Father, we love to listen to you preach.
You have a kind of tone when you speak…
It’s like Captain James T. Kirk! You talk like Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise!
…Here is Captain Kirk’s homily for this beautiful Sunday:
The Law of the Lord is perfect. –Psalm 19:7
We human beings are complicated. Some of us are more complicated than others. But all of us are complicated, compared to other creatures, like squirrels and dogs. Squirrels and dogs follow instinct. We, on the other hand, make choices.
We are unique creatures on the earth. We have free will. The problem is that we don’t exactly know what to do with it.
A free will is a dangerous thing. Powerful things are dangerous. Like a soldering iron, for instance. With a soldering iron, you can mold metal into things like a car. On the other hand, you could also do a lot of serious damage with a soldering iron. I myself have no idea how to use a soldering iron. It wouldn’t be pretty if I tried to use one.
A soldering iron is a powerful, dangerous thing. A free will is a powerful, dangerous thing. With a free will, you can mold yourself into a particular kind of person. You can mold yourself into a saint. You can make yourself a citizen of heaven by freely choosing to be one.
On the other hand, you can also do some serious damage with a free will. Damage to others–yes. But, above all, damage to yourself. With a free will, you can mold yourself into a hardened sinner. You can make yourself into one of the inmates in the cellblock of the eternally damned.
Our Creator gave us this powerful, dangerous commodity—our freedom of action. He made us complicated, more complicated than all the other creatures of the earth. Why would He do such a thing–especially since He theoretically loves us so much? Here we are: a race of people carrying around huge, mega-hot soldering irons. We are armed and dangerous. Squirrels and dogs just do the natural thing. They chase each other around, perfectly harmless. But we are armed and dangerous.
We need direction. We need something that can untangle our human complicatedness. We need a law to follow. Here is how Moses extolled the beauty of the Law which God has given us:
What other nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:8)
If only the whole world could perceive this: God gave us His Law because He loves us and is trying to help us–not because He wants to Lord it over us and oppress us. We need the Law of God. We need it more than we need food. Without God’s Law, we would be alone is a kind of desert. We would be equipped with the power to act as we choose, but without any way of knowing what is best, what is good and pleasing to our Creator.
You might have a powerful soldering iron and plenty of metal ready to be shaped into something—but if you have no clear idea what to make and how to make it, what good is it? Without a clear plan, frustration will take over. Then, before you know it, you have soldered the metal into something disgustingly ugly, like a Yugo…
Jesus Christ is Himself the wise and beautiful Law of God. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He guides, He illuminates, He teaches us how to use this powerful dangerous thing we have, our freedom
And I am not just talking about “W.W.J.D.” I am talking about humble obedience, humble obedience to Christ and to His Church. Christ has made the Church our Mother. She gave us the life of grace at the baptismal font. She can teach us how to bring the promise of eternal life to fulfillment.
W.W.J.D. is fine, but we have to start at a deeper level. We have to start with admitting to ourselves: I myself have no idea how to live well. I need someone to teach me. I need my Mother the Church to teach me how to live.
To the proud, this spirit of humble obedience seems servile. But the fact is that everyone obeys somebody. If we do not obey the Church, we will obey someone or something else. And it will not be anywhere near as dignified. It is much more servile to obey the fantasy that I can make up my own truth than it is to acknowledge that I need the teaching of the Church.
So let’s listen together, dear brothers and sisters. What does our Lord say in the gospel passage read in church today?
From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils defile. (Mark 7:21-23)
The Law Himself is teaching us that it is wrong to miss Sunday Mass, that it is wrong to swear, to disrespect our parents, to wish evil on another human being. It is wrong to try to use another human being for my pleasure, to take anything that belongs to someone else, to want more than my fair share, to say anything that isn’t true. It is wrong to do anything that does not get me closer to heaven—or at least I must avoid all the things that get me closer to the other place.
This is demanding. This soldering iron requires a lot of good technique. Everyone mishandles it sometimes. We are all sinners against the holy Law of God. So what does the Law require the law-breaker to do? How can we repair the damage? What is the penal code of the divine Law?
The Law commands that all law-breakers humble themselves before the Cross. The Law demands that we acknowledge that we need the sacrifice of Christ in order to have any hope. And the Law stipulates that if we have done things that are seriously wrong, we admit them privately to a priest and ask for penance and absolution.
That’s it! The Law is demanding, but the penal code is cake. We human beings may be complicated. But if we are simple enough to admit our sins, then we can be okay again. And if we come to Holy Mass with all our mortal sins confessed and forgiven, then the Lord will give us the grace to handle the complicated soldering iron for another week. If we keep at it, week in a week out, year in and year out, before we know it we will have made something beautiful.