SATURDAY HOMILY: The Prescription for America's Healing
president" who regularly appears on popular programs like The View and late night talk shows is a sort of icon of our insipid and morally bereft society. While still millions of Americans firmly reject the extremist views of our nation's chief executive, in so many ways President Obama serves as a mirror reflecting all too clearly the moribund state of the modern American body politic.
Boston College philosopher and convert, Dr. Peter Kreeft, sizes up both the world view of our president as well as that of perhaps half of our nation's population, in an unrelated comment he made about modernists. Here's what he wrote:
"The essence of modernity is the death of the spiritual. The modernist is someone who is more concerned about air pollution than soul pollution. A modernist is someone who wants clean air so he can breathe dirty words. A modernist cares about big things, like whales, more than little things, like fetuses; big things like governments, more than little things like families and neighborhoods; big things like states, which last hundreds of years, more than little things like souls, which last forever" (C.S. Lewis for the Third Millennium: Six Essays on The Abolition of Man).
This is the bad news that we did not want to hear from the doctor (of Philosophy!) but which we so desperately needed to hear. It doesn't look good. The disease is extremely serious and potentially fatal but it doesn't have to be. As a culture we are in the throes of spiritual death but it is still possible that we could be brought back to life. The prognosis is poor but there is hope. The diagnosis is dire, but there is a cure.
And where shall we find the cure? It is nearer to you than your local pharmacy or medical center. The cure is found in the "prescription" given to us by a man who had no degrees, who lived like a recluse in the desert and wore clothes made out of animal skins (PETA people would not like him at all!). It will be hard to swallow but it will heal us if we take the medicine.
What is this potent prescription? It is contained in the words of St. John the Baptist at the end of today's Gospel: "He must increase; I must decrease."
As a nation and as individuals we have dethroned Jesus from our hearts. Even though the numbers of the so-called "nones" (people who are not affiliated with any religion) are growing steadily, the vast majority of Americans still consider themselves in some sense believers. But does their belief really translate into their everyday existence? For too many the answer is clearly no.
Christ is the saving remedy. He must increase, I must decrease. He must become truly the center of my life and I must surrender more and more of myself to Him. This means that I must be converted, I must repent, I must undergo what the Bible calls metanoia, a Greek word that literally means, change of mind.
"The point is not that conversion can be reduced to a mental act, but that a change of perspective is essential to the redirection of one's life. The interior attitude thus leads to exterior actions such as fasting and various forms of self-discipline and mortification" (Scott Hahn, General Editor: Catholic Bible Dictionary, p. 764).
Another way of saying it is that I need to die to myself, to my whims, to my sinful habits, to my self-centeredness, to my childish attachments. I need to reorient my life and eliminate from it everything that keeps Jesus at arm's length.
St. Paul wrote: "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11).
St. Teresa of Avila once said, "The world is burning and there is no time for unimportant things."
St. Josemaria Escrivá wrote in his spiritual classic, The Way, "These world crises are crises of saints" (301).
By this St. Josemaria means that the answer to not only America's problems but to problems of the whole world is personal sanctity. Once again, I need to be converted! I need to become a saint! This is what will transform the culture and Christianize it anew if you and I, with the grace of God, begin again the struggle of becoming saints.
"There are many souls all around us," wrote St. Josemaria, "and we have no right to be an obstacle to their eternal happiness. We have the obligation of leading a fully Christian life, of becoming saints, of not betraying God and all those who expect a Christian to be an example and a source of truth (Christ is Passing By, 124)."
While the New Year is still somewhat new, let us perseveringly ask God the Holy Trinity through the intercession of our Holy Mother Mary, Help of Christians, and St. John the Baptist, the "best man" of the Bridegroom, that you and I may be truly converted in this Year of Faith.
Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, California.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Fr. G. Peter Irving III, Holy Innocents Long Beach, culture of death, culture of life, St. John the Baptist
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