, “Tomorrow, there had better be something sitting in our driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in 2 seconds flat!”

She obviously expected a pretty fast car!

Anyway, the next day she woke up, ran outside to the driveway, and saw a small package sitting on the pavement. She immediately opened it up, and found her present—a brand new bathroom scale!

The husband’s funeral was the following Tuesday!

This extremely foolish man would certainly still be among the living, if he had simply said, “I’m sorry.” His wife might even have settled for a Hyundai instead of a Corvette!

On a more serious note, the following is a letter that really does show how failing to repent can have terrible psychological, emotional—as well as spiritual—consequences in our lives.

It was sent to me about a year ago—along with this little prayer book—by a woman who used to be a parishioner of St. Pius. The letter read as follows:

Dear Fr. Ray,

It is with the deepest sorrow and regret that I have to write to you.

I attended St. Pius Parish in the 1980s, when you had just gotten there (at the time the church was struck by lightening when Fr. Besse was pastor). At that time, I made many visits to the church, in addition to coming to Mass on Sunday.

I am so ashamed to say that on one of my visits to pray, I was in the front pew on the right hand side of the altar, and I noticed a beautiful little prayer book. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I stole it, and have had it for over 15 years.

It is not just the fact that I took it, but that it belonged to someone who used it daily.

Over the years I have wanted to return it—just slip it back into the pew, and maybe the owner would somehow find it.

Everywhere I have moved, it went with me, along with my own prayer cards.

I started picking it up every once in a while to pray from it—but every time I tried, I couldn’t. . . . Guilt about this book has lasted all this time. . . .

My greatest sadness is that the prayers from this book were not said for over 15 years—for someone’s family, their church, their nation, the world. I don’t know how to get it back to its owner. Perhaps showing the book at all Masses might help. I only hope that the person who owns this book can forgive me.

May God forgive me, a poor sinner, and have mercy on me.

PS: I hope and pray it doesn’t belong to Monsignor Struck or Sister Dorothy. They have both helped me—and probably prayed for me from that book. Again, I am so very sorry.

We can deny our sin; we can pretend it doesn’t exist; we can sweep it under the rug (so to speak)—but in spite of all these efforts, it will always affect us in negative ways! Just ask the millions of women who suffer from what is now know as “Post-Abortion Syndrome.” On this sad anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, we should pray in a special way for them.

The woman who wrote this letter to me has been guilt-ridden and without peace for 15 years because of a sin she committed and then tried to ignore. But it didn’t have to be that way! All she needed to do 15 years ago was repent, go to Confession, and then make a sincere effort to return the prayer book to its owner. It was that simple! (By the way, if you happen to recognize this little item, please see me after Mass! You can start praying with it again.)

I’ll end my homily this morning as I began it:

Repentance is good for you.

Repentance is healthy.

Repentance is liberating.

Repentance is the best thing you can do for yourself—as well as the best thing you can do to improve your relationships with other people when they go sour.

And that’s why the sacrament of Confession is such a great blessing!

When was the last time you went?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Conversion: It’s from the HEART to the HEAD to the BODY

"Behold, the Lamb of God!"

(Second Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on January 15, 2006 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read 1 Corinthians 6: 13-20; John 1: 35-42.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Second Sunday of the Year 2006]

In one of his many books, Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote about a boy he once knew. Listen to his description . . .

“[This young man] would not comb his hair, wash behind his ears, clean his fingernails, or come to the table with clean clothes. And when he went out the door, he always slammed it. [But then] one day he came down, hair combed, clean clothes, hands well-washed, and clean behind the ears. And when he went out the door, he closed it gently. His parents could not understand it. They had begged, coaxed, pleaded, and bribed to no avail. [What they did not realize was] he had met Suzie.”

Here we have a boy whose behavior—whose actions—radically changed (much to the joy of his parents!). But those visible changes in his external behavior were the end result of an internal process—a process that started in his heart.

It all began on the day when he looked at Suzie and said to himself: “She’s really cute; she’s really nice; I like her!”

From there, the process moved to his head. He began to think differently, and to say to himself things like, “If I want to make a good impression on this girl, if I want her to like me, I had better clean up my act—literally! I had better stop looking and smelling and acting like a homeless person!”

That thought—and others like it—eventually motivated him to make the bodily changes his parents noticed (combing his hair, washing his hands, etc.).

This radical change in his life (which, in a certain sense was a kind of “conversion”) began in his heart, moved to his head, and finally manifested itself in his body.

And so it is with genuine conversions of faith. Under ordinary circumstances, they begin in the heart. They do not begin with external activity, although that’s where they ultimately manifest themselves.

Let me give you an example. After they attend Mass on a Sunday or holy day, our Confirmation students are now required to get an attendance form signed by the priest or deacon of the Liturgy, in order to certify that they were in attendance. You will see Deacon Fran and I doing this after Masses every weekend. Unfortunately, some of our teens were getting a bit lax about coming to church, and this is one way to make sure that they all get here.

Now, do I think for one moment that this means they’re converted? Do I think that their attendance alone means that they know Jesus and love Jesus and want to serve Jesus in their lives?

No way!

For that matter, do I think that an adult Catholic is faithful and devoted just because he or she comes to Mass every Sunday and holy day?

Not at all!

Please don’t get me wrong. I hope and I pray that for each of us coming to Mass is an outward sign of our inner conversion to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. But I am well aware of the fact that it might not be! We might be here because someone has forced us to be here! We might be at Mass every week simply “going through the motions,” so to speak.

Conversion does not begin with Mass attendance! It does not begin with that external, bodily action. It will eventually manifest itself there (if the conversion is genuine), but that’s not where it starts.

It starts in the heart. The real reason why I’m requiring the Mass sign-in for our teens is to get them into this building, so that they will be in an atmosphere of faith where they will have the opportunity to open their hearts up to Jesus and his truth.

But that’s their choice. They can choose to sit here every week with their hearts closed—as we all can; or they can say Yes to the Lord and open them up.

Conversion is from the heart to the head to the body. And I’m sure St. John and St. Andrew would agree with me, because that’s precisely the way it happened for them. Just take a look at today’s Gospel reading. There we hear about how these 2 men went from being “fishers of fish” to being “fishers of men”.

One day they were standing with John the Baptist (probably by the Jordan River), and Jesus happened to walk by. John pointed to our Lord and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

If nothing else, that made Andrew and John curious, and so they began to follow after Jesus. But soon their bond with our Lord went far deeper than mere curiosity. Within a very short period of time, Jesus had succeeded in touching their hearts.

That fact can be discerned, incidentally, from one little line in the story. I’m talking about this one: “It was about four in the afternoon.”

At first glance, it seems rather trivial, doesn’t it?

I mean, who cares? Did it really matter what time it was?

If St. John were standing here among us today, I think he would respond by saying, “You bet it mattered! It mattered a lot! Because you see, this was the hour that our lives were changed forever! It all began at 4pm: Jesus invited Andrew and me to spend the rest of the day with him—and we did! And what he said to us during that special time touched our hearts and convinced us that he was the Messiah—the one we and all of Israel had been waiting for.”

People who are in love often remember the very first time they saw or met their beloved. They can tell you where they were, what time it was, and sometimes even what they were wearing.

And so it was for these two apostles: they remembered where they were and even what time it was when they first encountered their Savior!

Their hearts were touched—and so were their minds—during their visit and discussion with Jesus. Their personal conversions, in other words, went very quickly from their hearts to their heads.

And finally, their conversions affected their bodies (in other words, their actions).

Andrew immediately took his body to his brother Peter, and shared the Good News with him. He said to Peter, “We have found the Messiah,” and he brought him to Jesus.

Then all of them left their fishing businesses and took their bodies on the road with the Lord for the next 3 years.

Conversion is from the heart to the head—and then to the body.

This can help us to understand why some people find it nearly impossible to be faithful to the commandments: It’s because they haven’t allowed Jesus Christ into their hearts! They’re trying to make their bodies obey God without the power and incentive that comes from a transformed heart. And that’s extremely difficult!

For example, we all find the words of today’s second reading from 1 Corinthians 6 challenging, don’t we? St. Paul says to us, “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . [So] avoid immorality. . . . Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? . . . Therefore glorify God in your body.”

That’s very hard message to live up to, especially in our hedonistic culture.

But if we’ve allowed our hearts to be touched by Jesus, the power and the motivation to be pure and chaste will be much greater! It still will not easy; but it certainly won’t be impossible.

Think of Augustine, who lived back in the 4th century. Before his heart was touched by Jesus he felt powerless to avoid immorality. Consequently, his moral life was a mess! Among other things, he lived with a woman and fathered a child by her out of wedlock. But after his heart was transformed through the reading of a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he was not only able to be chaste, he was also able to live the life of a saint.

And he eventually became one!

Today let’s ask St. Augustine—as well as St. Andrew and St. John—to pray for us, that we will let the Lord into our hearts, so that we will experience the kind of total conversion that each of them experienced: from the heart to the head to the body.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Herods Galore

One of the many Herods the world has known.
(Epiphany 2006: This homily was given on January 8, 2006, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Matthew 2: 1-12.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Epiphany 2006]

This homily is entitled, “Herods Galore.”

Many Christians don’t realize it, but there were Herods galore in the New Testament. Some people mistakenly think that every time a Herod is mentioned in Scripture, the reference is to the same person.

Not so.

Herod the Great (who, incidentally, was anything but great!) was the Herod who met the Magi in today’s Gospel story, and who shortly thereafter murdered the Holy Innocents (the little boys of Bethlehem two years of age and under).

After he died in 4 BC, his son Archelaus took over part of his kingdom. This is why St. Joseph took Jesus and Mary to live in the town of Nazareth after they returned from exile in Egypt. Joseph was afraid that Archelaus might try to kill our Lord, as his father had tried sometime earlier.

Herod Antipas, another son of Herod the Great, was the man who married his brother’s wife, Herodias, and had John the Baptist beheaded in prison. He was also the Herod who mocked our Lord on Good Friday during his Passion.

Two other members of Herod the Great’s family—a grandson and a great-grandson—are mentioned in the Book of Acts.

As you can see, there were definitely Herods galore in New Testament times. But there are also Herods galore today! In fact, our modern-day versions far outnumber the ones we find mentioned in the Bible.

The most obvious Herods among us are those who directly attack the “holy innocents” of our generation: the unborn, the elderly, the terminally ill—through their support of evils like abortion, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide.

But they’re certainly not the only ones around, especially at this particular time of the year.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that every Advent and Christmas season, a vocal group of people surfaces whose sole purpose is to “kill” devotion to Jesus! They can’t kill our Lord in the same way that Herod the Great tried to kill him 2,000 years ago, so they do what they consider to be the next best thing: they try to destroy the faith and hope that Christians have in their Savior.

A couple of weeks ago Catholic author Mark Shea made the following observation in a column he wrote: “It’s Christmas, that joyous time of the year when the mainstream media goes in search of apostate scholars to re-assure them that the Gospel is all a bunch of hooey.”

Well said! And it’s so true: each and every Christmas (and Easter) we’re forced to listen to the “insights” of people like Scripture scholar John Crossan—an ex-priest who doesn’t believe in the divinity of Christ, and who thinks that Jesus’ body was eaten by dogs after the crucifixion!

How pathetic is that?

And then there are those who try to kill faith in Christ by attacking Christmas and everything spiritual that’s associated with it. Dr. Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, monitors this kind of activity every November and December. Here are some of the things he reported within the last few weeks:

Regarding the attempt to eliminate Christmas trees, he wrote: “In place of a Christmas tree, there is a ‘Grand Tree’ in Atlanta; a ‘Union Tree’ at Purdue University; a ‘Peace Tree’ in Washington Park, Illinois; and a ‘Friendship Tree’ can be found in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and Manchester, Massachusetts.”

In an entry on his web site dated December 22nd, he said: “Senior citizens were told by government officials in Winter Park, Florida that they were not allowed to sing Christmas carols. Government workers in Illinois were ordered not to say ‘Merry Christmas’. . . .
“In a park shared by Newport Beach and Atlantic Beach, Florida, the private display of a manger scene was censored, but a large menorah was said to be okay. No schools in Palm Beach permitted crèches, but some allowed menorahs. School districts in Glendale, Illinois, Eagle County, Colorado and Long Island, New York, banned Christmas religious songs but allowed songs celebrating Hanukkah. . . .
“A school in the Belleville, Illinois area banned all references to Christmas but allowed an Indian, John White Antelope, to speak about his native religion.”

Donohue even reported this statement, made by a Jewish gallery owner in New York, Andrew Edlin: “All the people who have murdered us over the years have Christmas trees.”

To Mr. Edlin, if you happen own a Christmas tree (and who among us doesn’t?), then you’re as bad as Hitler and Stalin and every other bloodthirsty anti-Semite who’s ever walked the face of this earth.

That, my brothers and sisters, is called bigotryanti-Christian bigotry!

On a lighter note, Donohue did propose (obviously tongue-in-cheek) that we make some changes in the traditional songs of the season. He wrote: “In keeping with the spirit of political correctness, the Catholic League recommends the adoption of the following songs at Holidaytime: ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Holiday’; ‘O Holiday Tree’; ‘All I Want for The Holiday Is My Two Front Teeth’; ‘We Wish You a Merry Holiday’; ‘The Twelve Days of the Holiday’; ‘The Holiday Song’; ‘Rockin’ Around The Holiday Tree’; ‘You’re All I Want For The Holiday’; ‘Baby’s First Holiday’; ‘Do They Know It’s The Holiday’; ‘Merry Holiday Darling’; ‘I’ll Be Home For The Holiday’; ‘It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like The Holiday’; ‘Blue Holiday’; ‘The Holiday Waltz’; ‘Holly Jolly Holiday’; ‘So This Is The Holiday’; ‘Merry, Merry Holiday Baby’; ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Holiday’; ‘Twas the Night Before The Holiday’; “Holiday Serenade”; [and last, but certainly not least] ‘Feliz Vacaciones’.”

What can we do about all this? How can we effectively deal with these modern-day Herods who want to undermine the faith and hope we have in our Savior (who also happens to be their Savior)? Are we helpless in the face of these onslaughts?

No, of course not. We can—and we should—do a number of things to bring about positive changes in our culture.

First and foremost, we should pray. We should pray for the conversion of those who ridicule and attack Jesus and the sacred events surrounding his birth, ministry, death and resurrection. We should do that every day. As the Lord himself said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44).

But that doesn’t mean we should let these enemies of Christ and the Church walk all over us! Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus say, “Be a doormat!”

As Catholics and Christians, we should be respectfully proactive, doing all that we can to defend our faith and stand up for our rights as American citizens.

A good place to start, incidentally, is with the simple phrase, “Merry Christmas.” At the appropriate time, let’s not be afraid to say it! Let’s also not be afraid to say, “Happy Hanukkah” to our Jewish friends and acquaintances. In other words, let’s be honest about what we’re celebrating during these sacred days!

And if someone doesn’t like it and challenges you on the matter, ask them to show you some respect! After all, that’s the line they use on us all the time, isn’t it?

I also suggest that you write a letter or make a phone call, if you meet a Herod in the workplace, or in a store, or in a school or government setting. Respectfully—but firmly and clearly—let those in charge know (by a call or in writing) that you don’t agree with or appreciate attacks on our Savior and his teachings. Letters and phone calls can—and often do—have a big effect on rules and policies.

And finally, please do not forget to speak with your wallet or with your pocketbook. Unfortunately, it’s the only language some modern-day Herods understand! In other words, avoid patronizing businesses and other establishments where the birth of Jesus is not explicitly acknowledged. Remember, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Magi all dealt with Herod by avoiding him: the Holy Family fled to Egypt; the Magi went back to their own country by another route.

Avoidance can have a powerful affect on the Herods of today—especially in the business world. In mid-November, for example, the American Family Association organized a boycott of Target stores all over the country, because the company refused to recognize Christmas in its marketing and advertising. Over 700,000 people signed up. Then, on December 9, the company announced that it was changing its policy. In its official statement, Target said, “Over the course of the next few weeks, our advertising, marketing and merchandising will become more specific to the holiday that is approaching—referring directly to holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah. For example, you will see reference to Christmas in select television commercials, circulars and in-store signage.”

When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen; and when Americans talk with their wallets and pocketbooks, businesspeople listen!

That’s a fact.

In conclusion, let me simply say this: Herod the Great did not have his way with Jesus, because good people like Mary, Joseph and the Magi were proactive, and did what they could to keep the Savior safe.

May all the modern-day Herods be just as unsuccessful in their attempts to destroy faith in Jesus, because of the many positive efforts of committed Christians like us.