St John's Q&A

Sunday, September 07, 2008

23rd Sunday - homily

“Go and tell”. This is the theme of today’s readings. Not “show-and-tell”, but go and tell! Go and tell others about our faith in Jesus; go and tell others the Truth. This seems to be one of the hardest things for us Catholics to do, especially when it involves sticky, controversial situations or issues. When I was a student at Maryland, I took a philosophy class which studied issues involving medical ethics. We went through a number of issues and discussed them. Often, these discussions turned into debates. When the issue of abortion was debated, there was only person who argued for life out of about thirty students. Take a wild guess at who the one person was! That was an interesting experience.

I took another class in the seminary which addressed moral issues and our role in speaking out on them. The professor who was one of the best teachers I have ever had was teaching about objective truth. She was making the point that some things are just objectively wrong and we have the obligation to speak out against them. She used a couple of examples to make her point and to point out how society says that we should “go and tell”, but only on certain issues and not others. She used the example of rape, and that everyone knows that rape is objectively wrong. Society rightly says that everyone – men and women – should speak out against it. But, when it comes to abortion, it’s different, society says. It acknowledges that abortion is wrong, but only women have the right to speak out against it. It was a powerful point to all of us about “go and tell” and how society approaches it differently.

I have talked with many Catholics over the years who have said, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I would never tell anyone that they can’t choose to have one”. Today’s readings make it clear, as my seminary professor taught, that we have an obligation to go and tell, to speak the truth. The first reading says that we are to “warn the wicked”; we are to warn those who are doing a wicked act or thinking about doing a wicked act. If we don’t, then we become responsible for it. The moral term for this is “cooperation”; we cooperate in the wicked act.

Jesus says we are to go and tell a friend when they are sinning against us. This is a hard thing to do. How do we go and tell? First, we are to do it appropriately. This command does not mean that we go and tell with any sin that someone commits against us; it has to rise to the level. It has to a be a serious sin. Also, we have to discern that God is calling us to talk to them, that we are the best person to approach them about this. We are to do it privately and with respect. We don’t go looking for these situations, but when they present themselves to us, we are to respond with go and tell.

Second, we are to go and tell in love. If we do it in a way that is self-righteous or shows that we are on our “moral high horse”, then it defeats the purpose. Go and tell is a command of love. Jesus is love and he commands us to go and tell. When it is done in love, it is an act of love. It is to be done with compassion, understanding, and patience. We know that we have been approached by others about our own sin in the same way and have appreciated it; if we are truly humble people, we appreciate when others have told us in love about our sins. It is an act of love and mercy.

Finally, we are to go and tell with the help of love. We can’t do this on our own. We need the help of Christ. We come to the Eucharist every Sunday so that the grace and strength of this sacrament will help us to go and tell others this week. We are sent out from here to go and tell, and to do it appropriately, in love, and with the help of love. When it is done in this way, it is an act of love to go and tell.


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