At the Lincoln Memorial

Martin Luther King I Have a Dream

Lord Jesus gave the homily in his hometown church. At first they loved and praised Him. But then He brought up some painful facts. [Spanish]

‘Our prophet Elijah did not save one of our widows from starvation. He saved a pagan widow–a Gentile foreigner. And our prophet Elisha did not cure the leprosy of one of our Jewish generals. He cured a Syrian who didn’t even want to wash himself in our Jordan River. He thought of it as a muddy creek. But our Elisha healed him in those very waters anyway.’

So the Nazarenes got mad at their countryman for pointing out that God loves the Gentiles as much as the Jews. As you will likely get mad at me, before I’m done here.

Most of the world now knows that there’s a Catholic boys school in Covington, Kentucky. At least everyone with a smartphone knows it. And everyone knows that a group of Covington-Catholic boys traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., to march for life. To stand up for the innocent and defenseless unborn children—the most vulnerable class of people in contemporary America.

After the March ended, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial. In hindsight, they now think to themselves—and all those who know and love them think—they should have stayed inside the Memorial, quietly reading and meditating on the Gettysburg Address. It’s chiseled into the marble wall.

MAGA hat.pngInstead, the boys stayed outside. And mixed it up with some strange characters.

A dishonest person made a cellphone video, and accused the boys. ‘They surrounded a Native-American man beating a peace drum! Then mocked him and threatened him! An aggressive racist mob!’

Once the video hit the internet, another aggressive mob took over. The social-media mob. A bandwagon of moral indignation. ‘These boys should be expelled from school! They make us Catholic pro-lifers look bad! They stand for everything racist and unjust in this country!’

I myself first saw the “viral” video late that Saturday evening, when I “checked my Twitter.” I did not at first notice the “Make America Great Again” caps that some of the boys wore. I just saw high-school kids making more noise than they should, as high-school kids often do. And a Native-American man beating a drum endlessly for no immediately apparent reason. And a staring contest that made no sense.

I watched the video with my own particular interest, because I know that spot very well, as I imagine many of us do. One of my college jobs involved giving tours of the National Mall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech right where the famous video was shot. The east staircase of the Lincoln Memorial, at the western end of the Reflecting Pool. A uniquely beautiful place, a place for quiet reflection—not for beating drums, or school chants, or staring contests.

But, like I said, when I watched the video, I didn’t notice the MAGA hats at first, because I’m not a particularly observant person. But a lot of people did notice the hats. That’s why they jumped to unreasonable conclusions. As they checked their Twitters and facebooks that Saturday, they saw the caps, and they immediately suspected the boys of harboring ill will towards non-whites.

lincolnNot fair. Not fair to judge the morals of a high-school boy, based solely on his cap. In the ensuing days, the truth emerged, about what happened between the boys and the Native-American with his drum. The boys had not mobbed anyone. The original viral video had a context. Other cellphone videos, recorded at the scene, revealed the full sequence of events. Then some people in the original social-media mob faced up to the truth and admitted their serious mistake. They looked in the mirror and realized that they had done to the boys what they had accused the boys of doing. Forming a cruel mob.

But, we’re not done here yet, fellow Israelites. We cannot simply say: Vindication for the good, pro-life boys; episode over. No.

The political life of our president began years ago. That is, it began when he claimed that our previous president, the first non-white President of the United States, actually came from Africa, not the USA.

Then Donald Trump began his campaign for president with a particular premise: Namely, that Mexicans steal, rape, and murder.

The social-media mob saw MAGA hats and over-reacted. Over-reacted big time. But: Had someone given them cause to over-react? Had someone given the MAGA hat a particular meaning? Namely: This country is primarily for white people. Yes, someone did give the hat that meaning. Donald J. Trump gave the hat that meaning.

Ok. The whole business at the Lincoln Memorial upset a lot of people. And I probably upset you, by even bringing it up. Do what’s the antidote?

Guess what? Ain’t hard. The antidote is: Going to Mass.

Some people think the internet is pure evil. Some people think it’s where we can finally find true democracy. One thing is for sure: Everything on the internet gets put in perspective when we come to Mass.

Yes, we can learn beautiful things that we never knew, over the internet. And we can join cruel, irrational mobs from our own couches, over the internet.

But the fundamental social network—it’s not on the internet. It’s at the holy altar of Jesus Christ. Where people actually know each other, and give each other the benefit of the doubt, and recognize each other not as “legals” and “illegals” but as: fellow sinners in need of God’s loving mercy.

I have probably said something that makes you mad. But I’m just trying to do my job as a priest–whose main job is: to say Mass. Holy Mass is the opposite of a viral video causing a “Twitter storm.” At the altar of Jesus Christ, dear reader, we can actually find peace with each other.

Vertical and Horizontal

christ-synagogue1Let’s try to put the three readings for Holy Mass this Sunday together, into two sentences.

From all eternity, God Almighty ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of divine love to fulfillment, by gathering us all into His Body.

The Body of Christ. His flesh, given for us, offered to the heavenly Father on the cross. A human body, Jesus’, comprised of different parts—feet, hands, ears, eyes, nose—all forming a unity. Now, He reigns on high, risen from the dead. And He abides with us in the Church, uniting us intimately with Himself, through the sacraments.

By heavenly grace, we make up a part of Christ’s Body. Each of us—distinct, individual members of one, living body. Doing something together. That is, forming Christ’s Church, here and now, in the winter of 2019.

Why? How?

Well, everyone has his or her own reasons for showing up at Mass. But I think we can say this much. All the members of Christ’s Body have at least one thing in common. God. We frequent the church building because of God.

God is… God. He deserves worship and praise. He deserves prayerful attention from us. He deserves our obedience. He has a sovereign will. By that eternal will, all things have come to be. He governs all His creatures. He decrees our good, our blessing, our abundant life.

Our business: To co-operate. To do the good that God wills. And to avoid evil, which we know displeases Him.


1. God is God, from all eternity unto all eternity. Eternally willing goodness, life, fruition, blessedness.

2. We’re not God. We dwell on the earth. We are God’s creatures. He summoned us out of nothingness by His power. To give Him glory, by forming His Body.

We cannot see Him; we cannot understand Him. We struggle even to find the words to begin to speak to Him and about Him.

In between the two ends of this vast expanse—the impenetrable, exalted heaven of God on the one end; us here, walking around our little corner of the lowly earth, on the other—in between these two ends stands one man.

He stood up in the synagogue and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He fulfilled the prophecies. That is: The prophecies that slavery and blindness would end. That time would not just march on meaninglessly, but would reach a goal. He stands at the point that unites us with our Creator. He unites God and mankind in Himself. The Christ.

From all eternity, God ordained a holy law, to fill His creatures with true blessings. Jesus came to bring that law of love to fulfillment, by gathering us into His Body.

torahscrollSt. Francis of Asissi parish, St. Joseph parish–every Catholic parish: a “religious organization.” Our parishes are “religious organizations.” No doubt. Like I said earlier: What brings us together under one roof? God. God does. We come to church to practice religion.

But the phrase “religious organization” doesn’t quite do justice to the reality. It doesn’t quite capture the Body of Christ that we are. God, the Almighty and unknowable, has fulfilled His eternal law in Christ, the humble and the knowable.

He, like us, had the custom of frequenting the local church building on the Lord’s day. He, like us, read and meditated on the Scriptures. He, like us, participated in the ancient liturgy.

In other words, the Christ exercised religion. In order to bring religion to its fulfillment. Union with Christ means not just imitating Jesus’ scrupulous submission to God; it also means sharing in His perfect fulfillment of God’s love. He loved His Father in heaven. And He loved every human being, enough to die on the cross for each of us and all of us.

We need each other to form the Body He made us to be. At the same time, each of us needs to seek God and His ineffable heaven. We must do that individually, in order to be for each other what we must be for each other. We love each other best by loving God first.

It all sounds demanding. Because it is. But we can’t go wrong if we keep the eyes of our minds fixed on the one man, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Unremarkable Fountains of Grace

At the Jordan River, just south of the Sea of Galilee, ten years ago, with Father Tim Meares of Raleigh

There were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. (Luke 4:27)

Lord Jesus’ point: familiarity breeds contempt. Prophets tend to exercise their powers when people revere them from afar. Up close prophets look too much like regular human beings.

What about Naaman’s cleansing? Elisha ordered him to bathe in the River Jordan. Is the River Jordan some kind of unique, amazing river? A splendid spectacle, like Niagara Falls, the Blue Danube, the mighty Hudson, and the holy Ganges all rolled into one? Hardly. The Jordan looks like other, familiar rivers, like the Shenandoah, the Roanoke, the Smith, or the Dan.

So Namaan the Syrian got mad. ‘Why did I bother with this Israelite prophet, who I thought was awesome? He just prescribes the same remedies I might have found back in Syria.’

But the servants reasoned with their valiant general. ‘Sir, if the prophet had ordered you to scale Mount Everest with your hands bound in oily gauze; if he had demanded that you do hot yoga, or a juice fast, or a coffee purge and a Japanese tea ceremony—you would have done these things. So why not go down to this little Jordan River, unimpressive as it is, and just see what happens?’

And Naaman’s leprous flesh was cleansed; it became like the skin of a little child. And the Syrian learned that the world has no god other than the God of Israel.

Tried and true remedies actually have a way of bringing about wonderful results. To find God, you don’t necessarily have to go to an ashram, or a Chumash sweat lodge, or on a pilgrimage to a remote Mongolian yurt. Confession and Mass at the friendly neighborhood parish church might do the trick.

The Apprentice, I-Cor-13 Love

Trump The Apprentice


Last Sunday some of us found ourselves snowed-in. Couldn’t come to Mass. Which meant missing St. Paul’s parody of Donald Trump’s old show, “The Apprentice.”

In I Corinthians 12, St. Paul imagines the various members of the human body yelling at each other about their work, like on the show. Paul points out how absurd it would be. The foot cannot say, because I am not a hand, I have decided to seek employment elsewhere. The ear cannot say, because I am not an eye, I quit. The head cannot say to the feet, You’re fired!

St. Paul went on: Now, you are Christ’s Body. You are individually parts of it. So: No I quits. No you’re fireds.

A son can’t fire his father. A wife can’t fire her husband—even if sometimes the performance reviews include a lot of “room for improvement.” Likewise, we baptized Christians form a family, an inseparable Body. No I quits. No you’re fireds. Instead: We strive to believe in each other, to wish the best for each other, to love each other–with true, selfless love.

At Holy Mass this Sunday, we hear the sequel to last week’s “The Apprentice” reading from I Corinthians. This Sunday’s second reading gets read at practically every Catholic wedding. And on the fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.

What is love? Patient, kind, humble, unassuming, gentle, generous, calm, forgiving, faithful, hopeful, and true.

elijah widow
Elijah in Zarephath

This is not St. Paul’s prescription for a romance novel or a chick flick. It is how he describes the divine love that binds the Body of Christ together, the force that binds the Christian Church.

Romance and soul mates and lovey-dovey is fine, as far as it goes. But the Christian love of the People of God makes Romeo and Juliet look like the j.v. squad, by comparison. The love of Christ that binds the Church together as one Body: that is real love.

Now, with all this in mind, with the idea of holy mutual love binding us together, let’s take a quick look at what happened in church that day when the Lord Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Bound in love, the People of God gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth, affirming each other in the faith. They smiled when they saw Christ. Here’s a local boy done very well. Full of wisdom and gravitas.

Says he’s the Messiah… Huh. The Messiah. Really? We’re more familiar with him as someone who helped his father make our tables and chairs. We know him as a rather-sweaty, adze-wielding labor man. The Messiah? Huh.

How did Jesus react to this? He went for the jugular, so to speak. His reaction makes the hard-nosed businessmen of The Apprentice look like milquetoasts. The Lord met pride, cynicism, and smallness with tough love.

To summarize His speech in a nutshell: Christ said to the Nazarenes, You seem to think a lot of yourselves, o fellow Jews of Galilee, gathered here in church. You seem satisfied with your little selves. But God loves humble, faithful foreigners more than He loves you. Your own Scriptures says so!

…We cannot underestimate how much the entire spiritual edifice of the Christian life rests on one thing. Humility.

What did the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian have in common? Practically nothing, except: They both encountered a holy man, a true prophet, a messenger of God, filled with divine power—they both encountered such a man.

The widow met Elijah; Naaman met Elisha. Both the widow and Naaman questioned what they heard the prophet say. Feed you with this little amount of oil I have in my jar? I don’t think so. Wash in the Jordan waters? Why bother?

But both the widow and Naaman obeyed anyway. The widow and Naaman both believed, believed in God more than they believed in their own personal mental powers. They acknowledged their own limitations. And they acknowledged the loving power of Almighty God, the omnipotent, the mysterious, the awesome.

…There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in being a Roanoker. I take pride in it myself. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in belonging to Hokie Nation. But if we think that what makes a church a place of love comes from this earth, we deceive ourselves. If we think that the power that turns a parish into a loving family comes from us, we’re wrong.

Almighty God, the omnipotent, the mysterious, the awesome—He possesses the love described in I Corinthians 13. I Corinthians 13 elaborates in words what we see whenever we look at a crucifix. God alone possesses I-Corinthians-13 love in His own Heart. He alone provides such love.

And He offers it to the humble. Only the humble have hearts open wide enough to receive love as grand as the divine love.

The church people in Nazareth grew furious with the Word made flesh because… pride. Worldliness. Spiritual sloth. They insisted that God fit into their sphere. They thought they could measure God and insist that He please them.

Jesus told them: Fellow Nazarenes, your world is way too small. Your measuring stick is too short. The only way to take in the divine grandeur is to humble yourselves.

Year of Jubilee: the Why

Lord Jesus said, “the Holy Spirit has anointed me to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” A year of jubilee. Like this year. Last month, Pope Francis inaugurated a Jubilee Year of…

christ-synagogue1Now, maybe you think: Father, that’s nice. But, when we read the Bible, we see that the jubilee of Divine Mercy began when Christ first came into the world. He said so, in the synagogue in Nazareth, as we will hear at Sunday Mass (assuming we can safely get to church).

Christ came to bring glad tidings: God’s love overcomes all evil. God loves the suffering and the poor. We human beings don’t need to mistreat each other over inconsequential trifles. We don’t have to fight over having the most stuff, or the most glamour, or the most fleeting pleasure.

God wills to give us His Kingdom, true happiness that does not die. God will give us something infinitely better than anything we could ever fight each other for in this world. The glory of God, better than ten Super-Bowl rings or 25 Oscars.

So: Live simply, humbly, and devoutly through this pilgrim life; love your neighbor; give to the poor. Avoid evil. Live for the Mass; live for the next Holy Communion; live by faith. Long for heaven. What’s the point of fighting over peanuts, doing injustices, and piling up a lot of junk that will only turn to dust in the end?

The Age of Grace and Mercy dawned like a perpetual Year of Jubilee, when the Christ came to the world. He atoned for our sins, conquered death for us, and gave us a hope worth living for.

So why would a Sovereign Pontiff of the Christian Church feel the need to proclaim a special jubilee year, since every year in which the grace of Christ flows is a year of jubilee already?

Good question.

In this case, I think our Holy Father has a double reason for proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

1) Popes always have one basic reason for proclaiming years of jubilee: to help people get out of purgatory more easily.

Pope Francis fiatNow, how can our humble Pope Francis help souls complete purgatory and reach heaven? This pope’s very simple; he just rides around in a little Fiat.

But: Pope, simple as he may be, has full executive authority over a unique kind of bank. It’s the bank with the most valuable assets in the entire cosmos: the treasury of all the good works done by the saints of Christ throughout the Christian ages.

All these good works shine before the eyes of God, like jewels. And the pope has the authority to “disburse” these jewels, and give them to us, to show to God as if they were our own.

So the pope declares: For this year, my dear people, you can make withdrawals from the bank of saintly merits more easily! You can more easily apply the goodness of the saints to yourself, or to a deceased relative in purgatory. Make a pilgrimage, or do the works of mercy, and the goodness of the saints will count as your goodness, too–or as the goodness of your beloved dead.

That’s called an “indulgence.” Popes declare years of jubilee in order to grant indulgences liberally.

So: that’s reason enough for Pope Francis to have declared this Year of Jubilee! But he has another reason, also.

2) In his letter about the jubilee year, Pope Francis wrote about the very passage from the gospel which we hear on Sunday. The Pope wrote: “A ‘year of the Lord’s favor’ or ‘mercy’: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now.”

Christ came and proclaimed the perpetual jubilee of divine mercy, in the synagogue in Nazareth. By doing so, He fulfilled a commandment He had given long before, during the time of the Old Covenant.

In the laws of Leviticus, the Lord commanded Moses and the ancient Israelites to start fresh every fifty years. Start fresh, as in: forgive debts, liberate slaves, restore lost property. Everyone has the right to a decent, peaceful life–to food, shelter, health-care, etc. Start fresh with a fair shake for everyone, every fifty years. Equalize all the incomes. That was a law in the Old Covenant. You might laugh, but there really was a divine law that said basically what Bernie Sanders says.

The ancient Israelites, however, never followed that law. The rich got richer and the poor poorer, even among the Chosen People of God. The fact of the matter is: in this fallen world, a complete fresh start never comes. But there is a way for us to try to make things the way God would have them: those of us who possess stuff–corporal and spiritual goods–have to make sacrifices for the good of others.

So Pope Francis has given us this jubilee year as an occasion for us to: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.

Also to: counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.

By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this year, we obtain the Jubilee-Year indulgence. But not only that. By doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we help to bring about the unending jubilee the Christ came to declare.

L’esprit de la 11 janvier and the Spirit of Jesus

Mass Unity Rally Held In Paris

The Lord Jesus went to the synagogue.

Why? Why bother with such things? “Organized religion.” Why not just pray to my God in my own totally personal way?

Lord Jesus lived the divine law in every respect. And, as St. John puts it, “whoever loves God must love his brother.”

Maybe some of us remember how, a year ago, France suffered a terrorist attack. It wasn’t as big as the one this past November, but it was pretty awful. A few days later, millions of people came together in Paris. They experienced a deep sense of unity and common purpose. They called that sense l’esprit de la 11 janvier, “the spirit of January 11.” In the face of cruel violence and destruction, they found hope by coming together.

My point is: If we really want hope, we have to come together. If we really want to know who we are, we have to come together. If we really want to make contact with the kind of solid foundation that can give us a firm footing, even when evil tries to stare us down–we need to come together. Because that firm footing comes only from solidarity with others.

Now, rallies can be great. But the truth is that God Himself has given us the perfect way of coming together. The Holy Mass.

We come together not just one time, or even just once a year, but every week, every day. We come together to share the spirit. And it’s not just l’esprit de 11 janvier, as good as that spirit may be. No: we share an infinitely greater spirit. The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.

He is the One Who truly unites, Who truly overcomes all the sin and evil of this world. The true source of hope for our human race.

We can’t make it alone. We need Him, and we need each other.

When Someone with a Beautiful Smile Dies

The Lord Jesus came to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. He came to raise our eyes to heaven, to lift us above petty conflicts, above the struggles of day-to-day life. He came to open up the ultimate reality: God loves us, provides for us. And He longs, above all, to welcome us into His embrace in heaven.

tombstone crossChrist exercised His power to cure diseases and handicaps. While He walked the earth, He showed the depths of the divine love by healing and helping people.

At the end of His pilgrimage, He conquered death. He died and rose again. By doing this, He showed His even-greater power of healing our mortality altogether. God took our mortal flesh to Himself in order to transform it into something other than a lump of clay that sooner or later runs out of steam. Christ has the infinite divine life to give. A day will come when all the dead will rise.

The miracles the Lord worked while He was on earth beckon us to have faith in His promises of heaven. And He Himself did everything necessary so that we could have the help we need to believe. In order for us to believe in heaven, we need grace from heaven. Jesus won that grace of faith for us by suffering and dying for us on the cross.

Now, all of these sublime realities confront us when we say goodbye to a beloved friend who has died. Recently, in Rocky Mount, Va., we lost a parishioner with an unforgettable smile. We cannot think that the Lord adorned the earth with that smile, only to remove it forever by death. No.

In Christ, the Almighty has smiled on us. We can, therefore, stand firm in the truth that we will see our loved ones who have died again. We say goodbye. But the goodbye is just for now, not forever. The Day of the Lord will come, and death will be no more.

Scared of the Devil?

Robert de Niro Louis Cypher Angel Heart

There was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon. Luke 4:33

Possession by demons. Scary. The other day the Youth Director at one of my beloved parishes told me some of her plans for the fall. She intends to hold a party on Halloween. They will watch “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” I told her to count me out. Too scary.

When I was in high-school, I pretty much ran with the jocks. We considered ourselves tough and manly. In 1987, another movie about the devil came out, called “Angel Heart.” The title makes the movie sound sweet, but it was about the devil taking a person’s soul. Mickey Rourke starred, and Robert de Niro played Mr. Lou Cypher. Anyway, when we came out of that theater at about 11:00 at night, five or six tough members of the varsity basketball team, we went together to my house. We all bedded-down for the night on the floor of my room, nestled-in together like 10-year-old girls at a slumber party. We were scared out of our minds.

Demonic possessions. Scary for the movies, sure enough. But the truth is that Satan has a far-scarier trick up his sleeve. He tried to use this trick on the Lord Jesus Himself, in the desert. If possessing people were Satan’s best shot at capturing souls for his nasty, horrible domain, he would use it all the time. But he doesn’t. The demons use their other weapon much more often because it is a much quicker and easier way to destroy a soul. Not possession, but…temptation.

How can we protect ourselves? The gospel reading at today’s Holy Mass has the clear answer. We human beings naturally can and should fear the demons of hell. But, as we read, the demons themselves fear someone. They fear Jesus Christ, because He is the Holy One of God.

So we protect ourselves from the powers of evil by staying close to our protector, the Lord Jesus. And how do we do that? Daily prayer, of course. And by using the guaranteed means of keeping Christ at work within us, namely the…sacraments.

Which are the two sacraments that we use over and over again, to keep Jesus within us and scare away the devil? Mass and confession.

Raise your hand if the idea of having to fight the devil scares you. Me, too. A lot. So let’s be smart and pray every day, go to Mass at least every Sunday, and go to Confession every month.

Please, Let’s Not Shoot


I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, says the Lord. (Luke 4:43)

Again and again, mankind will be faced with this same choice: to say yes to the God who works only through the power of truth and love, or to build on something tangible and concrete—on violence. –Pope Benedict XVI.

We make our gravest mistakes when we consider our options with false presuppositions. Probably the most famous case in literature is Huckleberry Finn. He learned that his friend Jim was still legally bound in slavery. So Huck thought he had a moral obligation to send Jim back to his owner. Huck didn’t do it—but he thought he was sinning when he didn’t. His presupposition was false, so when he considered his options, right and wrong were literally reversed in his mind.

The Christian leaders of the Middle East and our Holy Father honestly ask us, the United States: How can you possibly imagine that shooting into Syria will do any good? The Church, speaking with breathtaking universality, is asking us this question. We need to consider the question in order to shake off a false supposition that our government seems to have–seems to have had for fifty years.

Lyndon_JohnsonYes, if we could bring the innocent dead in Syria back to life, we would. Yes, if we could impose world peace from the bridge of a battleship, we would. But neither of these options fall within the repertoire of the U.S. military.

On Sunday, Pope Francis pointed out that God and history will judge and condemn anyone who uses chemical weapons and kills the innocent. The Obama administration’s case for a military strike has a number of gaping holes in it, but the first is this: Yes, using chemical weapons violates international law. But so would our unilaterally striking in order to “enforce” the chemical-weapons ban. The chemical-weapons accord does not empower us to make a punitive strike. If we believe we have an obligation to strike, then we must confer with all the parties to the treaty—in other words, with the United Nations.

Now, President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “The U.N. couldn’t pour water out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.” Actually, President Johnson referred to a liquid other than water. “The U.N. couldn’t pour [something I won’t mention in church] out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.”

President Johnson said that when he thought he had an obligation to strike the Viet Cong. Maybe the U.N. does have trouble pouring water out of a boot. But the Pope knows what he’s talking about. I was watching a few minutes of news, and one of the pundits had the decency to mention that Pope Francis opposes a U.S. military strike. But then everyone on the set laughed it off with a “Well, of course he does.” As if the Pope lives in an ivory tower of religion, but we know the realities of a rough-and-tumble world. So let’s get real and start shooting.

But who, really, lives in a fantasy world of false presuppositions? Isn’t it a fantasy to imagine that shooting a bunch of Tomahawk missiles will lead to peace? Isn’t it a fantasy for us to think that we can launch one round of missiles, which will hit only what we want them to hit, and will hit everything we want them to hit, and then ‘our duty’ will be neatly done and over with? That is a fantasy. When Lyndon Johnson fantasized about surgically striking the Viet Cong into non-existence, it was a fantasy. When we fantasized about surgically striking the Iraqi Republican Guard into non-existence, it was a fantasy. Peace did not ensue. War ensued.

The Pope has asked every Catholic on earth to pray on Saturday evening, the vigil of our Lady’s birthday—he has asked us to pray that we don’t shoot. He has asked everyone to pray that there not be more shooting, but less.

I will lead a rosary for peace at the foot of the altar at the conclusion of the 4:30 Mass at Francis of Assisi Church, Rocky Mount, on Saturday. May God help us and preserve us from decisions made with false presuppositions. God will judge the wrong-doers. The U.S. is one of many countries in this fallen world. May we be a country with truth and love for our decision-making criteria. If we love the poor, innocent Syrians who lost their lives on August 21—and we do—if we love them, then let’s love the poor, innocent Syrians who would inevitably get killed if we fire off a bunch of Tomahawks, and not do it.

Loving at Home or Abroad

They tried to prevent Him from leaving them. But He said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:43)

The kingdom of God demands universal charity. In other words, to enter it, we love all our neighbors. We will what is good for them. We concern ourselves with their well-being more than our own.

The people liked having the Lord Jesus around Capernaum. But the time came from Him to move on. He came to save not just that city, but every city, every town and village. So he had to make a like a rolling stone and shove off.

Christ in Capernaum
This left the Lord’s beloved Capernauians with two choices. They could let Him go, say goodbye for now, and persevere in their faith in Him while remaining at home. They would believe in Him and love Him even though they couldn’t see Him all the time anymore.

Or they could let go of everything they had and go with Him, making His love for others their love, too. He had no house to call his own, no particular hometown, so they wouldn’t either.

This choice the Christians of Capernaum faced has continued throughout the age of the Church. We enter the Kingdom of God either by making the Sacred Heart the king of my home, or by leaving everything and making the Sacred Heart my only home.

According to the first way, if the Sacred Heart is the king of my home, then my home actually belongs to everyone, and everyone under its roof deserves my love and kindness.

If, on the other hand, I leave my hometown, and my only home is in the Heart of Christ, then I let Him lead me to whomever He wants me to love.

Both ways lead to heaven. In heaven, there’s no difference between staying in Capernaum to believe in the one I met there, or leaving Capernaum to follow the Christ I believe in. In heaven, Christ is the king of every home, and the only home is Christ’s Heart.

While we still labor here on earth, the choice we make about staying or going might be the choice of a lifetime, in the case of young people. Or it might just be a choice I make today. Do I go on an adventure to serve Christ today? Or do I stay in familiar quarters and love the people close to me with the love of Christ?

May the Lord guide us all, and may our choices get us to heaven. Until we get there, please God, whether we stay home to love the Lord or go out to follow Him, we all have in common that we believe in Him and love Him, and by our love we build the Kingdom of God.