Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bishop's Mass for Life Homily

On Jan 22, the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the students and faculty at Xavier College Prep received a marvelously rich homily from Bishop Olmsted. A few highlights:

A 'new feminism.' A quotation from JPII's The Gospel of Life, the "new feminism" rejects false feminisms which are thinly-veiled models of 'male domination.' How easily we forget that abortion is a weapon of 'male domination'--a violent attack on that uniquely feminine power to conceive and nurture human life. The earliest feminists of the 20th century were deeply against abortion because they understood it to be a weapon forged by men in order to serve men by making women to be more like men. New feminism embraces the particular genius of women and rejects male domination.

The 'unique witness' women bring to the Pro-life movement. Women have a special capacity to "first learn and teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person..." (again, from The Gospel of Life). True openness and tolerance are found here. Perhaps this is a lesson that men are less naturally disposed to understand--that dignity comes not from usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty, or health, but simply from being a person. Who is a greater witness to unconditional openness that a pregnant woman who loves her child, nurtures her child, says "yes" to her child?

The call to be "holy women." Riffing off of C.S. Lewis' essay, "Nice guys or new men?", Bishop Olmsted illuminated difference between being "nice" and "new." The dominant culture wants us to be "nice"--to fit in, to not rock the boat, to silently support the often ruthless attacks on the weak and powerless. To be "new" means to allow your life to be constantly uploaded by the Holy Spirit. To be "new" means to ground your thought and action in faith, hope, and love--three things the secular culture cannot provide.

Rejecting "nice." That pseudo-virtue of niceness! Bishop reminded his listeners that the word "nice" comes from the Latin word nescire, which means "know nothing." Not unlike the "know nothing" parties from our American history who willfully "knew nothing" regarding the many injustices directed toward American Catholics and others, today's "know nothings" are often nice people who silently turn a blind eye to the injustice of every single abortion. The link between "nice" and "stupid" (and the passive violent) is striking. The next time someone says, "He's a nice guy," I'm going to say, "That's very unfortunate...I hope no one gets hurt."

"Thought and action." Pro-life action always begins in thought--that is, in recognizing truth--through seeing and knowing the objective beauty of other human beings. This truth calls us to act with love and responsibility.

"This is my body." The greatest words of love Jesus ever spoke--words by which He continues to give His life in the Eucharist to His receptive people. Bishop gently pointed out the sad irony that these same words are turned upside down in the promotion of abortion: "This is my body," and I will do with it what I want... Of course there is no disharmony between the call to say yes to life and yes to one's own freedom. Christ's freedom is expressed in His boundless capacity to give Himself. A mother's freedom is expressed in her capacity to give herself in order to give life--whether in natural or supernatural motherhood.

"Let your body always be a temple of God's love and a sanctuary of life." These final words of the homily resonate with the inner core of the Gospel of Life: a call to love in accord with the dignity due to the human person--including the human body. The words of St. Paul come to mind: "The body is for the Lord." You might say that this is the great revolution in Christianity--the mysterious meaning and divine plan for the human body which transcends usefulness and even death.

Ancient cultures tended to see the body as something negative, something to be freed from at death. This was expecially true of the female body, which is a sanctuary of life in special way. God's scandalous "yes" to human nature in the Incarnation is mirrored by the "yes" of a mother to her child in the womb. And this teaches all of us--men and women--a fundamental lesson: the body is made for love. Love for God and love for each other, especially the poor, and the defenseless unborn. This is a thought which always leads to responsible action.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This morning I was driving and heard Bishop Olmsted speaking on the radio. He made a plea for all of us to support the relief efforts in Haiti. It struck me how prompt and direct his response came, just days--hours, really--after the harrowing events. He spoke simple words of love and truth. Haiti needs our help. Let's respond.

The same catastrophe/response pattern is on display in the readings for this Sunday. The Prophet Isaiah speaks: "No longer shall people call you 'forsaken,'.. but you shall be called 'my delight.'" At the famous wedding at Cana, Mary says to Jesus, "They have no more wine." And Jesus responds with his first "sign," miraculously transforming water into wine. Emptiness into fullness; abandonment into love.

January 22 is approaching us this week. January 22, 1973 was a harrowing day in the U.S., a day of forsakenness and desolation: the legalization of abortion in the decision Roe vs. Wade.

A few months later, on July 2, 1973, a young man was ordained a priest in Lincoln, Nebraska, who dedicated himself to defending the defenseless. No doubt this was one of the countless ways that God responded and continues to respond. That young priest is now our Bishop Olmsted. I recall that Bishop once explained in a talk to young priests: he saw clearly that it was God's design that he was ordained in 1973, so close to Roe vs. Wade. God was calling him to respond; or better said, God was mysteriously responding to the recent catastrophe in and through the young Fr. Thomas Olmsted's priesthood.

Over thirty years later, one of Bishop Olmsted's first public actions as the new Bishop of Phoenix was to pray--quietly, peacefully, fervently--outside an abortion clinic. He continues to proclaim the gospel of life--unconditional respect and love for every human person, especially those most "forsaken": the unborn, the elderly, unmarried mothers, immigrants, and now the poor in Haiti.

With all this in mind...what a blessing that Bishop Olmsted will visit Xavier College Prep--a school dedicated to the Catholic formation of women--this Jan. 22! He will celebrate the Holy Mass with the entire school in accord with the day's special pentitential spirit. How fitting it will be to led by our Bishop in prayer, even in the midst of desolation. Because on this day of darkness and sadness, God responds. He responds with love.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Inaugural Post

ehem...Arthur Middleton once wrote:

"The Incarnation is the medicine of the soul, undoing the Fall and bringing man to the Tree of Life, and the office of a priest is to administer this medicine in the sacraments."

Perhaps at risk of sounding overly-dramatic for a simply little blog, "undoing the Fall" is the name that I want to employ. One of my great teachers said, "Christianity is about nothing if it isn't about a New Creation." If Catholicism is real, it's kind of a big deal. Hey, maybe that sentence would have been a good blog rhymes, sounds good. Nah, it's to long.

"Undoing the fall" is its name!