Homily: Seeking What Is Above
I mention in the bulletin there was an interesting discussion on Twitter last week. A man complained that the priest preached about the sins of the flesh drawing upon the reading on Sodom and Gomorrah last week. He said, he had two small children—his two sons—with him and did not appreciate the homily. Of course, as is the nature of Twitter many chimed in and those most connected to the Latin mass said that we need to hear more about the sins of the flesh at Mass.
As you saw in the bulletin, I ask if a priest does not preach about adultery then we can assume people don’t know it is a sin? This becomes a problem with preaching on sin because it lends itself to the concept that we must avoid sin to get to Heaven. This is not exactly what St. Paul says. Clearly, he calls us to avoid sin. We avoid sin by focusing on those things that lead us closer to Christ. Why? Because they lead us to experience the renewal of our mind as St. Paul teaches in Romans and to be formed more to Christ and grow more in his wisdom and vision.
Created in God’s Image
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that we are created in the image of God. We are not God but his image. This means that there are many things like him but we are not a full copy of God. Our faith teaches that the more we seek God the more we become like him. The more we become like him, the more we grow in our understanding of the world as God calls us to understand it. The more we do this the closer we come to our destiny which is to be able to see him face to face as almost equals.
Sin prevents that from happening which is why we avoid sin. The more we embrace sin, the less we are able to be formed by God into more and more of his image and likeness. So, we avoid sin so that we may grow in holiness which is to become closer to the image and likeness of God.
However, sin is more than the sins of the flesh. It is anything that acts in a way that contradicts loving God and neighbor. St. John Vianney considered one of the greatest sins to be detraction which is endemic on the internet. Sins of the flesh are those that objectify others for our own use. There are many other sins out there as well. Racism is a sin so, obviously, no Catholic can be a member of any of these white supremacy organizations. The list continues.
Focus on Christ not sin
The problem is when we focus on sin alone then we seek not to engage in certain behaviors for the sole reason that they lead us to Hell. This is not a complete vision of what the Church actually teaches. It is more that we as St. Paul says in Romans experience a renewal of our mind. The more we turn from sin and seek the things above which mean the quest to seek holiness, the quest to abandon ourselves to God, the quest to allow God to transform us and to change us, to practice of prayer and growing in our friendship with Christ within—the more we see things so differently. This will lead us to think outside the box literally and act in ways many of the saints acted in service to the church and her people.
I was thinking for example of some of the issues of our world. First, we need to understand that many in our world reject God so they are focused on the things of Earth, not on the things above. So they do not have the grace that allows a transformation of our minds.
Colonialism and cultural damage
This week the Pope apologized in Canada for the Catholic church’s part in the Canadian Government’s program of residential schools for Native Americans. One thing he explained was seeing one culture being better than another. Yet, all culture is a gift from God. There is a great program of redemptive justice taken right from the Native American cultures that is locally focused and designed to heal persons, families and communities and benefit society. Based in the strength of community endemic in Native American culture, it was lost in Western culture by an over-focus on centralized government common among the colonial forces. Some communities have restored it to great benefit to those communities. Again, it is looking from a divine perspective at culture.
This means that we may be able to see our culture from a different perspective and act on it. We can hear certain things and this may bring alarm bells to us to think differently.
As you can see sin is rooted in what is on Earth but St. Paul calls us to see what is above and to experience the renewal of our minds so that we see things differently. We look upon others: friend, enemy and all in between, as God does treat others as God calls us to treat them. Our focus is then to become more Godlike instead of just virtuous and on a road far from hell.
The more we see things differently and have that renewal of our mind by focusing on things above rather than things of Earth. The more we become revolutionaries for the kingdom. Not violent revolutionaries but holy revolutionaries of vision who can see more and more beyond what the Earthly can see around them.
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