Homily, Ordinary Sunday 12B
Growing up in the plains of South Dakota, I’ve always loved storms. Watching the clouds roll in from miles away, to see the lightning and hear the thunder, and the pounding rain and strong winds. But I don’t think I’ve ever had to be out during a storm or suffer too much from the consequences of hail or damaging winds. It’s one thing to watch a storm roll through from inside the comfort of our homes or even from inside our vehicles, but it was something very different for the Apostles, exposed in their fishing boats on the water, with the waves piling higher, filling the boat and always threatening to sink it. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you have water hitting you from every direction, and the boat under your feet is constantly moving and convulsing, being tossed around on the waves.
Life always has its storms, those situations that can feel overwhelming, whether natural or man-made, at the level of international crisis with the pandemic and violent protests, or at the level of our own hearts, as we struggle and ask ourselves why we continue to make the same mistakes, to go after the same false gods, to commit the same sins time and time again. What is our reaction, what’s our instinct in the midst of these storms, of dangers and threats from outside or even from within our own hearts? Do we give ourselves over to fear, to anxiety, anger, and despair? Do we place our focus on the wind and waves that are passing away? Or do we take refuge in Jesus, the unshakable One, the same yesterday, today, and forever, who is able even to sleep through the worst of storms?
I know I always found it a great comfort to be able to go up to the church in my hometown and always find Jesus there in the tabernacle, near the red glow of the sanctuary light. No matter what else was going on in the world or in my own life, no matter what storms were raging, Jesus in the Eucharist was always there. That unshakable Rock that I could always count on. Even part of my answering a call to the priesthood came from reflecting on how great a comfort it was to always find Jesus there in the tabernacle, and how that’s really only possible because men continue to answer the call of Christ and follow Him in the holy priesthood.
Just recently, even in national news there’s been something of a storm concerning the Catholic Church and Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. Now I don’t often feel the need or much of any desire to comment on these controversies as they’re happening because that often seems like drawing too much of our attention to the wind and waves of the storm. But it is always fascinating to see how the Church is perceived or misunderstood by the wider culture, and often even by those who at least claim to be Catholics themselves. That anyone, let alone Catholics, should be surprised that the Church would have as a requirement for receiving the very Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, that we actually be free from unrepented grave sins and free from public advocacy and support of grave sins, of the slaughter of millions of innocent human lives, it’s just amazing to me.
That anyone on earth should be surprised by this, let alone actual Catholics, is a clear indication of how poorly these topics have been taught—or not taught, and misunderstood. And to believe that things like abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide are merely political issues, partisan stances that have no bearing or consequence on our eternal souls, this is the height of stupidity and willful blindness. The killing of millions of innocent human lives every year is the most pressing humanitarian issue, not just a political issue. I don’t care if you identify as Democrat, Republican, independent, if you’re a human being, you should have the same stance—publicly—as the Catholic Church has always had against these grave moral evils, which have such devastating consequences on human society throughout the world.
And that there are any Catholic bishops who seem unwilling to even teach clearly about that, bishops who hum and haw about whether the USCCB should even write a document that probably very few people will actually read anyway, these bishops are an embarrassment to the Church. They are a dishonor to the legacy of countless martyrs throughout the centuries of the Church who bore unwavering witness to the truths revealed by God not just with words but with their very blood. Most of all, they dishonor Jesus Himself, the King of Martyrs, and His most precious Body and Blood entrusted to us upon the altar and in our tabernacles.
The storms rage on, in the world outside but even within the boat of the Church, exposed to the wind and rain even as the fishing boat of St. Peter had no effective cover from the storm. But Jesus is still in the boat. Even when He seems to be asleep. And the answer for you and for me is still the same. Our true Refuge is still unshaken and unshakable. Draw close to Jesus. Receive Him as often as we can in the state of grace. That at least in us He may find a welcome home, a heart and mind and life open to Him, to bring rest and comfort to His most Sacred Heart. And that we may continue to find in Him our only true Refuge from the storm.