Message for the 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; July 5, 2020
Readings: Zec 9:9-10; Ps 145:1-2,8-11,13-14; Rm 8:9,11-13; Mt 11:25-30
I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.
These words reveal the mystery of the Heart of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who is always present and given to us the most Holy Eucharist.
St. Luke, reporting the same words, says that Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit as he said these words. (cf. Lk 10:21) In his Heart Jesus is always turned towards his Father, always contemplating the face of His Father, always wanting to reveal the face of His Father to the little ones who believe in him, always wanting to lead us into the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.
Jesus’ continual contemplation of the face of his Father is the secret to his meek and humble Heart. He wants to lead us into that secret through the sweet yoke of his Cross. Contemplation of the face of the Father, through the Heart of Jesus, must be the source of our strength and joy in the grievous trials of the present moment.
We very much need this strength and joy this weekend as we celebrate the Independence of the United States at a moment in which our nation stands in grave danger. Events are moving very fast and we could very quickly turn into a large-scale Venezuela or Zimbabwe.
This weekend we celebrate the Independence of the United States near a city in which a statue of Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence was thrown down and defaced. You cannot separate Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. You cannot dishonor the statue of Thomas Jefferson without pretending to dishonor the entire nation he was so instrumental in founding.
This parish is composed of citizens of the United States, legal residents, and some also who although they have come here illegally are nevertheless a vital part of this community. Everyone here owes a debt to this country, even if they have also suffered on account of this country.
Everyone owes a debt to his parents that he can never repay, even when he suffers on account of his parents’ faults, which will also always be the case. Honor to one’s country, and in due measure that means to one’s host country, is an extension of the honor due to one’s parents. It is a requirement of the 4th commandment.
The obligation even applies to those whose ancestors were brought here as slaves, but who, despite historical circumstances that sometimes put them at a disadvantage, are now free and equal citizens. It is one thing to criticize the country, it is one thing to seek bring about change in the country through peaceful means (which does not mean shouting obscenities at the police), it is another thing to engage in acts that directly dishonor the country in her founders.
Look, I can criticize Thomas Jefferson, who was not only a slave-owner, but who was a rationalist who certainly did not think that God was relevant to human life and would have reduced the New Testament to Jesus’ moral teaching, removing therefrom every element of the miraculous and supernatural. Indeed, he would seem to be counted among the ‘wise and the learned’ from whom the mysteries of God’s kingdom were hidden. Nevertheless, he was one of the founding fathers of the country and for that reason alone should be honored by all who have part in the country.
But what about ‘systemic racism’? It is important to understand what this word really means, where it comes from and why it is being used. People deceive and are deceived precisely because words are used without serious thought, but merely to make an emotional impact. The word ‘racism’ is certainly one of the most emotionally charged words in our society today. Few, though, think seriously about what the word might mean.
Racism as a sin is a voluntary thought, word, or deed that treats another human being, created in the image of God and redeemed by the Blood of Christ, with contempt for no other reason than the person’s race. Of course, those racist actions are usually rooted in more deeply held racist attitudes. Nevertheless, it is hard to say just how widespread any of this is the country today. At the same time it is important to know that racism can go both ways.
The ideology of racism is a doctrine that treats one race as superior to the rest, which may even be condemned as subhuman or evil. The typical example of this ideology is ‘white supremacism’, but full-fledged, organized white supremacism is very marginal in our society today.
None of this is ‘systemic racism’.
Indeed, ‘systemic racism’ is not even racism that is institutionalized in the laws and institutions of the nation. Institutionalized racism by and large went out the window in this country with the ‘Jim Crow’ laws. In fact, discrimination on the basis of race is strictly prohibited in every place touched by Federal and State laws. Systemic racism does not even mean that blacks are routinely pulled over and harassed by cops.
Systemic racism can be neither proven nor disproven. For those who hold to the ideology it exists by definition. One way to put it would be to say that so long as the average black household income is less than the average white household income, the only legitimate explanation is ‘systemic racism’.
The claim of systemic racism means that because blacks were historically enslaved in this country, because they were historically targeted by racist laws, they remain at a disadvantage socially, politically, and economically, while on the contrary white people, all white people, have benefited from the historical victimization of the black race and therefore enjoy ‘white privilege’. The enjoyment of ‘white privilege’ is unjust and racist whether the person is aware of it or not. Justice can only be restored by destroying ‘white privilege’, even if that means destroying the nation along with it. This is the justice of revenge.
Since ‘white privilege’ consists especially in economic advantage the signature demand of the BLM movement is for ‘reparations’. The demand is that literally trillions of dollars be distributed among the black population of this country to compensate them for the slavery endured by their forefathers. This compensation must cover a 400-year period of oppression.
While this has a superficial and simplistic appearance of justice, it isolates a single historic injustice from the whole complex web of past social injustices. Indeed, the whole of human history forms a complex web of injustices. It would be possible to set forth a whole litany of past injustices, including injustices suffered by various European peoples, and ask if they too must be recompensed today. Truly, though, it is not in the capacity of any human judge to rectify the complicated web of past social injustices. Only God possesses the wisdom and justice to sort out such matters and so we should leave them to the judgment of God.
That, however, leads us to what the BLM movement is really about. Race is merely an occasion. The underlying ideology is Marxism, that is Communism. Unfortunately, people miss the point when they see Capitalism as the counterpart of Marxism. So China, still ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, would no longer be Marxist, because they have harnessed the forces of capitalism in their service. No, the foundation of Marxism is atheistic materialism. Marxism is first and foremost an attack against God. Everything else is really just an excuse.
That also gives us the real reason why ‘white supremacy’ is the target. Because faith in Jesus Christ has come to us by way of Europe, clothed in European culture, and the inhabitants of old Europe happened to be white. Faith in Jesus Christ did not begin Europe, but the Europeans became integral to its transmission from the day in which St. Paul crossed from Asia Minor (what is now Turkey) into Macedonia and preached the Gospel in Philippi. (cf. Acts 16:9-15)
Unfortunately, those who really are white supremacists give credit to the Marxist narrative, but are in truth betrayers of the inheritance of the European and Western culture, which they strip of its spiritual and cultural richness and reduce to skin color.
As for Europe, she is now dying precisely because she has cut herself off from her Christian roots. “Western civilization” no longer belongs to Europe; western civilization is dying in the United States; in truth western civilization is, in its essence, neither European, nor western, nor white, but universal, just as the Catholic faith is universal. Perhaps Africa will be the next bearer of “western” civilization.
By identifying ‘white supremacy’ as ‘the evil’ of the day, and by identifying everything that has come from Europe since the time of Christopher Columbus as the work of ‘white supremacy’, the whole of the Catholic faith, brought first to the new world on the ships of Columbus, is blackened with the most wicked name. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household. (Mt 10:25)
Well, if we want to talk about ‘systemic’ injustices, we could just as well talk about systemic anti-Catholicism in this nation. Did you know that the KKK was not only anti-black, but anti-Catholic, and antisemitic? Indeed, anti-Catholicism has been called ‘the last acceptable prejudice’. (cf. Philip Jenkins, “The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice”)
Further, anti-Catholicism is not only systemic in this country, it has been institutionalized by a series of Supreme Court decisions, shaping American culture and effectively barring faithful Catholic participation. First was Roe v. Wade granting a constitutional right to abortion; now more recently was Obergefell v. Hodges granting a constitutional right to a fiction called ‘same-sex marriage’; now there is Bostock v. Clayton County, in which the Supreme Court completely took leave of its senses by denying the reality of biological sex in its interpretation of a law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of biological sex.
So if you are a Catholic who is faithful to the truth of reality, which is confirmed by the revelation of God, and so hold that direct, voluntary abortion is the murder of the most innocent and vulnerable human beings, that marriage is between a man and woman and that there is a meaningful difference between man and woman that is rooted in an unchangeable physical reality, you will be marginalized. You will at least have to keep quiet about what is not just your private belief, but the truth of reality.
Basically, a Catholic is required to make a tacit agreement to keep silent about what he believes on many public occasions. This is nothing new. For John F. Kennedy to be elected President he effectively had to agree to put a hermetic seal between his Catholic faith and his presidential policy. Alas, he found it all too easy to do and, in doing so, he seems to have charted the path for Catholic Americans, including politicians, bishops, and priests, over the past 60 years.
The one thing that could have kept this country from the downhill slide of the past decades would have been a strong Catholic Church, but the Church seems to have been going through a process of auto-demolition, eagerly trying to catch up with the downhill plunge of the culture.
For all that the Catholic response to systemic anti-Catholicism is not and never has been seeking to destroy the system; the Catholic response is never one of revenge; the Catholic response must be to seek conversion.
Last Monday we celebrated the Apostles Peter and Paul, put to death by the ‘system’ of the Roman Empire, but victorious over the Empire by their faith. 300 years later, the Emperors themselves were professing the faith of Sts. Peter and Paul.
I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.
If we are counted among those little ones, if we have been give the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, if we have come to know his great love, then we can say with St. Paul, If God is for us, who can be against us? … In all things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. (Rm 8:31,37)
And, in the words of the Psalmist: The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge, of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, these my enemies and foes stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against me, even then do I trust! (Ps 27:1-3)
We find ourselves in the midst of a war, beset by the internal enemies of the seven capital vices, and the external enemies of revolution and tyranny. What to do?
First, the essentials are Mass, Confession, and the Rosary, which is a great spiritual weapon ever at our disposal in what is first and foremost a spiritual battle. (cf. Eph 6:10-18)
Second, there are a couple of examples from recent events that show us how to carry the fight into the public realm.
The current war on statues reached to statues of two Catholic saints, St. Junipero Serra, the great missionary of California and St. Louis, King of France after whom the American city was named.
While statues of St. Junipero Serra were being torn down in San Francisco and Los Angeles, in Ventura, California a group of Catholics gathered in front of the statue of the saint that still stands in front of the city hall. There they prayed the rosary and prevented the mob from tearing down the statue.
In St. Louis, there is a splendid statue of the saint in a prominent public place in front of an art museum. The mob had defaced the pedestal with graffiti and wanted to tear down the statue. A group of Catholics, led by a young priest gathered to protect the statue, clean the pedestal, and pray the rosary. Faced by the angry mob denouncing St. Louis, the priest, with great patience sought to explain to them the saint’s goodness.
These two examples show us the way of the meek and humble Heart of Jesus Christ. This is not a way of weakness, but of great strength, courage, and charity.
The truth is that now the United States of America has lost her way and she needs the Catholic Church, she needs the Catholic faith.
For most of the history of this country Catholics felt the obligation to prove themselves to be good citizens, often by compromising or soft-pedaling their faith in the process. They were accused of being agents of the Pope and conspiring to take over the nation by means of a violent revolution.
Now it is time for us to cast aside fear and shame. Let us declare it openly: America needs to convert to the Catholic faith. This, however, cannot come about by means of force, because faith cannot be forced, but only by prayer, evangelization, and the outpouring of God’s grace. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the Patroness of this country, bring about the desired conversion.
America has lost her way because of a dangerous ambiguity already found in the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate today in which the right to the “pursuit of happiness” is declared. That is the key, but what the Catholic faith tells us, and America needs to hear, is that happiness is not found in any old thing, happiness is not found in doing what I want, happiness is not one thing for one person and another for another, happiness, in this world, consists essentially in the knowledge of Jesus Christ by faith, and the vision of the Most Holy Trinity in the next life. Blessed indeed are the ‘little ones’ to whom this has been revealed.
The Catholic Church offers to America the vision that shows us the path to true happiness, the charity that overcomes racial divisions and unites those of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation in the one Body of Christ, and the mercy that heals the wounds of historical injustice.
Let us conclude with the continuation of the Psalm:
There is one thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to gaze on the Lord’s beauty, to visit his temple … I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and chant praise to the Lord. (Ps 27:4,6)
Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.