Posts Tagged ‘Despair’

Utopia by Fr. Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/06/09 at 9:11 AM


• In my home state of Indiana there is a little town in the very southwest corner of the state called New Harmony. It is a town that was founded in the 19th century as a utopian village.

• In the 19th century there was a movement in our country to set up small, self-contained societies that were free of the problems endemic to large cities – problems like crime, and the influences of a general lack of morality. New Harmony was one of these places.

• These utopian villages were supposed to be the perfect place to live….a sort of heaven on earth. Ultimately, this movement failed. Why?

• In simplest terms the failure was the result of sin, and the fact that man suffers from original sin: that he is disposed, in his weak nature, to sin – even when he desires not to sin. And this propensity to sin is, perhaps, the greatest sadness of human life.

• In our first reading today Job paints a rather bleak picture of life when he speaks of it as drudgery and without happiness. To me he calls to mind the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who famously said that “life is nasty, brutish, and short.”

• Hobbes was a philosopher who had a tendency to focus on only the ugly sides of life and humanity. In the face of human sin and suffering, he only found despair.

• And despair, my friends, is a sin. In fact, it’s one of the most debilitating sins of all.

• To be sure, all of us have moments when, because of our sin and suffering, it’s difficult to see that which is true, good, and beautiful.

• Anyone who has ever experienced tremendous, on-going suffering in this life knows the temptation to despair. Anyone who has struggled over and over with the same grave sins that seemingly cannot be conquered has felt despair rising in his heart.

• Yet as Christians, we must never allow despair to have a voice within our hearts and souls,for it directly contradicts the primary disposition of joy to which we, as Christians, are supernaturally called. Joy is our vocation as Christians, and it is the promise of the Spirit.

• Even in the face of our deepest and darkest sins – those sins that we hide deep down in our souls and that we confess only with a sly honesty – we must remain joyful.

• You see, my friends, while sin is a terrible and debilitating illness, it is treatable! Even the gravest of sinners is never without hope. And as Christians, this is a truth to which we must cling with tenacity! It’s something that we must believe in our very bones.

• Our gospel story today provides a wonderful contrast to the bleakness of the first reading. In today’s story we see Jesus heal Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, as well as many other who were sick or possessed.

• At the end of the story, when Jesus finally finds some time alone to pray, his disciples come looking for Him and say: “Everyone is looking for you”, to which Jesus replies: “Let us go …For this purpose have I come.”

• And off He goes to preach and to heal and to drive out demons in other towns and villages.

• This is why Jesus came to us: to save us from our sins and to heal us from our spiritual infirmities. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it in abundance!

• While Jesus is not here among us in the same way as He was with His apostles 2000 years ago, He is still here among us.

• Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist. He speaks to us through His Word. And He lives in our souls, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, through the grace of baptism!

• The more that we pay attention to Jesus and seek to be in communion with Him through prayer, the sacraments, and virtuous living, the stronger His presence within us becomes – and the stronger we become to say no to the temptations that plague us.

• However, there is one caveat – one little hitch, if you will. For our communion with Jesus to be authentic and for our strength against temptation to grow, we must recognize our sins for what they are and be honest about them, and we must be willing to let go of them.

• In our Catholic tradition we identify seven deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, and sloth. Each of us typically struggles in a particular way with one or two of these sins. These are our root sins; they are the sins we commit most often throughout life.

• It’s important that we try to recognize our root sins and their many manifestations in our lives, so that we can present them to Jesus and ask for His help.

• It’s important that we examine our souls regularly for sin, and the measure we should use inexamining ourselves is Sacred Scripture and the constant teaching tradition of the Church.

• Whenever we find that we are living in a way that goes against the teachings of Christ as found in Sacred Scripture or Church teaching, we must quickly seek to amend our lives.

• Some of you may ask, “Well, what if I disagree with Church teaching, or what if I think the Church is wrong or unfair about something?”

• If that is your position, then as your pastor I have to ask you with great love and respect: do you really want to risk your soul on the idea that you may know something that the Church doesn’t?”

• Please understand, my friends, that the Church was founded by Christ and has been entrusted with His teachings. Moreover, for her 2000 years of existence she has been guided by the Holy Spirit so that in matters of faith and morals she would never err.

• Now I realize that at times the Church’s teachings can seem hard to follow. I also realize that there are people who consider some of the Church’s teachings controversial or outdated – especially her teachings that concern conjugal acts.

• But, my dear friends, Truth never changes – and therefore it can never be outdated. Do not allow yourselves to be seduced by the dictatorship of relativism that pervades our society!

• My point, of course, is that the morally safest way to live is in accord with Church teaching, which we Catholics believe to be the teaching of Christ Himself.

• Jesus came to heal us and set us free, but we have to be willing to repudiate our sins. He will never forcibly take them away from us. If we seek to be free of our sins, then we can grow in the authentic communion with Jesus by which we will be strengthened against temptation.

• Moreover, the more we grow in communion with Jesus, the more we grow in joy, even in the midst of terrible suffering. Every saint whom the Church has ever canonized attests to this.

• And as we grow in joy, even in the face of suffering, and as we begin to enjoy the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, it is then that we begin to experience Heaven itself.

• For Heaven is not a place – a physical location up in the sky. Heaven is a person: the person in Whom God and man are joined: Jesus Christ!

• My dear friends in Christ, while it is true that any purely human effort to establish a utopian or heavenly society will ultimately fail, we can begin to experience the joy of Heaven here on earth. In fact, as Christians we are called to it.

• If we renounce our sins and seek to live in authentic communion with Jesus through a life of prayer, fidelity to the sacraments, and virtuous acts, we will begin to experience Heaven in this life, and be assured of experiencing the fullness of Heaven in the next.

Fr. Reid is pastor of  St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC