Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

July 17, 2011


For the good folks at St. Thomas More parish in Omaha, NE–hence the allusions to St. Thomas More…

Once, while I was working at a parish in El Salvador, I watched a youth minister assign an activity to her youth group to help them reflect on the Kingdom of God.  She asked them to take newspapers and magazines and cut out all the “signs of the Kingdom” they could find.  The young people enthusiastically started clipping articles about clean water initiatives, increases in the minimum wage, donations to the poor, and the like.  All good things.  And though I could see that the assignment was meant to foster hope of a better future, something about the assignment made me uneasy.

I felt that if the Kingdom could be spotted in news clippings, its growth would be “obvious” and measurable—even in this present life.  Logically, of course, we should be able to detect the decay of the Kingdom by similar criteria—corporate greed, pollution, and secularism.  But once we start thinking that way, of course, then the Kingdom becomes quite a frail thing—no longer the source of our strength, but now the object of our anxiety.

But Christ has come to “deliver us from every anxiety.”  And perhaps for this reason He left us today’s three parables, each of which stresses the present hiddenness of the Kingdom.  This point is easy to miss. Read the rest of this entry »


Nietzsche in November

November 21, 2010

We are nearly at the end of the liturgical year, with daily readings from the Book of Revelation reminding us of the end of everything else too.  Indeed, the month of November as a whole, beginning with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, is dedicated in a special way to remembering the dead and contemplating our own eternal future.

Some people have a problem with that.

Friedrich Nietzsche, one of Christianity’s most brilliant enemies, criticizes our faith for placing too much emphasis on the life to come, thereby emptying this life of meaning and giving unhappy and unsuccessful human beings—“mutterers and nook counterfeiters”—an excuse to wallow in their own misery until they arrive in “heaven,” which in Nietzsche’s estimation seems like little more than a very long nap.

This, I’m afraid, is not one of Nietzsche’s better arguments (though to give the poor old guy a break, I don’t think it’s original to him).  Unfortunately, it has too often been taken up in one form or another by well-meaning Christians themselves.  If we spend too much time contemplating heaven, they say, we will be neglectful of our duties here on earth.  Or, as that summit of liturgical kitsch, “Gather Us In,” puts it, “Gather us in… [but] not in some heaven, light years away.”

Read the rest of this entry »