To listen to this homily, click here.
The struggle you and I are experiencing as we try to be both good citizens and loyal friends of God is nothing new. In fact the enemies of Jesus try to use this situation to get him in hot water with the Roman authorities, religious leaders or both. But Jesus proposes a better way! He teaches them to ‘Learn what you owe worldly power and authority and give earthly powers the appropriate respect and obedience. On the other hand, know what is owed to God and give Him the things that belong to Him alone.” It’s hard to imagine a more relevant teaching right now; “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give to God what belongs to God.” The faithful Christian must constantly discern whether he or she is giving God and lawful civil authority their proper due. As Catholics, we must never forget that we first and foremost, citizens of heaven, That is where we are meant to spend eternity. Therefore all decisions and loyalties ought to be made with that allegiance to God and His law as our utmost priority.
There are many serious issues facing us in the upcoming election: matters of human life and dignity, healthcare, immigration, environmental stewardship, economic policy, and education, to name some of the most apparent. There are no shortage of voices claiming to have the truth and proper priorities for us to follow as we prepare to cast our vote. There is an abundance of extreme speech from every direction, warning about the dire consequences should “so-and-so” win the election. Bitter division has festered in our families, between friends, and even in faith communities over the upcoming election. This is sad but it should not be surprising. This election is not just a contest between two political parties or ideologies. There are higher powers working behind the scenes. The devil, the prince of lies, the thief of souls, and spreader of division, never misses an opportunity to sow hatred and misery. He is working in the background of what is going on in our country right now. He cannot defeat God but he will never stop trying. He is like defeated bully lashing out, trying to inflict as much pain as possible in the time that remains before Jesus returns.
The issues we face as a country are far bigger than political problems. Most of them spring from spiritual roots. This means they cannot be solved by human means alone. Politics can be part of the solution but we need God’s power and grace if we hope to see meaningful, lasting improvement. We need to consult God in addressing the challenges of today and follow his moral code.
It’s not possible for me to cover all the issues facing us as voters in one homily. That’s why Fr. Schneier and I made a couple videos to provide guidance in applying our Catholic principles to the issues at hand. Those can be found on the parish website and if you haven’t had a chance to see them, please set aside a little time to do so.
I have a responsibility as your priest to do everything I can to help you get to heaven and warn you of the spiritual dangers that threaten us as God’s people. Not all of the issues we face are equal. All deserve our prayerful consideration. But some are more pressing than others. Of all the issues we need to confront, the most serious are those dealing with the taking of innocent human life.
In our country, the most urgent issue is the practice of legalized abortion which denies the most basic and fundamental human right to more than 800,000 unborn children every year. Our bishops, in their document on voting and faithful citizenship, call abortion the “our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed. There is nothing more important because all of our other rights rely on the ability to be born. Abortion is not a political issue. It is a moral issue dealing with human rights that has become political. We need to understand this so we are not tempted to abdicate our responsibility to practice our faith in the process of being good citizens of our country. We cannot be silent about the subject of abortion!
I think it’s also important to remember that behind every issue is a person. Sometimes we forget this as we engage in the political process and hear the various arguments for or against a party’s position. We get so caught up in trying to “win” people to our point of view that we forget real lives are at stake. A number of years ago I was sitting in my office as an associate pastor. The phone rang and it was a distressed young woman. She said, “I am sitting in the parking lot of PP because I am pregnant and cannot afford another baby. I don’t want do this but I don’t know what to do.” “I will help you, just please leave there and come to my office.” I said, as calmly as I could. I had no idea what to do exactly but thankfully the woman came to the parish and I promised to get her the help she needed, from diapers to healthcare to vocational counseling. What amazed me in the months and years after that call, is how God sent so many incredible people to help this woman and her child. I did not have all the answers; in fact, my main role was to connect her with organizations and individuals who knew how to help her. Over time, more than 2 dozen groups and people of good will provided assistance to help ensure that unborn child could be born and also to provide a viable future for her mother. I am happy to say that this young mom is now happily married, has a home, and meaningful employment that helps provide for her growing family. Some of the people that provided assistance to her in her moment of need are still in contact with her to support and encourage her. A few have become friends. I never saw any proof of the argument that Catholics are pro-birth but don’t help once the child is born. I saw exactly the opposite from every person involved and this has been my experience with the entire pro-life movement.
I was privileged to be this child’s godfather. That little baby isn’t so little anymore. She is a feisty, funny, young lady who is doing great in school. I can’t imagine our world without her. What a loss it would be!
Sadly, until the laws of our country change, 800,000 children in similar situations as my goddaughter will be sacrificed in name of freedom and choice. More than 60 million have already paid the price for our moral indifference and cowardice. There is a real price that is paid when we fail to live out our faith in the voting booth and are afraid to call abortion for what it really is: murder, genocide, or as Pope Francis describes it, “like hiring a hitman.”
But I don’t stand here preaching to you without hope. Our greatest hope is in the inexhaustible mercy of God. Despite the fact that our country has allowed the destruction of so much innocent life, I am certain that deep down America still values the gift of life. There is still so much goodness in our country and so many still try to find that balance of giving to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what belongs to caesar.. Deep down we still believe that life is truly precious, life is beautiful, life is the fundamental right of every person and the very foundation of our country. But we must do more to protect those who cannot protect themselves. We must work to ensure that every person has the right to live regardless of whether or not their life is convenient, expected, wanted, or productive. And we must allow this mentality to transform the way we think, the way we vote, the way we live out our faith.
Lastly, and this is important, these offenses against human life in our country make victims of the living as well. If any of you have been involved in an abortion and are hurting please know that you can find healing, peace, and forgiveness from Christ in his Church, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation. It is important for each of us to remember that there is no sin, no offense too great for God’s mercy. There are ministries in our Church like Project Rachael and Project Joseph to help men and women who have been hurt by their decision to choose abortion as a solution to an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy. You are still part of God’s family and we love you!
As we come here to this Eucharist, let us renew our efforts on behalf of life. We have a responsibility to end the scourge of abortion. All humans deserve the right to be born and we should be the first ones to jump in and help those moms and dads who are struggling to say yes to life. May each of us build up a culture that respects and protects life in every stage, from conception until death by the way we vote, pray, and live out our faith! Hail Mary…