In the e-mail: a dissenting view of Sunday's homily

This arrived late Sunday, from a parishioner who took issue with my homily that morning:

I really feel you were misguided in you presentation of today’s sermon at the 11:30 AM Mass.

Loving people and reaching out with love to those that have hurt us, (individually) is one thing. And has to be done on a selective basis.

Reaching out and loving a people or a terrorist leader like Osama is wrong.

He is a madman that wants and continues to direct our destruction / down fall and causes (through his orders and philosophy) continuing acts of violence in the free world.

When you are dealing with what I believe to be a “disciple of the Devil” you are dealing with someone that is headed for hell and unforgivable. He is following a philosophy (like Hitler did) and made it a religion (like Hitler did with the Nazi Occult).

Do you really believe that people in the 1940’s should have “loved and prayed” and “forgiven” Hitler ?

I don’t.

The same would apply today, with all Disciples of the Devil.

Einstein, makes a valid point:

“The true problem lies in the hearts and thoughts of men. It is not a physical but and ethical one. What terrifies us is not the explosive force of the atomic bomb but the power of the wickedness of the human heart.”

I am sorry if the above may offend you.

I still believe, on a personal, individual, basis – with people that are loving, human beings, (and not known to be “animals”) that what you said this morning is true.

People are measured by their actions…..and no matter how hard we try to forgive, sometimes their actions are so terrible that forgiveness is not possible.

Some people are “unforgiven”…and there are places marked in Hell for them. Do you believe that Jesus would forgive (pardon) Lucifer ?

Bye the way, I still do respect you.

To answer the last question: as far as I know, the gospels do not give us an example of Christ ever refusing anyone forgiveness.  I’m not aware of any example of Jesus personally withholding his love from anyone, either.

All I can go on is today’s gospel: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Whether or not Jesus would forgive Lucifer — and, frankly, it’s not for us to know how Christ or His Father would ultimately judge anyone — he almost certainly loves him and prays for him, and all those who fall under his influence.

Didn’t he do as much on the cross?

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18 responses to “In the e-mail: a dissenting view of Sunday's homily”

  1. I actually think Jesus would forgive Lucifer.

    I’ve heard it preached that sin and forgiveness is a is a lot like someone needing some cash for dinner and someone else offering that person a free gift of some money for dinner. Take the money and you don’t starve. Don’t take the money, it doesn’t matter, you’re toast.

    So my hypothesis is that the “unforgivable” person is the one who won’t accept forgiveness. It’s not a question of whether Jesus would forgive Lucifer. Hell yes He would. The question is whether Lucifer would accept it.

    Lucifer as rendered by Milton (and scripture)? I’d bet heavily against…

    The ultimate point is that as Christians, it really isn’t our job to hand out sentences here on this earth. And whose disciple you are all depends on who you take your cues from.

  2. Sin is our rejection of God; not the other way around. God never rejects any of us.

    Our human history — our church history — has seen far too many instances where people or cultures have been “demonized.” That is, we humans have pretended to take on the role of Supreme Judge and have totally cast out of our concern any human being or culture that appears to deliberately violate our own very limited human understanding of the Sacred.

    Your parishioner makes an interesting point in that he/she cites both Bin Laden and Hitler as “madmen.” If that parishioner meant “mad” as “insane,” traditional Roman Catholic Moral theology would insist that they lack culpability for their sin because their mental state seriously impaired the free use of their human will.

    Whenever you think of Mortal Sin, think of this parallel civil legal term: “willful and wanton misconduct.” What you did was seriously evil by any objective and universal standard; you knew it was seriously evil; but you went ahead and did it anyway. Human judges can easily enough determine what acts are evil; they might even be able to determine with some accuracy whether the perpetrator knew it was evil; what they cannot determine is the state of that perpetrator’s mind when the action occurred.

    Human courts, human society can identify an individual as a criminal; only God can judge someone a sinner because only God really knows when God has been rejected.

  3. First, I do not believe that anyone is predestined to hell, as your parishioner seems to believe. I am sure that many believed that St. Paul was headed there and look what happened to him. Perhaps if enough prayers are said for Osama the same type of miracle might occur.

    I also believe that forgiveness has little to do with the forgiven, it has little effect on him and may never know if someone forgave him or not. In my experience the one who refuses to forgive falls into a state of hate that eats at him and slowly, or not so slowly destroys him spiritually.

    I also do not believe that forgiveness involves allowing the forgiven to escape the consequences of his crimes, if such exist. I would suspect that even if God forgives Osama, he might well spend a long, long time in purgatory.

    Deacon, I find no example of Jesus refusing to forgive anyone who repented of their sins. I might question whether He forgave the Pharasies or the temple money changers, who did not seem to repent and were pretty well condemned by him.


    Mike L

  4. People are forgiveable because we are made in the image and likeness of God, because we are finite and because we can’t see God. Fallen angels are not forgiveable because they saw God face to face, they are not finite and they’re not made in the image and likeness of God. It’s not the same relationship because it’s not the same dignity, you know?

  5. I am the Parishioneer that wrote the initial response.

    Well, thank you all for the clarity of thought….I can see now, where Jesus could forgive anyone; and that the real issue is whether the person/entity wants to be forgiven. Our actions predispose our direction in this life and the next, and people (even though they don’t really have the right to) judge these people and they suffer accordingly from that lack of love they can’t receive. I will try to keep a more open mind about the motives and actions of people and pray for them…as I am the parishioneer that wrote the initial article. (By the way, I am glad to see some rather respectable people responding; especially in the middle of the night…shows real love and dedication to the Love of Jesus.)

  6. I love your homilies as always.. to this day I haven’t heard one that I disagree with as you have that unusual combination of being a great orator, a religious but still being part of the laity. Regarding your homily this Sunday being one of the best.
    The sad thing is that we pick and choose what we wish to believe in the gospels and in what Christ taught to fit our own comfort zone. Which ever does not is discarded. As I keep reminding myself, to consider myself a Christian then we should take the gospel as its offered. We do not have the luxury of manipulating the words of Christ to suit us. If we believe “God is love” then their is no reservations to His love and then Christ asks us to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect… I guess I am no lawyer to find a loophole through that..

  7. We are called as Christians to believe many more than the White Queen’s “six impossible things before breakfast,” this teaching of Christ being outscored on the impossibility scale by perhaps the two most critical beliefs we have:

    1. God died.
    2. A dead man lives.

    And yet, we believe, itself another impossible thing. So loving one’s enemies, praying for them, that’s easy by comparison.

  8. There was an interesting piece in our parish bulletin yesterday, quoting an author who told her young son about the gospel imperative of loving everyone. The son said, “That’s easy. I can love anyone, even an axe murderer,” and the mother replied, “Start with your sister.”

    I think there are two very valid points. One is that our love and willingness to forgive must be all-encompassing. The other is that they have to extend to those who have hurt us personally.

  9. What more do we need other then Christ’s words from the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”LK 23:34b

  10. It wasn’t until the five year anniversary of 9/11 that it dawned on me that maybe I ought to work on forgiving the successful terrorists.

    I’ve never heard anyone even suggest that we need to forgive them.

    But Lewis’s chapter on Forgiveness in Mere Christianity starts with: “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of talk makes them sick,’ they say. And half of you already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?'”


  11. While praying for our enemies and loving those who perecute us is, indeed, a Gospel imperative, as Jesus both taught and showed us, it is important to take into account situations that are very aggregious and to recognize that, unlike the Lord, we are not yet perfect as our Father heaven is perfect.

    In other words, forgiving, which requires prayer and is an act of charity, is not merely a choice, but often requires grace. Sometimes we first have to pray for the grace to pray for another, truly desiring the best for him/her. For many who have been gravely harmed by another this is a process, a two steps forward and one step back proposition (or even one step forward and two back, depending on the day).

    I his encyclical Spe Salvi, which should be as well know as Deus Caritas Est, but sadly is not, Pope Benedict reflects deeply on justice and mercy. Mercy cannot cancel out the demands of justice. I think a passage from paragraph forty-four is a good way of addressing your correspondent’s concern about mercy that forgets justice:

    “To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.”

  12. Brother Deacon Greg
    Lest we take our all-loving God’s forgiveness for granted, we might reflect on Jesus’ words regarding the Last Judgment. “Depart from me you accursed, into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me… ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matt 26:41-45.
    We must leave the judgment, however, to God. God’s grace transforms sinners into saints. An 18th century captain of an English slave ship had a reputation for being especially nasty to his crew, and forcing himself upon the female slaves on the sea journeys to Jamaica. On one stormy passage, the captain was struck by the evil of his ways, and embraced his parents’ faith in Jesus Christ. Not only did he leave the slave trade, but, following his Anglican ordination and pastorate in a London church, he was a tireless preacher about the evils of the slave trade. His voice was credited in great part for Parliament’s abolition of the slave trade. This reformed reformer was John Newton, who penned the words of that great hymn, Amazing Grace.”
    Again, we leave the salvific judgment to God, and pray for the conversion of those who do evil.

  13. Stated a more simply, in our preaching we must avoid what Bonhoeffer accurately called “cheap grace.” Yea, yea forgive the guy who cut you off on the freeway, the clerk who was rude to you at the store, your spouse who was less than enthusiastic about some very reasonable suggestion you made, your child for not cleaning his/her room, the priest for not taking the time with you that you felt you needed, your boss for being short with you, etc. etc.

    But let’s not forget weightier matters, like our attitude towards those, like Osama bin-Laden, who do and stand for evil, as your correspondent insists. Take as an example our opposition as Catholics to the death penalty: I can’t fail to recognize the point-of-view of someone who has had a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child, a near and dear friend who was brutally murdered and accept their very human response to such an occurrence.

    In recently counseling a devout man whose significant other was brutally raped and murdered in December, he told me about how a friend had mocked his opposition to the death penalty and his faith by saying to him about the murderer: “I guess you can look forward to shaking with that bastard in heaven.”

    In light of this provocation, as a Christian, this man recognized how far his heart is from where he wants and recognizes that it needs to be. Nonetheless, he needed to be assured of what Pope Benedict forcefully reminds us; with God there is justice, even for those who recognize their need for divine mercy.

  14. Greg, I posted above without reading your homily. It is very good. Since you shared in it about your anger – I would like to share my recent rage and rage it was.

    Someone I do not know did something awful to someone very dear to me. This person was arrested but that wasn’t good enough for me. I learned of this on a Saturday evening and woke up Sunday morning still imbibing the bitter draught of anger, and you are so right, it makes you happy in a perverted way.

    When I got to the parish I knew what I had to do. I found father and asked him to put on his stole, that I could not assist him at mass until he heard my confession.

    I knelt in his office relating the sorry episode and what was in my heart (murder). A miracle occurred. God took it all away. It was amazing as though a huge weight was lifted from me.

    And Yes I forgive this man. I want him incarcerated where he will be unable to harm other innocents and perhaps be given the grace to repent and live in Christ.

  15. What are the thoughts of the person regarding President Obama?
    Here is a man that is in full support of policies that murder more people every single day in the United States than were killed by Bin Laden on that one horrible day in September. The death toll from the barbaric slaughter of abortion is now around 60 million in the U.S. alone. Should we not pray for the president because of the unimaginable amount of innocent blood he has on his hands? The party of abortion is now responsible for more bloodshed then all of World War II combined. And the killing continues at a rate of 1.5 million unborn children every year. Would this person tell the members of the Church not to pray for any of those people?

  16. Deacon,

    It is grave error to say Jesus prays for Satan. It is further grave error to say God can have mercy on Satan. Finally, it is even graver error to say that by sin God rejects persons.

    Jesus prays for man. He did not come to redeem angels.
    Satan has definitively and irrevocably rejected God’s Mercy.
    God is not unfaithful to us but is the Truth and Love Itself.

    The enemies we pray for are those who hate us, harm us, and harbor evil to us. We were once enemies of God, yet while still enemies God redeemed us: Now we imitate Him.

    The enemies of mankind we do not pray for but fight against with prayer, virtue and faith. This struggle is not “friendship”. Our life is not like the anime Lyrical Nanoha.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged Deacon: Accept what Mother Church teaches as doctrine, for she teaches what Christ teaches, and Christ teaches what He knows from God.

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