Independence-Day-Weekend Homily

Juan Epstein

Two hundred forty years.  Twelve score years.  Since…?

Yes, the Declaration of Independence.  But also, the same summer of 1776: St. Junipero Serra founded the California missions of San Francisco of Assisi and San Juan Capistrano, just south of Santa Maria de Los Angeles.

As we read at Sunday Mass, the Lord Jesus said, ‘The harvest is abundant. But it requires a lot of labor.’  We have worked at this USA thing for 240 years, expending countless, noble labors.  Working hard to communicate with each other, to cultivate a harmonious life together, to find and elect the right leaders, to educate our children, to step together into a hopeful future.

How can we not take pride in our USA?  By God’s grace, we share a genuinely sublime identity.  The eternal Son of God became man to reveal the love with which our heavenly Father made us.  Christ came to shine the divine light on: the sacred dignity of the human being.

This idea–the beautiful truth that our Creator has willed us all to exist and to thrive–that is the central, unifying idea of our nation.  That idea unites a huge, motley collection of pale- and swarthy-skinned people, in the common enterprise of the United States of America.

We read:  The Lord commanded His evangelists to say “Peace.” Peace to you.  Peace to your family, to your household, to your town.

The idea of human dignity offers us the one, true pathway to lasting peace. ‘Justice’–what does it mean?  Doesn’t it mean:  Respecting the true dignity of my neighbor?  Doesn’t it mean always remembering:  ‘This is God’s child, too.’ When we treat each other justly, what breaks out?

american-flagPeace.  Peaceful things, like cookouts, games of horseshoes, flowers growing in peoples’ gardens, young men and women falling in love and getting married, babies getting born, then growing up and going to school and learning things like Shakespeare and astronomy.

Christ came to teach us:  the heavenly Father never willed you to suffer though a wretched, hopeless, slavish life.  He wills that you live in full–occasionally enjoying things like fried chicken and ice cream, avoiding sin, and getting to heaven in the end.

By God’s grace, and the labor of the patient generations that have come before us, America has offered us a home where we can occasionally enjoy fried chicken and ice cream, avoid sin, and make our pilgrim way to heaven.

Am I right that the Christian concept of human dignity really is the crucial idea? Government by consent of the governed.  Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Habeas corpus and trial by jury.  Freedom from unlawful search and seizure.  Free thinking, free assembling.  Praying and serving God according to my own well-educated conscience.

Human dignity.  The Creator endows every Tom, Dick, and Harry; every Beckah, Susan, and Sherri; every black, white, mestizo, olive-skinned, or chorizo-eating Puerto-rican Jew with the same dignity.  Child of God.  Our Founding Fathers declared this to be “self-evident.”  Sure.  It’s perfectly self-evident.  Provided you assume that Jesus Christ lives and breathes and teaches pure truth.

Now, we also read at Mass about how the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem nurse at the abundant breasts of truth, justice, and peace.  Prosperity flows over the heavenly city like a river:  the prosperity of genuine brotherly love. The kind of genuine brotherly love that fits with a modest lifestyle and a small carbon footprint.

If we get a tiny, little share of that heavenly peace at a happy, multi-generational, American-family Fourth-of-July barbecue–how do we maintain such a peace?

It takes work.  Patient, humble labor.  The harvest is abundant–when the laborers labor.

As our Holy Father put it in his encyclical on Mother Earth, we must labor to find a new, 21st-century way of interacting with the land, the rivers, and the seas.  The 19th- and 20th-century ways have brought us to the brink of ecological disaster.

And we must labor for the rights of our neighbors to whom the promise of human dignity does not currently apply.  That, too, is the story of our nation: fighting for those to whom the American promise has not been kept.  From where I’m standing, right now that includes two large classes of people: innocent and defenseless unborn children and law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

May the Lord bless and protect our country.  We Americans have always hoped for a good future, first and foremost because the Lord has given us such a wonderful land to live in.  Why would we stop hoping now?

Yes, in this world, we will have troubles.  But Jesus has overcome the evil of the world.  So Christian hope does not disappoint.  Because God is real; His Christ is real; His Kingdom is real.  He says to His children:  Take pride in who you are; rejoice that your names are written in heaven!

Amos on Goodness + Hobby Lobby

The prophet admonished the people: “Let justice prevail at the gate.” Which means: Let justice prevail in court. Because the elders among the Israelites heard cases for judgment at the city gates.

Hobby horseThen the prophet admonished them again. “Away with your noisy songs! …If you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water and goodness like an unfailing stream.”

We want our land, these United States of America, to bud forth with growth. We want fertile soil. But, above all, we want this stream of human goodness coursing through our country. Our own goodness will “fertilize” this land, like nothing else will.

May it please God, let’s hope for a peaceful and pleasant Independence Day. Let’s hope for another 238 years of American stability, by following Amos’ admonition. Let’s do everything we can to be truly good, with the true goodness of God.

Re: “Hobby Lobby” Case.

The Bishops’ Conference has welcomed the decision. And they know much better than I do.

Nonetheless, I do not find myself at all overjoyed. To be honest, I think that certain terms are used in this case in an incoherent way.

I would define the terms differently.

Religion. Giving God His due: believing the truths He has revealed, worshiping Him with thanks and praise, doing penance for sin, seeking to do His will.

If ‘religion’ means: An intellectually inaccessible predilection that certain people have, for no apparent reason–which is how the word is used in this case–then I for one, would not want to have anything to do with religion.

Medicine/Health Care. Working to cure the maladies of mankind, using the scientific method.

Science. Applying the mind to reality in such a way as to insist on clear reasoning for all assertions. The systematic elimination of unfounded myths and compulsive/irrational actions.

It is a myth that artificial contraception serves the purpose of medicine. It is unscientific to accept supposed statements of truth without seeking clarity through rigorous questioning. The proposition that artificial contraception serves the purpose of medicine appears to have been accepted in this case without question. This is irrational and unscientific; the judges appear to be adjudicating cases with unproved myths as principles.

Also apparently accepted without question is this assertion: The money required for health care belongs to the business owner. In fact, the money that goes to provide healthcare actually belongs to the commonweal. It may be held in a business’ coffers for a period of time. But the business has an obligation to make the money available for healthcare. Because everyone has a right to the healthcare that the community can provide.

This court has found that a business owner must be protected from having to comply with evil acts, which are characterized as evil without any inquiry whatsoever as to why they are evil. The court also appears to accept without question the assertion that having a particular health plan for employees constitutes culpable co-operation with evil.

Plenty of people reject the conclusion of the court on these grounds: The owners of the business are not being forced to use abortifacients. So how is their freedom being infringed? The moral agency here belongs to the employee who chooses to apply poison to herself.

I, for one, do not have a convincing argument to that point. The money belongs to the commonweal. The moral culpability falls with whoever actually poisons the body with these so-called medicines. The business owner does not have any genuine moral agency in the evil.

Forgive me for not being a neo-conservative team player. But the conclusion of the court looks to me like utter, unprincipled gibberish. I cannot celebrate it as a victory, because it is a victory only for chaos. It is perfectly consistent, in its labile, surface-skimming approach, with the decisions that: found no natural basis for marriage, and that tolerate the daily killing of thousands of innocent and defenseless unborn children by abortion.

Freedom Requires Hard Penance

Today we bring the Fortnight for Freedom to a close—our two weeks of prayer and fasting for the cause of religious freedom in America.

We have benefited greatly from Kyle’s insightful talks here in our parish cluster. But, indeed, embracing two weeks of penance can be difficult. It gets easier when we meditate on what our forefathers and foremothers endured.

koc action religious freedomAs the Church in America sings today at Mass, our Lord Jesus Christ’s message of peace and fraternity took form in the vision of the founding fathers of our nation. They kept many fortnights for freedom, risking life and limb, putting everything on the line, in order to establish a nation where we could be free to live our holy Catholic faith.

But, as the Church in America also prays today, much more work still remains. Our nation has always held the ideal of religious freedom. But, in practice, we have often found ourselves shackled in one way or another as a Church. We know that suspicion of Catholicism has run deep in these lands, ever since the first Fourth of July. The contempt we face is nothing new.

Therefore, in every generation, we American Catholics must do penance and purify ourselves. We claim freedom to operate as a Church according to our own norms; we claim this as our due, since we are Americans. But this claim of ours will only resonate when we ourselves turn to God and live fully in the truth.

american-flagIf we claim immunity from subsidizing immoral contraceptive practices, then we ourselves must strive always to live chaste lives. If we claim freedom to consecrate only those marriages which we can recognize, and no others, then our own marriages must be faithful, fruitful, and altogether Christian. If we assert our prerogative to welcome the immigrant into our midst, no matter how the civil law classifies him, then we must in fact help him best by showing him our example of obedience to law.

Now, to be honest with you, the Lord has been pleased to give me a very penitential fortnight. I have neither eaten nor slept much these two weeks, owing to local pastoral problems. These unexpected problems have consumed my heart and mind. They have weighed me down with some of the bitterest sorrow I have known in a long time. I have repeatedly found myself joking with Kyle about running away to the Trappists.

But, of course—as I said—it is nothing compared to what our forefathers have suffered for our sakes. Today we can eat hamburgers together in peace because of the blood spilled in this land for the noble cause of freedom.

May God guide us always. May He turn the freedoms we enjoy into opportunities for us to spend ourselves in His service.

Happy with Christ on Dependence Day

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth!” (Matthew 11:25)

Independence Day weekend. Fireworks in honor of our successful revolution from the British. We no longer depend on the Crown. We wave our own flag instead. We stand tall, an independent people, with burgers on the grill and ice cream for dessert. We rejoice in American independence.

And we go to church, and we hear about the Lord Jesus rejoicing, too.

St. Luke also narrated the same scene. Luke uses the word agalliáō to describe what Jesus did at that moment. Agalliáō means, ‘to exult, to rejoice exceedingly.’ It is Independence Day weekend, and the Lord Jesus is agalliáō-ing right along with us Americans.

But wait.

Continue reading “Happy with Christ on Dependence Day”

Every Day is Dependence Day

serena victoryQuote of the day from Mary Carillo:

The Williams sisters love each other. They inspire each other. They each claim that they are as good as they are because of the other one.

Yet here they are at Centre Court at Wimbledon, trying to make the other one cry.

Many things do us proud. It does our nation proud to have three out of four Wimbledon finalists be Americans, two of them sisters. (Serena won it! by the way)

But on Independence Day let’s remember that we are dependent on God for everything. Our nation is dependent on God for everything. To God be all the glory!