My family and I just returned from a month long summer pilgrimage. We drove over 8000 miles and traveled through 20 different states, visiting shrines, monasteries, meeting families, and enjoying some secular attractions. As we traveled it became very evident that with the exception of a few very special communities, Christianity was suffering and mostly unnoticeable.
We have turned into a culture mostly void of Christian morals and character. If you doubt my words, listen to the following statistics:
1. 90 % of all modern married Catholics use some form of contraception.
2. Over 70% of men have visited Internet pornographic sites
3. 1 out of every 3 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
4. 1 out of every 5 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
5. Over 40% of all births are to unwed mothers
6. 1 our of every 4 babies are murdered through abortion.
These statistics are frightening but also represent our current cultural state. There was an oasis however within our trip. We spent a week in Ohio at a place called “catholic familyland.” We joined over 100 catholic families, 800 people in all, for a week of fun, prayer, and adventure.
Each morning all the families gathered for mass. After mass we broke up into age specific groups for the kids, and a group for the parents, and learned more about our faith and living as true Catholics. Then the day consisted of playing sports, horseback riding, volleyball, swimming, and picnicking; a truly wholesome vacation.
But not just a vacation, an example of what living a catholic life should be. No matter what you were doing at 3pm each day, everything stopped. Over the loud speaker it was announced that it was time for the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Everyone on the softball field sat down on the ground, the swimmers climbed out of the pool, The volleyball players sat down and everyone participated in the prayer, all 800 of us. Once the prayer was finished, all activities resumed with vigor.
At 7pm each evening, after dinner, everyone once again gathered for the family rosary. What we experienced at this place was an example of what truly living in a catholic culture would be like.We met numerous families of 6, 7, 8, and 9 children, happy families, mothers and fathers full of joy and patience, children caring for each other without any prompts, and the absence of fighting and arguing. These families radiated God’s grace.
I had the opportunity to visit with many of these families and asked about their lives. Their lives were as varied as ours but what was common in all of them was that they all met for dinner each evening, they all prayer the rosary as a family each day, and dedicated one evening a week to learn their faith together as a family. It was the fact that they truly made God a priority in their lives, prayed together, and served each other joyfully.
I heard from these families over and over that the father was the spiritual leader of the family and that the mother was the heart of the home. What we experienced was what living in a catholic culture was like, we experienced a glimpse of heaven here on earth.We experienced a drastic contrast from the current culture that we are living in. I spent the first 2 days walking around the 850 acre complex, observing, and attempting to make some spiritual sense of what I was experiencing, and then it hit me. I was experiencing a culture of life, the opposite of what we currently live in, a culture of death, especially here in California.
As we sit back and allow the current culture and behaviors to go unchecked, we are watching our faith and catholic culture disappear. For so many us, this has been such a steady and gradual process that most of us don’t even realize what has happened to our families and us.
We have been desensitized and absorbed into a culture of death. At this rate it wont be long and the catholic culture will be extinct. Being catholic is not a spectator sport. It is a committed life of action. What I am about to say might be perceive as harsh, but it is true.
Fathers, you are directed by God to be the spiritual leaders of your family. If your family isn’t holy, vibrant, and profoundly catholic, who is to blame?
Mothers, you are the heart of the home. If you home isn’t holy, peaceful, and doesn’t represent God’s beauty, who is to blame?
Yet there is hope…..The first reading today states that the Lord will rain down bread from heaven for you; He will test us to see if we follow his instructions. Can’t you see some correlation with our trials and hurdles in life as tests of faith. In the second reading today, Saint Paul declares that we must no longer live as the gentiles do, in the futility of their minds, that is not how you learned Christ…that you are to put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.
In the gospel Jesus instructs us to not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life. Jesus stated that he is the bread of life; whoever comes to Him will never hunger, and whoever believes in him will never thirst.It is time to rescue ourselves and our families from this culture of death.
There are 4 points to consider when living a truly catholic life.
The first point is that Sin is the cause of all unhappiness in the world.
The second is that no matter what sin has been committed, God’s grace can overcome that evil and that destruction of the soul.
The third is that we are all called to holiness.
And finally, the fourth point is that we are to consecrate our lives.
There is one sin however that will surly secure a place in hell for many. It is the sin of omission. The act of doing nothing. To continue to allow our current culture to form our children, and us, without fighting back is surely a sin of omission. To sit back and do nothing only allows evil to flourish.
But doesn’t going to Mass on Sunday make me a good catholic?You tell me. What if I walked into my garage each week and just sat there, would I eventually become a car?………… Just walking in church each week, just sitting there, does that make you a catholic?
As I mentioned previously, being a catholic is not a spectator sport. It is a life of action, of sacrifice, of prayer. It is also a life of joy and profound happiness. Living the Gospel is living the Good News. If you don’t understand your faith, as many of us only have limited knowledge, there is no excuse in the day of modern technology to not learn it.
As you learn about our faith it brings such deep meaning and beauty to our lives, beauty that was always there but unnoticeable because of a lack of knowledge and understanding. We need to read the scriptures. Saint Jerome stated that ignorance of the bible is ignorance of God.We need to use the sacrament of confession.
A friend once asked me why he needed to go to confession monthly. He stated that he didn’t murder anyone, that he lived a pretty good life, and didn’t think he really sinned very much.
I shared a story of a housewife who was so very proud of how she kept her house. Especially how clean her kitchen looked. And then one day one of her children spilled some milk on the floor. So she immediately scrubbed up the spill and then stood up to view her accomplishment. What she noticed was that the area where she cleaned was spotless, but now the rest of the floor appeared dirty. Only minutes before the spill she was completely content with her floor, believing that is was clean, now only to realize that the firth had been slowly accumulating without her perception.
The same is true for us; sin can slowly accumulate in our lives, even unnoticed at times.We can be content in our lives, complacent, even though sin has attached itself to us. It isn’t until we begin to look closely at our lives and our behaviors, and receive the grace from confession that we can clearly see our lives, our actions, and our state of holiness.
Grace not only allows us to see life clearly, but also allows us to avoid future sin.So what it the point of this homily?
Today’s readings were clear.
God will rain down his graces for us, but he will test us to see if we follow his instructions. We must not live as the gentiles do; we are to put away our old selves, our former way of life, corrupted by deceitful desires and be renewed, to put on the new self, created in god’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth. We are not to be consumed with the desire of worldly things for all worldly things perish, but for that which endures forever and leads to eternal life. For the bread of god is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
That is our sacraments… Jesus states that he is the bread of Life; whoever comes to him will never hunger, and who ever believes in him will never thirst. We are to embrace our faith, we are to embrace being catholic.
We have been give everything…. are we truly living this gift or just going through the motions?As I mentioned before…..Being catholic is not a spectator sport. Begin today living out your catholic life. Embrace the gift of your faith. Read the daily readings, live the Gospel, learn your faith, pray to rosary, and socialize with other Catholics.
Frequent the sacrament of Confession and accept God’s grace.
Mothers and Fathers, fight back, form your children, and teach by example.
I was once told that if a person teaches a child the faith and it might stick. A person can teach a mother the faith and it might flow over into the family. But if you teach the faith to the Father, and he embraces the faith, and teaches the faith to his family, all will be converted.
If Fathers truly become the spiritual leaders of the families, nothing can stop us from rebuilding catholic communities and ultimately defeating the culture of death!