Homily: Love Thy Neighbor

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) (link to readings)
Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Matthew 22:34-40

Today’s Gospel reading connects beautifully to the readings we’ve had the last few weeks. What is the greatest commandment? “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” In other words, render unto God what belongs to God. We can be Caesar’s good servants because we are God’s first. All these are different ways Jesus is reminding us of that first and greatest commandment: First, things first, and God is always first, in every way, with all of our being.

How do we respond and comply to this first and greatest command? By keeping the Lord’s Day holy and set apart. By actively participating in the holy sacrifice of prayer and worship that is the Mass, on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. By daily and frequent prayer and reading with the holy scriptures. By praying the rosary and participating in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as much as reasonably possible. By tithing our income. By volunteering and participating in the Church’s ministries, groups, and events. By living one’s life in perfect conformity with the truth God reveals to us in his word and his Church. And by regularly reconciling with God and his Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever one falls into mortal sin. Essentially, uniting your will, your mind, your heart, your soul, to God through Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Do that, and you will live.

In Jesus’ time, it was common for scholars of the law, the scribes, to test an unknown rabbi and their interpretation of the law by asking them to choose which of the hundreds of laws was the most important. Jesus didn’t quote any of those hundreds of laws. He quoted the Shema, the verse of Deuteronomy that faithful Jews recited three times every day, which everyone knew, the way we know the Our Father. The full text of the Shema says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In other words, filling one’s life with God’s presence and truth at all times, in all places, in all conversations, including diligently passing this on to the children of each generation. Just as the Our Father is the perfect prayer, the Shema is the perfect commandment.

Then Jesus goes one step more. He gives us the practical application of this perfect commandment, the way for us to fulfill it in the way we live and witness our love for God. He says: “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Ah, there’s the rub. As Saint John says in his first letter, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

Jesus took his first commandment from the Shema in the Book of Deuteronomy, and he takes his second commandment from the book of Leviticus: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” I’ll remind you that when Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” his response was the parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that we are called to show mercy to everyone: in a liberal, not a restrictive, interpretation of the words “neighbor,” and “your own people.”

So what does that look like, for us as the people of God? It looks like our first reading. We go back to the 2nd book of the bible, Exodus, in a scene in which Moses has just come down from the mountain of God with the ten commandments, and he is instructing the people in the moral code that is to be the law of Israel. It is the Torah, the great gift that sets Israel apart for the divine wisdom of their law. God connects his law with Israel’s recent experience in Egypt, as strangers in another people’s land, vulnerable, and dependent upon others for their survival.

Thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Immigrants have a humanity, a human dignity, that morally must be honored, under all circumstances. There is great risk and suffering in attempting to settle your family (or just part of your family) in a new country for a new life, assimilating into a new culture and community. They–and the people of the nation they’re looking to for hope–need better than a broken, inhumane system. Our national immigration policy hasn’t been sufficiently updated or funded, and it needs to be fixed as an urgent priority. But immigrants, aliens, asylum seekers, are of particular concern of God and his people, because they are vulnerable, in a position of weakness and need of protection, affirmation, and hospitality. And it is an act of divine love to welcome them and support them.

You may remember a situation in 2015, when (after an ACLU lawsuit) Catholic Charities was eliminated from the government's program of temporarily housing and caring for immigrants because Catholic Charities did not include access to abortion in the healthcare offered to its refugee/immigrant residents. This example, and that of Catholic Charities pulling out of the adoption services in Illinois' adoption program because it refused to adopt children to same-sex couples, illustrates the difficult dynamic of faith-based providers (adhering to their faith) working with (and receiving funding from) government social services.

You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.” What is this? Social injustice, systemic dependency, racial prejudice, unlivable wages, systemic poverty, unaffordable or unavailable medical and mental healthcare. These are all issues described by the US Bishops as grave sins against the dignity of human life. We cannot address these issues with any flavor of Socialism or Communism, which the Church has clearly condemned for their systemic sins against human dignity. We can never solve a sinful problem with a sinful solution. And the government is not necessarily the best way for these problems to be solved. But there would be no outcry for Socialism if these problems were to be solved voluntarily, without the need for the government to compel by legislation.

And the last one from our reading, “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.” To me this might sound a bit like the cry of those trapped under decades of student loan payments, looking for hope. I get that students willingly agreed to take out these loans, and we can say that their consequences are just. But also remember that their oppressive student loan debt is a factor in their cohabiting and putting off marriage, delaying having children by using contraception and abortion, and the general despair, depression, and outcry about economic inequality. A lot of moral problems we lament could be greatly helped by finding a merciful solution to this problem. And that applies to many of the issues the bishops outlined in their document on forming consciences according to Catholic social teaching. Absolutely, abortion is the most urgent and egregious issue. But while we combat that issue, we must also combat the myriad other issues of systemic injustice and sin that infect our society and violate Catholic social teaching. Again, I encourage you to read the Bishops’ document if you haven’t done so yet.

Lastly, this social dimension, the second commandment of Jesus, takes on a particular importance in the Christian covenant. Not only does our neighbor bear the image of God in his or her humanity, but through baptism, our neighbor is our brother or sister in Christ. The poor and vulnerable come to us as Christ our brother, in need of our compassion. What you did (or did not do) for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did (or did not do) for me. And so because our neighbor is Jesus who has come to us in need, and because Jesus is God, this two-fold commandment folds back up into a single commandment of love: love for our neighbor is love for God, and justice denied to our neighbor is justice denied to God.

To love ourselves is to desire for ourselves justice, freedom, dignity, affirmation, kindness, truth, and salvation through Christ. And to love our neighbor as ourselves is to bring our desire for them to have that into our desire for our ourselves to have that, because they are united to us in Christ.

The cross is the center of our faith. The horizontal, social dimension, and the vertical, transcendent dimension, meet and are united in Christ. We are called to reach out in mercy to others, in Christ, because God has reached out in mercy to us, in Christ. We are our neighbors’—our brothers’ and sisters’—good servants, because we are God’s first.


This is a transcription (slightly edited for length and continuity) of a conversation between Matthew S. Leonard, who runs his Catholic Podcast “The Art of Catholic,” and Dr. Andrew Jones, author of the book pictured above, “Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX.” You can find the audio of this interview here, if you prefer, and I highly recommend it. I tend to listen to Catholic podcasts and lectures through the BlueTooth audio in my car. But I wanted to type this out so that I could search it and reference it as the need arises. And in doing so, I was reminded just how monumental this concept is. I read the book with great interest and joy, and that too, I highly recommend. The link is above. So in the interview below, I don’t really distinguish between what’s Matt, and what’s Andrew. But if you read through it, I have no doubt it will be quite eye-opening, and I hope you will take that as a cue to buy and read the book. Enjoy!

Almost all of us have been co-opted by a completely false narrative that has totally corrupted our view of the world and our practice of the faith. Among other things, we’re going to look at the whole notion of “church and state”: categories that are treated almost as gospel by the modern world. And we’re going to expose how what so many of us have taken for granted as gospel truth is basically bull. In other words, the very categories that we use are totally modern inventions that totally undermine the very fabric of a Christian worldview and the Catholic Church, frankly, in particular.

So much of what we have been taught all of our lives is intrinsically opposed to our beliefs, and many of us have accepted it blindly, even though it essentially crushes our faith.

The way we’re going to approach all of this is to set off the problem of the narrative we’ve been fed, and then go back and look at how things really were, using the high middle ages as an example: the time before there was such a thing as “Church and State.” What we’re going to see is that the way things have progressed from there (or regressed, as it were) basically has made it so that Christianity has nothing to say about the way things are structured in society. So we’re going to try to start to put things back in their right order and realign our perspective to a truly Catholic worldview.

And to help us begin this rethinking is a guest with whom regular listeners to the program are familiar: Dr. Andrew Jones. He’s got a PhD in Medieval History from St. Louis University, and is an expert on the Church in the High Middle Ages. He is a faculty fellow at Franciscan University, and is also the Executive Director at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He loves to destroy the anti-Catholic paradigms and the false narratives we’re all taught to believe. He has a new book: “Before Church and State – A Study of the Social Order in Saint Louis IX’s Sacramental Kingdom.” I think many of you will find this book, and hopefully our discussion today particularly relevant, given what’s happening in society.

History’s about human beings, and it’s about the course of human beings in time. In order to do history, you necessarily bring in the theory of anthropology, or theory of humanity: who is this thing that I’m studying, called man? What are we? And modernity has a certain answer to that question, and Christianity has a different one. And so if we go to history, to the evidence of history as a Christian, we’re going to see things differently, because we believe human beings are different than the way modernity presents them as.

In the past, in the Middle Ages, which we all imagine as rainy and dark and muddy, there was the Church, and there were the kings. The pope and the bishops on one side, and then there was the king and the knights and all of those. These are two different institutions, and what you’re looking at in the middle ages, there’s a lot of conflict between the two. This is the typical narrative to those who read history.

And the way we normally tell it is that the Church (so the bishops and the papacy) are corrupt, by which we mean (and you see this by the way Hollywood makes movies about them) that they’re trying to be involved in politics, basically. So they’re after power, or wealth, or whatever the things that politics are about, the Church is trying to be in charge of that, or take over it, or somehow be involved, and the result is conflict with the monarchy, with the various kings and the emperors. And so, you have the battle between the Church and State. And this manifests itself in multiple different conflicts, most famously with the investiture controversy, which if you’re kind of a history buff, you recognize the story. But basically, the story is normally told, is that over the course of the middle ages, the papacy in its attempt to beat the monarchies, sort of corrupted itself to the point where it lost all credibility. And when it did that, that’s when you get into the Avignon papacy, where the papacy is moved into France, because it’s dominated by the French monarchy. While at the same time, the papacy is sort of corrupting itself, and the bishops along with them.

In politics you have the construction of the monarchies. So the French and the English in particular, starting in the 11th century. And so you have the two corresponding movements: the decline of the power of the papacy, and the rise of the monarchies. And they’re presented as necessarily correlated in that way. Because the power of the papacy is defined, basically, as its ability to coerce monarchies. So if the monarchies are getting stronger, the papacy’s getting weaker. That’s the way we normally tell the story.

So then you move into the early modern period where you have confessionalization, basically all that means is the creation of State Churches, Protestant or Catholic, it doesn’t matter. And then you get the wars of religion spin out of that, where all these kings are fighting each other, and their religion is all wrapped up into it. And that’s universally viewed as being this horrible sequence of events that are primarily caused by the confusion of religion and politics.

And what we get out of that is the final modern “proper” sorting, where religion becomes a private, reflective category called “morality.” And then you have politics and economics, that are a different category. And the politics and economics become the social and public thing, and religion and morality becomes the private thing. The perfect example of this would be Catholic politicians who say things like, “Well, I’m personally opposed to abortion, but you know, when I’m voting for the public good or making laws, I’m going to act this other way, because my religion is separate from the secular world.”

But the reason why people can say those sorts of things is because when we say religion, now, what we mean is “things that don’t really matter.” That sounds like an extreme thing to say, but I believe that’s kind of what we mean. So, what doesn’t really matter? Heaven. And when I say it doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t really matter here and now, as I walk down the street. Your relationship with God. So, your prayer life. What you do on Sunday morning. You go to the Sacraments or you don’t. You go to church or you don’t. None of these things affect the stock market. None of these things affect the war in Iraq. And so they’re not important. That’s what I mean by religion. We’ve created this category, in the modern period, where we can sort certain things that used to have real significance, socially, and declare them to be insignificant, socially, and then have a place for them to continue to survive.

The modern period was not interested, at least in its early phases, with the annihilation of Christianity. That’s not really what it’s about. In fact I would argue that, in contrary, that the modern period in a lot of ways constructs Christianity as a religion as we know it, as something that can be compared to something like Islam or Buddhism, like one religion among many.  Where do we get that idea? Well that’s a modern idea, where you have this category called “religion,” and there can be different kinds of people who have different religions. [And when we’re saying, “religion doesn’t matter, we’re talking about it from the view of modernity.] My argument is going to be that this is totally wrong.

Take someone like John Locke, for example. So John Locke basically defined religion as that category of a person’s life that is a matter of opinion, a matter of personal beliefs. And what defines it as that is that it doesn’t have social consequences. So, for example John Locke is all about religious liberty, but not for Catholics. Why? Because he’ll argue that Catholicism isn’t really a religion. Catholicism is political. Because Catholicism makes demands on the body politic, on society. And so that makes it political, as a matter of definition, not religious.

This is the same sort of thing, you can see this today, with Islam. In the pop culture we have the narrative of Islam is peaceful, it’s a peaceful religion. And that people who kill in the name of Islam are distorting it. Really (modernity will say), they’re being political. It’s a political action that’s using the religion of Islam as a tool for its ideological objectives.

But my point here is that, that’s a modern understanding of religion, and that’s all a matter of definitions. As soon as a religion becomes politically meaningful, then by definition it’s not religion anymore. So, Islam is peaceful, because all religion is peaceful. That’s what religion is. Religion is this peaceful thing we do in our private life. As soon as we try to take it out of that, and apply it anywhere else, then it becomes political, and then it’s a perversion of religion. And this is just modernity projecting its definitions of its terms. There’s no real substance there. So religion is defined as this private reflective peaceful (because it’s not politically relevant) category. And religion operates, then, within [the space politics allows it].

Here’s another example, which is great, where you can see this. The contraception mandate. What do we have going on there? The government is saying that certain businesses have to provide contraception to their employees regardless of their personal religious beliefs. Look at the way I just phrased that: “their personal religious beliefs.” So we’ve created this distinction. And what the government’s saying here is that, once you go out into the marketplace, then that’s in the public space; that’s no longer the place where religion operates. So your religious beliefs are relevant at home, and they’re relevant on Sunday, and they’re relevant those places, and that’s fine, that’s where they can survive. But once you go out into the marketplace, and start a business, then that’s where economics and politics happen, not religion. So it’s inappropriate for religion to govern how you perform those functions. And so, it’s ok for the State to coerce you to provide contraception.

The point, though, is that, that used to not be the case. So only a few decades ago, it would have seemed obvious that a private business owner, that the way he ran his business was a part of his religious beliefs. [Well you see this right now with the bakeries that won’t bake the cake to celebrate the wedding of two homosexuals.] Exactly right. So what you’re seeing happening is the re-definition of religion. So religion as a category is a category that functions within the secular politics [within the view of modernity]. That means that secular politics gets to define what the boundaries of religion are: what counts as religious and what doesn’t. That’s just another way of saying, to modernity, what are you allowed to do, and what are you not allowed to do. It doesn’t matter to us if you do this and this and this, so that’s religion. It matters to us if you do this, so that’s no longer religion, now it’s politics. What I’m arguing is that, within modernity, religion is a category of domination [by secular politics], really. To view Christianity as simply a religion, and to accept modernity’s terms on what that means, is to say that Christianity doesn’t really have anything to say about the structure of society. [And that’s where we are.]

Religious liberty, religion, all these ideas, these categories, are concepts that the overriding fundamental secular dominance controls. So what does it mean to have religious liberty? It’s like, I have the right to do this sort of thing, this list of things, in juxtaposition to this whole other world which isn’t a part of those things. [You’re setting them up against one another.]  But religious liberty, or the thing we’re free to do, which is called religion, subsists within the larger context, which is the secular. And the secular really gets to determine where the boundaries are. The government gets to say what counts as religious liberty and what doesn’t. [The secular is basically the reality, and religion just sort of exists as part of that reality.]

[So your whole argument here is basically is that there is an integration, there used to be, an integration of all this, so that these categories didn’t exist previously.] What I argue is not that in the past, the religious and the secular and the political and the Church were all mixed up together. What I’m trying to suggest is that those categories themselves didn’t exist.

Let’s talk about Sovereignty. Thomas Hobbes. 17th century, English. And he is one of the founding fathers of modern political thought. Thomas Hobbes famously wrote the book, “Leviathan.” And what he argues in it is that mankind, in its state of nature, as he calls it, is engaged in a war of “all against all.” So there’s just continual violence and each individual against every other individual, they’re all trying to seek their personal gain at the expense of each other, and that this is really sort of a nasty world. This is the famous Hobbes quote (I’m not sure I’m going to get it exactly right) that, “in the state of nature, man’s existence is nasty, brutish, and short.” What’s the solution to this war of all against all? And what Hobbes tells us is that the solution is for everybody to surrender their power to inflict violence against each other to one power, one person, who assembles together all of that power, and then has the ability to inflict violence everywhere and always; and that his power will be so overwhelming that all the other people in society will refrain from exerting their own violence, because if they do so, they’ll get the wrath of this Sovereign against them. So he’ll enforce peace. But the way in which he enforces peace is suppression of all violence. So the idea is that as soon as the overwhelming violence of the State, of the Sovereign, is weak enough that someone thinks they can get away with an act of violence against someone and profit from it, they’ll do it. Modern political thought starts here, with this idea of the conflict between people necessarily. This is human nature. There really is something to that. What is human nature? Human nature is totally depraved. [This is a completely Protestant notion, obviously, of original sin.]

One thing that is important, also, is that if that is correct, if Hobbes is right, then modern political theory may be correct. The only way you achieve any type of peace is with the overwhelming power of a State that monopolizes all violence in society, and is capable of enforcing a concord between people [a police force].

So, the Sovereign is that absolute power that all legitimate power in society is derived from. So it’s all delegation from the Sovereign. But it’s not simply that it’s the absolute power. It has to be all-encompassing power. So there’s nothing that falls outside of the power of the Sovereign. There’s no compartments of society that the Sovereign couldn’t exert force in if he saw fit.

So we have all these things like constitutions, and all these legal ways of managing the sovereign power. But when it really comes down to it, the Sovereign power can make war. Including civil war. And that is the suspension of whatever those legal formalities are. So we can have all the constitutions we want. But if there’s always the sovereign power to suspend that in the name of peace, that’s one of the defining features of sovereignty. So there is no legal limit to the power of the Sovereign. There can’t be.

[What’s the alternative?] This goes back to anthropology—the question of who we are as human beings. And this is the core of the argument I’m making. The underlying idea that leads to sovereignty is this idea of a ubiquitous and primordial violence, from the state of nature.  And what Catholicism teaches us that that’s not the case. That in fact, the primordial condition is condition of peace and love.

Think of Adam and Eve. And that sin hasn’t led to total depravity [the Protestant teaching of original sin]; sin has wounded us severely [the Catholic teaching of original sin] (and there’s all sorts of political consequences to that, which I can talk about in a minute), but it’s not complete. So, there’s still the ability for charity, for love. And that grace is what actualizes that ability. Through grace we can achieve actual virtue. What the Catholic anthropology shows us is that different people can be united with each other in their difference in a true unity that is not one of domination and submission, and it is not one of destruction of their differences. An example of this would be a father and a son. A father is a father only because he has his son. A son is a son only because he has his father. And they are very different from each other. So, the father’s responsibilities, his duties, his obligations, his role, is very different from that of the son. And their relationship, though, when they come together, if they have a relationship of perfect peace, it’s precisely in those differences that that peace exists. So, they each fulfill their obligations to each other, and they find peace, through love. But it’s not a peace of exchange—it’s a peace of gift. So, the father gives himself to the son, and the son gives himself back to the father. And they give themselves to each other in a way that’s reciprocal, that constitutes each other. Like I said, the father can’t be the father without the son, and vice versa. And it’s precisely their gifts of each other, in their difference between each other that makes their peace a real thing.

[So you’re saying that it’s differences that beget peace, and sameness will lead to violence.] In the Hobbsian modern view, the reason why two men go to war with each other is because they’re different. So one of them has more land than the other, or has land that the other guy wants, whatever it is. And those differences are what opens up the possibility of violence between the two, because they can look at each other and say, I have more power than you, therefore, I can take your things. Or, you have things I want, I’m more powerful, I think I can win, so I’m going to take it. So differences lead to conflict when two people encounter each other. And so the drive in modernity is toward sameness. How do we create peace? We create peace by making everyone the same. And the way that modernity does that is through things like rights.  In the Catholic view, difference is precisely the place where there are things like gifts, duty, responsibility, love. And it’s only in giving those gifts to each other that they have the common good, which is a family. Obviously, the reason why I’m using the father and the son analogy is because of the trinitarian connection. And that is, that man is trinitarian. By analogy we are like the trinity. And the trinity is the ultimate example of different persons whose very personhood contains within it the other persons. You can’t even talk about the Father in the Trinity without talking about the Son and the Holy Spirit. They’re constituted by each other, and yet they’re not lost into each other. Their distinctions are so profound that it’s where we get the very notion of persons. And yet their unity is real. And it’s not the unity of contract, or agreement, or compromise. It’s a true unity of perfect charity.

So, what I’m suggesting here is that in the Catholic anthropology, the Catholic conception of humanity, it’s possible for human beings to associate with each other in a way that is not based in conflict. In fact, we would reverse the modern notion, and say that human beings’ normal way of interacting with each other is in love. And that sin, which is an aberration, which is a distortion of the norm (of the very structure of reality), is where that conflict comes in.

So, what that means then, is that if you go back to that Hobbesian idea, that violence is everywhere and always, and you have the Sovereign, which is just superior violence, and that’s the only path to peace and political order. But in the Catholic conception, we deny those points. It’s not the case that human beings are necessarily always and everywhere at war with each other. And it’s not the case therefore that we need a more powerful human being who has absolute total power over all of us in order to suppress all of our violence.

[So if the modern model is wrong, how does society look, if it’s not that?] The way that I would answer that is to ask, has there ever been a society ordered by Catholic principles, and what did it look like? And that, I think, is 13th century France. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect. And that’s the thing. One of the things that’s overriding in this study is that the overarching thought is about conflict and violence and how we do deal with it, because we live in a fallen world. So it’s not some sort of utopia where there isn’t fighting. The whole father and son analogy is a perfect one, because fathers and sons fight with each other all the time. But we don’t think that a father’s relationship with his son should be the same as a father’s relationship with an employee. We think something should be really different about it. So if you imagine that relationship, of a family, extending out into larger concentric circles, involving more and more people. So you have a nuclear family, then an extended family, then a village, a tribe, a clan—but the difference in relationships is what you have in 13th century France. What that means is that relationships between people are personal.

The first thing is, stop being fooled by modernity’s linguistic games. So, Christianity is not a religion, in the modern sense. It’s a vision of all of reality, all of the cosmos. It’s a worldview that includes everything. So there’s no area of our lives that isn’t governed by what Christianity tells us to be true about the universe. All human interaction is necessarily about charity. It’s all ethical, it all has moral implications. There’s no such thing as an amoral interaction two people.

So what that is, is denying the existence of the secular. It doesn’t exist. If Christians internalize that, then it changes the way we do politics, profoundly. So what that means is that the division is not between the secular and the religious. The division is between the truth and untruth, between virtue and vice, between charity and hatred. Those are the divisions of the world. And so when you view the political scenario, that’s what you’re looking for. Not that there’s some realm of politics or economics that we can engage in in a sort of neutral way. So the first step is we stop thinking that way.

And part of that is acknowledging that other people in society that are not Christians are not themselves neutral. If you really adopt a Christian world view, you’re going to see, you’re really going to start to understand, that the opponents of Christianity are rival theologies, rival churches, rival doctrines. In religion, everything involves these questions of truth and justice.

The second thing to recognize that human beings, that the only way you get out of violence and conflict is through transforming yourself into virtue, and the Church, moving into virtue as a community, who loves God and loves neighbor. To the extent that we don’t do that, to the extent that we are selfish and greedy, and grasping, then the moderns are right, and what  we need is a totalitarian state that treats us as numbers, gives us our little battery of rights, and consigns us to our little place where we can not kill each other. But to the extent that we do move out of sin and into virtue, and to the extent that we do improve ourselves and become faithful and charitable people, that’s not true, and that’s not true of society, either. Because we become sons, and not slaves, as we move toward God.

The point, then, is that politics is not the answer. We can’t look at society and say, oh there’s this big sea of individuals out here and they’re just the way we are, and we need better policies. But Christianity teaches us that the big sea of individuals out there ought to be better people, not just better governed. So, converting society is the only path to peace. Not politics. In fact, politics, by which we mean the use of force to achieve some set of objectives, is precisely the area in the social life where sin reigns, because we’re using violence against people. So, politics is–the goal of our social action ought to be—to make politics as unnecessary as possible. To achieve social virtue to the point that the police functions of society, the coercive aspects, can recede. So, if you want liberty, if you want less state, the only way that works is through virtue. From a Christian perspective, we would like to have less people coerced, because our relationships are based on truth and love and charitable relationships, so that the need for an all-encompassing force just altogether disintegrates (or rather recedes). That’s the eschaton, in heaven. We have no problem imagining an individual getting better spiritually, but we have difficulty imagining society getting better spiritually. But human beings are by nature social, so the pursuit of sanctity is a social thing, it’s an ecclesial thing. And so for a society to pursue sanctity is inevitable if individuals are doing so. It’s two parts of the same movement.

So what does that look like? That’s the thing about a Catholic political theology. It doesn’t view humanity as this great sea of inert desires and movements like the way modern economics or modern political theory does. It views humanity as a large family of individual persons who are to love each other and have relationships with each other. And that that family’s dysfunctional. But correcting that dysfunction is the objective of the Church. And that correction is real. It actually changes. And the way people need to be instructed changes as they grow in sanctity.

If we believe that, we don’t say that there’s some sort of laws of society that are fixed. And if we figure them out properly, and design the correct mechanism, it will construct the perfect society and engineer the way people interact because we have these laws of human behavior. No, actually. The laws of human behavior change as human beings ascend toward God. So those principles of sociology, of economics, of politics, those modern principles, all assume sort of fixed nature of man. And that fixed thing is total depravity.

So you look at economics, and what’s the assumption? The underlying assumption is that man is self-interested, irrational, he makes decisions in his own self-interest, and that there’s a scarcity of resources. By which they mean that everyone would rather have more of everything at every moment if they could. So there’s always a scarcity because you would always take one more if you could. And then all of modern economics is based on that. So, I as a Christian say that’s just not true. That’s not the way human beings are. It’s the way human beings can be, and it’s maybe the way that a lot of are, and maybe the way a lot of society is.  But we don’t have to be that way. And to the extent that we are that way, ok, modern economic theory may be very good at predicting the way we’re going to behave. But it’s not going to be good at predicting the way a convent of cloistered nuns are going to behave. Why? Because they’re not that way.

So we can move away from that starting point and ascend to a higher point. And then our way of understanding human society, politics, has to change with it. What I hope you take away from this discussion is that a lot of the things we take for granted as the narrative is not right, and it’s not the Catholic worldview. This other worldview that has been foisted upon us, a lot of us have just bought this without realizing this isn’t the way that it has to be. The objective of the book is to show a time and a place where things were different, and to allow us therefore to imagine that there is a more Catholic way to approach society than what we find in modernity. We wonder why it is we’re constantly running up against these walls, and butting our heads into the rest of society? It’s because there used to be an integration that does not exist anymore. Catholicism contains the answer, because it’s given to us, the Church has been given to us, by God, so that we can ascend the divine ladder toward Christ and toward our end goal, which is the complete and full integration, that grafting into the family of God for which every one of us was made. That grafting can take place now. This worldview is what everyone one of us is called to, and the only way we’re going to get through is through a life of grace and a life of prayer. It always come back to personal sanctity.

My Favorite Christian Movies

In a recent homily, I rattled off a short list of Catholic movies as a way to introduce my discussion of “A Man for All Seasons.” I got a lot of positive feedback (for which I am very humbled and grateful), and a number of requests for that list. So I decided to assemble my particular list of movies I think Catholics who are into movies would enjoy, or at least would benefit from watching. Some of them are fun; some are more serious dialogue than action; some are difficult to watch and deal with more difficult themes, or have some violent content that parents might want to preview before watching with children. There are movies I intentionally left out, either because I didn’t particularly care for the movie, or haven’t seen the movie, or don’t remember enough of it to include. I’m sure there will be comments of recommendations, and you can take them as you will. There’s a moderate chance that I will also update this list as I watch more movies that feel they would improve my list! God bless, and Enjoy!

So…first, the Catholic movies… (in no particular order)

  • Going My Way (1944) Bing Crosby, Frank McHugh, Risë Stevens
    Bing Crosby plays Fr. O’Malley, a young, joyful priest who replaces a faithful old pastor, and raises up a boy’s choir to help raise funds for the parish
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) Ingrid Bergman, Bing Crosby
    Bing Crosby reprises his role as Fr. O’Malley, this time to help a Catholic parochial school, run by Mother Superior, played by Ingrid Bergman
  • Nunsense (1993) Rue McClanahan
    A wonderfully funny and moving stage musical presented by a small cast of sisters to raise funds for their convent, and convey the beauty of religious life
  • Sister Act (1992) & Sister Act 2 (1993) Woopie Goldberg, Maggie Smith
    Lounge singer gets in trouble with the mob, Witness Protection hides her in a convent, and she can’t resist but to “help” the sisters’ struggling choir
  • Pope John Paul II (2005) Cary Elwes, John Voight, Christopher Lee
    Cary Elwes plays the young JP2, and John Voight takes over in the second half. A beautiful tribute to a beautifully holy pope.
  • Passion of the Christ (2004) Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci (dir. Mel Gibson)
    A powerfully graphic presentation of the the Passion of Christ, creatively presented in the original language of Aramaic with subtitles
  • Doubt (2008) Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
    Adapted from the stage play, it explores the distrust borne of the clergy abuse crisis. Very well acted, of course, with such a phenomenal cast.
  • I Confess (1953) Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
    A murderer confesses his criminal sin to a priest, who then becomes suspected for the murder, and is unable to defend himself.
  • The Scarlet and the Black (1983) Gregory Peck, Christopher Plummer
    A Jesuit monsignor conspires to protect the people of Rome in a dangerous battle of wits with the Nazis
  • Becket (1964) Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole
    The story of Saint Thomas Becket, 12th century Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by his friend King Henry II, expecting an easy alliance
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966) Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Orson Welles
    The story of St. Thomas More, the 16th century martyr who refused to acquiesce to Henry VIII. Very clever dialogue!
  • For Greater Glory (2012) Andy Garcia, Ruben Blades, Peter O’Toole
    Movie sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, explores the Cristero movement resisting the anti-Catholic politics of early 20th c. Mexico
  • Romero (1989) Raul Julia
    The story of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who worked for peace in El Salvador’s violent mid-20th century. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass.
  • Calvary (2014) Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly
    A priest is told in confession he will be killed for the sins of the priesthood. The priest continues his ministry, trying to identify his would-be attacker.
  • Babette’s Feast (1987) Stéphane Audran
    In 19th century Denmark, two religious elderly women take in a French refugee, Babette. Pope Francis’ favorite movie.
  • The Mission (1986) Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
    Eighteenth-century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Maria Falconetti
    French silent film; regarded as a landmark of cinema, especially for Falconetti’s performance, which is listed as one of the finest in cinema history.
  • There Be Dragons (2011) Charlie Cox, Wes Bentley, Dougray Scott
    A journalist investigating the life of JoseMaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, discovers that his father was a long-time intimate friend of the saintly priest.

Christian movies (inspiring, not specifically Catholic)

  • The Chosen (2017)
    New series available online, only season one so far, presenting Jesus from the perspective of the Apostles. Beautifully done!
  • The Robe (1953)
    The Roman centurion who wins Jesus’ cloak at the foot of the cross is haunted by his cooperation in the crucifixion, and seeks the Christians.
  • Risen (2016) Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth
    A Roman Tribune in Judea is tasked to find the missing body of Jesus Christ to quash the rising tensions in the wake of the crucifixion.
  • The Nativity Story (2006) Keisha Castle-Hughes
    A beautiful presentation of Joseph and Mary as they grapple with the angel’s message and the events leading up to the birth of Jesus.
  • Son of God (2014) Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey
    Continuing from Roma Downey’s miniseries “The Bible,” which covers the Old Testament, this is one of my favorite movies of the life of Jesus.
  • The Gospel of John (2003) Christopher Plummer
    The ENTIRE Gospel of John, in 3 hours. It helps to experience this rich Gospel book in complete continuity.
  • Godspell (1973) Victor Garber, Lynne Thigpen (music by Stephen Schwartz)
    A classic “passion play” with a hippie visual representation. Beautiful, silly, and poignant, with very memorable presentations of the parables!
  • Ben Hur (1959) Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd
    Epic classic movie of a 1st century Roman Jew whose adventurous life periodically encounters Jesus. The chariot race scene!
  • The Ten Commandments (1956) Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter
    The classic epic movie of Moses. The parting of the Red Sea!
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
    The latest version of this C. S. Lewis classic fantasy-Christian allegory.
  • The Shack (2017) Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw
    A powerful and unusual encounter with God, bringing healing from grief and unforgiveness after a child’s abduction and death
  • Favorite Evangelical Christian movies (mostly the same people involved):
    • Courageous (2011)
      Four police officers struggle with their faith and their roles as husbands and fathers; together they make a new commitment.
    • Mom’s Night Out (2014)
      The moms’ version of Courageous, builds up Christian motherhood and women trying to make it as faithful Christians in the modern world
    • War Room (2015)
      Made by the same troupe as the previous two, but better, the focus is on the family, and the spiritual battle of prayer
    • God’s Not Dead (2014) Kevin Sorbo
      This had a lot of the same feel as the above movies, perhaps a bit preachy as well, but feel-good contemporary Christian movie
    • Heaven is for Real (2014) Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly
      Based on the book of the near-death experience of 4-year-old Colton Burpo, and his childlike revelation of what he experienced
    • Unplanned (2019) Ashley Bratcher
      About Abby Johnson, who left her prestigious job as a Planned Parenthood director after witnessing an abortion on an ultrasound

In looking at different lists from different sources to remind me what movies I didn’t want to to forget, I ran across this personal list on IMDB (Internet Movie Database) that has a lot of the same movies and a whole lot more! Truly Catholic Films

Homily: Unto God what is God’s

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Isaiah 45:4-6
Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10
1st Thessalonians 1:1-5b
Matthew 22:15-21

I have made it a habit, in the weeks leading up to a presidential election, to make reference to the US Bishops’ document on forming consciences for faithful citizenship, which I gave to you in the homily two weeks ago. I decided to do it early this year, to give you more time to consider its wisdom, and to give you more time to read the document for yourself, and so that you would experience more of the political rhetoric leading up to the election through the lens of the gospel. It might have been an inspired choice, because I’m glad that through the lens of that wisdom, we can also reflect on today’s readings.

In our first reading, from the old testament prophet Isaiah, we have an oracle from God to the Persian king Cyrus. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians while Israel was enduring their Babylonian Exile. So it was the Persians who freed Israel to return back to their homeland. Cyrus was obviously not an Israelite, not one of God’s holy people. But God tells Cyrus that he is God’s anointed, that it was God who lifted him up to his lofty position, so that God might direct him for the sake of God’s people, Israel, and so that through Cyrus, even though Cyrus did not know God, that God would be glorified through him. Now that is not to suggest any candidate as a modern parallel to Cyrus, so please don’t infer that. But it is to affirm that God can work through people, even those who are not faithful to him, even national leaders, to accomplish his own divine purposes. But he can accomplish more through those who are open to his guidance, and less through those who reject his guidance. So regardless of who is elected, we need to pray for them to seek and obey divine wisdom, that even with their personal vices, our nation might be blessed through their leadership.

Our psalm for today brings out a different aspect of our first reading: Israel’s development of God’s absolute divinity. In the beginning, Israel believed in God as their own national and cultic God, one among many gods. That gave way to understanding God as the greatest of all gods, the supreme god. Today we see the final revelation that God is in truth unique in his divinity. God the only God, the creator, and there are no other gods. He makes that clear in our first reading, and again in the psalm. When we pray in the creed, we believe in One God, we echo this faith, and then we begin the Eucharist by our offering of the gifts of blessing to the Lord God of all creation.

Our gospel reading is, as always, the highpoint of the liturgy of the word. “‘Show me the coin that pays the census tax.’ Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’ They replied, ‘Caesar’s.’ At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar…’” The Roman emperor owned all the coins. They bore his image, his likeness. They had his inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, Son of The Divine Augustus, Great High Priest.” Jesus didn’t allow himself to be dragged down into the “us vs. them” squabble of whether or not to pay the Roman tax. He tossed off his divinely clever escape from that trap: “then give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” Then in an even greater move, he elevates their focus above the question of secular obligation, to divine obligation: “But render unto God what is God’s.

The inscription on the coin, again, said, “Tiberius Caesar, Son of The Divine Augustus, Great High Priest.” Son of the Divine. Great High Priest. They were more concerned about the authority of the one who sat enthroned in the Roman capital, than they were about the authority of the one who was supposed to be sitting enthroned over their hearts, the true Son of the Divine, the true Great High Priest. They were more concerned about the inscription of the words of Caesar on the coin, than they were about the inscription of the law of God on their hearts. They were more concerned with the one whose image the coin was made in, than they were about the one whose image they themselves were made in.

In many languages, there is no possessive “apostrophe s” like in English. In those other languages they would say “God’s” as “of God.” The Spanish, for example, for “Give to God what is God’s” would be closer to “Give it to God, that which is of God.” (Dale a dios lo que es de dios). We are “of God,” made by him, in his own image and likeness. As it says in Psalm 100, “He made us, we belong to him.”

Our lesson is perhaps best summed up in Jesus’ words earlier in the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.” In other words, we tend to be more mindful of taking care of our secular obligations first, and then we let that dictate how we take care of our spiritual obligations. We define ourselves by our pleasures, preferences, opinions, and secular ideologies, and then judge Christ and the Church in relation to all that—rather than the other way around. To seek first the kingdom of God, to render unto God what belongs to God, is to begin with Christ and the Church, and then to discipline our pleasures, preferences, opinions, and secular ideologies, based on that. And not only that, but as Jesus said, when we seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be given to you besides. When we render unto God what belongs to God, it gives us greater clarity in where our obligation lies in rendering unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. When we seek first the kingdom of God, we become in truth better citizens of the kingdom of Caesar. Not always in the way that Caesar would like, when Caesar would like to act sinfully, but in the way that helps us to understand and advocate for divine truth, goodness, and authentic love, against human ignorance, error, and intrinsic evil.

One of the great classic movies of contemporary Catholic Tradition, up there with “The Bells of Saint Mary’s,” “The Scarlet and the Black,” “Becket,” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess,” is the movie, “A Man for All Seasons.” It’s the story of Saint Thomas More, who was the High Chancellor of England in the 16th century, under King Henry VIII. When Henry was unable to get an annulment for his marriage to his wife, Catherine, so that he could divorce her and marry Ann Boleyn, Henry confiscated Catholic-held properties in England and established the Church of England (or “Anglican” Church), with the monarch, Henry himself, as the head of the Church. For those who were faithfully Catholic, like Thomas More, this became a profound problem.

As part of this scheme, he required all those in political posts to sign the “Oath of Supremacy,” which declared, first, Henry as head of the Church in England, and second, that his marriage to Catherine was void. Thomas More refused to sign. There is a wonderful line in the movie, in which Henry implores Thomas to support him, as Henry says, not just because Thomas is honest, but because he’s known to be honest. Henry needs a man of Thomas’ intellect, character, integrity, and reputation to lend validity to his claim, and Thomas, because of his intellect, character, and integrity, which has earned him his reputation, will not do so. So Thomas was stripped of his title, imprisoned, tried and convicted with a corrupt key witness, and executed for treason.

Snark Amendment: Justice Scalia's Inauguration Hat

It might be interesting to mention that St. Thomas More was the favorite saint of the faithfully Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who wore a replica of St. Thomas More’s iconic hat to the 2nd inauguration of President Obama—Scalia, then, being the mentor to the faithfully Catholic Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who has shown herself to be similar to Thomas More in intellect, character, integrity, and reputation. Thomas More never said he rejected the king’s political authority. He simply refused to call true what was not true. At his execution, Thomas More announced, “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” In the beautiful homily for the funeral of Justice Scalia, his son, Fr. Paul Scalia, made reference to his father’s affection for St. Thomas More, by saying “Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and public servant he became. God blessed him with the desire to be the country’s good servant because he was God’s first.”

We cannot restrict our religious fidelity based on our political views. Rather our religious fidelity raises up and purifies our political views. We render well what is Caesar’s unto Caesar, because we render first what is God’s unto God. We are able, then, to be our country’s good servants, when we are God’s first.

Homily: Faithful Citizenship

In just over a month, we will be voting for the next president of the United States (and of course, other elected offices as well). As I did in 2016, I would like to provide some insight from a document from the United States Bishops Conference called, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” It presents the key points of the Church’s teaching of faith and morals as they relate to current social and political issues. I am not going to tell you who to vote for. Your homework is to learn more about each of these issues, and then to learn more about each candidate, and then to use your vote in accord with Church Teaching and a well-formed conscience. I put a link to the document on the parish website, and I highly encourage everyone to read it.

I want to start with this unfortunately long quote: “Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that [intrinsically evil policy]. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position—even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act—may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods… This is not to bring a ‘Catholic interest’ to the political sphere, it is to insist that the truth of the dignity of the human person, as discovered by reason and confirmed by revelation, be at the forefront of all political considerations.

I want to elaborate on that quote, because it sets up the Catholic struggle of voting in modern American politics. First, it says it is morally acceptable to vote for a candidate whose position includes a morally grave and intrinsic evil. But there are two required essential conditions. The first is that someone voting for that candidate has to be voting for them despite that morally grave evil, not because of it. You can’t promote a position that is incompatible with Catholic teaching on any grave moral issue, and you can’t vote for a candidate in order to promote a morally grave evil. The second condition is that you can vote for a candidate who promotes a morally grave evil only for truly grave moral reasons, and not just because of other issues of less moral gravity.

Next thing about this quote is when all candidates’ positions embrace morally grave evils, then what? Then there are three options. First, you choose not to vote and cooperate with grave moral evil. Second, you find a third-party candidate whose position is more morally acceptable. Or third, you vote for the candidate who is less likely to actually promote the morally grave evil aspect of their policy, and more likely to accomplish more positive aspects of their platform.

And lastly, concerning this quote, is that it is not a matter of “well, this is what I believe, but I can’t make that choice for others.” If something is good or bad, true or not true, it applies to all humanity. It isn’t that the Church teaches that some moral truths only apply to Catholics. It’s that the Church teaches it’s evil and harmful for all humanity. Others may not be culpable for the evil of their sin, out of ignorance, but they are still wounded by the effect of the sin. The truth sets you free, and lies ensnare you, whether you believe them or not.

The paramount issue is the dignity of human life. And the primary issue regarding the dignity of human life is abortion, “the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, which is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed.” This is distinct from delicate surgical procedures when a pregnancy becomes life-threatening. In that case, morally, the lives of both the child and mother must be preserved as much as resources and technology allow, and may even involve the near-certainty of the tragic death of the child. But this is not the same as the act whose intentional purpose is to bring about the death of the unborn child. Sometimes euphemistically branded as “women’s healthcare” or “women’s right to choose,” no one has the legitimate moral choice, under any circumstance, to choose what abortion intends to do, either through surgical procedure or a pill. This is not a religious or faith argument, and not exclusively a women’s issue. It’s a human rights issue, and its foundation is in science, biology, and reason. So, any candidate or party that promotes this intrinsic grave evil is morally unacceptable to vote for… unless, in the conditions mentioned above. First, that one chooses such a candidate despite their promotion of abortion, and to do so based on a greater moral issue. However, there is no graver moral issue than abortion that legitimizes voting for such a candidate. Second, that when all reasonable candidates promote an intrinsic grave moral evil, it is acceptable to vote for the candidate less likely to effectively promote the evil, and more likely to promote other issues of grave moral concern.

Other moral issues concerning Catholic Social Teaching are opposition to the death penalty, euthanasia, torture, racism and other unjust discrimination, human cloning, in vitro fertilization (IVF), embryonic stem cell research, and redefining marriage, sexuality, and gender in such a way that distorts their essential nature; and the promotion of the humane treatment of immigrants, prisoners, employees, and the mentally ill; reasonable access to healthcare, food, housing, education and employment; and the protection of the environment, and of religious liberty: to freely and faithfully live out one’s religious convictions in public and professional life.

These are many of the issues, and the document goes into much more necessary detail in explaining these and other issues. I’m assigning it as required homework reading. It’s either that, or I spend the next 10 homilies reading it to you. I thought you’d prefer it this way.

When I finished giving this type of homily leading up to the 2016 election, someone told me that the person behind them had muttered, “Well, that didn’t tell me anything.” I understand. It’s messy and confusing. No candidate is in line with the Catholic Teaching even on grave moral issues, much less all issues. And even if a candidate or party is on the right side of the issue, it doesn’t mean they have a successful strategy to address the issue.

And there’s also a lot going on that’s not strictly political policy, but related to our political and social situation: protests and riots, racial tension, economic uncertainty, COVID-19, corruption, human trafficking, gun control, international tensions, judicial appointments, media bias, pineapple on pizza, and so on.

If I accomplish nothing else in this, I at least want to have laid the groundwork for two things: First, that as the watchman I am appointed to be, I have instructed you in right and wrong, life and death, and it is up you to choose life. And second, that when the dust settles after election day, that we don’t look toward any of our brothers and sisters in the pews with us with any lack charity over who should and shouldn’t have been voted for. And whatever happens, we got this, we stick together, with Christ the King, our true leader, to guide us into his everlasting kingdom. God bless you.

POSTSCRIPT: I know some people have difficulty with some things in here, because they have difficulty with some things the Church teaches, because they struggle or disagree with what the Church teaches, or they have committed an act of sin that gives them a profound sense of shame. Please do not leave the Church. God loves you infinitely, and embraces you with his infinite mercy. If anything discussed here, or anything the Church teaches, is such a difficulty for you that it endangers your relationship with God or His Church, please contact me however is best for you.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: This homily, delivered at the pulpit of a Catholic Church, is the magisterial teaching of the Church (well, maybe not the part about pineapple on pizza). I know there are many resources online from strongly right and left leaning writers and speakers that put things in much starker (or for some, more ambiguous) terms. In my opinion some things are being said from the pulpit are more opinionated than magisterial. I don’t necessarily disagree with what is said, but might disagree that it should be preached. I gave here the teaching as presented by the Bishops of the Church. If you want to know my opinions, in a setting where I am more free to express opinions in terms or interpretations that are not magisterial, I would be more than happy to have that conversation individually.

“The aim of this instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, wanting to be teachers of the law, but without understanding either what they are saying or what they assert with such assurance” (1 Tim 1:5-7).