30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B) – October 24, 2021
St. Paul – Lyons, KS
Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52
Real Life Events Reveal Deep Spiritual Realities
In Scripture, we are berated with stories where deeply spiritual and human realities are played out in the real world. Because (go figure) that’s how humans operate: in the real world. In Scripture, people’s sin and evil leads to real life exile and real life consequences. It’s like I was talking about a couple of weeks ago: we can easily accept this weird split between “the faith” and “my real life.” But our “real life” and our “faith,” our “spiritual life” and our “life in the real world” aren’t different things. They’re intimately bound together.
One famous story of this is in the book of the prophet Jeremiah. He is preaching to a city of Jerusalem that has really fallen off the track. They have become like all of the other cities: idolatry, immorality, rampant social injustice—they had even begun the practice of child sacrifice. It was bad. And so what happens is that God sends Babylon, Babylon the great, the great symbol of sin—Babylon comes, conquers them, and takes them into exile. Real life sin, real life consequences.
Over and over again, this is what is happening in the story of Scripture, from the first pages onward. People try to go it alone, make their own choice and decide what is right and wrong in their own eyes—and it never goes well. Do we all remember the Adam and Eve story? That’s exactly what’s going on in that story: here is this simple command, here is a tree that gives them nothing but life and joy and a share in God’s life; but instead, they eat from the tree of good and bad, in other words, they take to themselves the prerogative to decided what is right and wrong in their own eyes. And what immediately ensues, what always ensues when we do this? Fractured relationships, violence and power grabs, and ultimately death. (“It’s not wrong to cheat on my wife! That’s just those Christians trying to hold us down!” Tell me how that one goes.) By the time we get just a few chapters in, the culture has devolved into the city of Babel, literally “Babylon,” a city which redefines evil as good.
Law Doesn’t Change Hearts
The cool thing is that God immediately starts to help the people. He starts instructing them. He throws ten really great laws their way, “Try these on,” he says. But law, the funny thing about law, is that it doesn’t change anything. God gave Adam and Eve the law not to eat that fruit, not to decide what is right and wrong in their own eyes. Doesn’t mean they followed it. Law doesn’t change us. Law instructs us. We know this! People can’t follow all the laws. They’re always falling short.
Again, Jeremiah, he knew this too. Which is why he also knew that God wasn’t just going to keep beating His head against the wall—no, He was going to do something about it. Jeremiah promised that one day God would do something to transform our hearts, to transform the real problem. The law comes along as a teacher, but the law was only preparing us for something more.
Living In A City of Sin Leads Nowhere Fast
The thing about laws, though, is that they teach whether you want them to or not. People rebel against laws, for sure, but laws have this funny way of setting a clear vision of reality. You can argue and rebel against the law of drinking and driving—but that doesn’t make the reality of drinking and driving any less real. Even though people are going to disregard the law and do (people still drink and drive), we can all see more clearly the reality of it, the danger of that reality because of that law. Like it or not, the law teaches, it helps us to see reality.
But when you live in a city like Babylon, when you live in a city where there are no laws, where evil is defined as good—or when you live in Jerusalem and everyone decides to pretend the laws don’t exist and start making up their own laws again—everyone starts to get caught up in it. Sure, there are always some people that don’t, that are very wise. But when a whole city, a whole society is structured like that, people are going to get caught up in it. It’s just a reality.
We can look around now and realize that things aren’t great. This past Friday I had the funeral for my great-uncle Tony, the youngest and the last of my grandpa’s eighteen siblings—as in there were nineteen total. Like, talk about being from an entirely different culture! Things just aren’t like that any more! Christian values used to just be called “good values.” Like, that’s not how it is any more.
One way this is described is that “Christendom” has ended. Christendom, as in the time when Christians, when Catholics were just the dominant cultural force. When you couldn’t be crowned king or queen except by a bishop. When the job of politics was to try to enforce Christian morals. When almost every hospital was named after a saint. When you had nineteen kids and three became priests and four became nuns. When all these things were going on, the “default” setting on society and culture was “Christian.” That’s over. It’s been over for a while.
As Bishop Kemme and many others have been pointing out to us, we live in a new “Apostolic time,” a time like the Apostles. Everything around is is not in some default “Christian” position, but in a very anti-christian position. Everything around is not controlled by Christians and Christian values, but by a deeply engrained secular culture. And we fall into it too, we usually throw our kids into it without even thinking. Anyone that hands their kid a cell phone or a tablet is indoctrinating their child into the secular worldview and mentality. Sorry.
What Is Needed? A Return to the Essentials
And so if we’re in a position like the Apostles, if we’re in a time like they were, where nothing culturally was going their way—what is needed is a return to the essentials. Our job isn’t to get liquor stores to close on Sundays or to make sure restaurants aren’t serving meat on Fridays, no. What is needed is to make sure we “concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 35). And one of the essentials, a fundamental beauty and grand and necessary truth is the intrinsic value of each and every human life. Because this one has seeped into our culture and our own mindset more than we think.
We all remember where we were on September 11th, right? Probably? Yeah. I do. And we spent the whole day glued to the TV watching what happened and all the reports of what was going on. And in the midst of it, one of these news anchors was speaking, and then he was handed a piece of paper. And when he read it he looked very distraught. And he turned to the camera and said, “I’ve just been handed a report: those flights fly back and forth from Boston to L.A.” And then he looks straight into the camera and says, “I bet there were some important people on those planes.” “Some” important people!? You mean people like you, people on TV: actors, politicians, athletes. The other people—the moms and dads, the teachers, sanitation engineers—they’re not important. The audacity. There are no unimportant people! All life is valuable and important.
Kansas: Value Them Both (Return to the Essentials)
The reason I bring all of this up is because, as you should have received in the mail this past week, Bishop Kemme has asked that we turn our attention to the issue that is coming up for a vote next year, next August. Bishop is making a financial appeal to support the pro-life efforts in the state. Because this coming year there will be a statewide vote on the Value Them Both amendment.
I don’t know if you followed the news closely enough back in 2019, but in 2019 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution of the State of Kansas contains a nearly unlimited right to abortion. So in essence, every law restricting and regulating an abortion on the books right now is presumed unconstitutional. Laws like: notifying parents when a minor is seeking an abortion; basic regulations for sanitation that other health facilities follow; even things like requirements to inform women of the physical and emotional implications of abortion. And that’s not even mentioning things like taxpayer funding of abortion, or late-term abortions. All of that is out the window. I mean think about it: your teenage daughter, fifteen years old, could have her boyfriend drive her to the clinic—and you are not required to even be notified. Those laws are currently “unconstitutional.”
Living In a Truly Human City (Polis)
What the Value Them Both amendment does is put the power back in the hands of the people. We get to go vote on this constitutional amendment that says we value both the life of the mother and the unborn child. What is does is allow us to continue to proclaim and uphold a fundamental and essential truth: all life is valuable, mother and child, born and unborn.
The culture around us is not neutral, the Abortion Industry is not neutral. All eyes are on Kansas—for so many political and financial reasons. And the Abortion Industry is already putting up a fight. They are going to outspend us three or four to one. But I think we can agree that we are not a truly human society when our constitution claims that some people are less valuable than others. That is an incredibly corrupt and distorted vision of reality.
Yes, the Law Doesn’t Change Hearts, but It Does Instruct
No one thinks this law is going to fix everything, or change people’s hearts. Again, that’s not what law does; law doesn’t change hearts. But law does instruct. And if the law is, “Anything goes,” that teaches something deeply flawed. Again, even if you are personally opposed to abortion, it’s the law that teaches others how to look at reality.
As disciples in this new Apostolic time, our goal is not to impose our weird opinions and rules and morality! Our goal is to voice the Truth, to hold up the Truth: all human life is valuable.
Our mission is not to ban abortion (even though we all want that)! But our mission is to propose the good news of Jesus Christ, to speak Truth in a public and vocal way, and to fight for the Truth that all life is valuable. And so I would encourage you to prayerfully consider supporting the Bishop’s appeal. This is a defining moment in Kansas. And our voice needs to be heard. This amendment is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is not a “vote for a candidate” issue. This is black and white. We have a chance to make it clear that in the state of Kansas we value the life of both mother and child, born and unborn.