Deacon Steve Greydanus Gave a Great Homily

Deacon Steve Greydanus Gave a Great Homily July 10, 2019

He published it over at the Register.  Here’s a good chunk of it:

Jesus’ Hard Words About Family Ties

The fact is, Jesus often seems to downplay family ties, including filial piety. Later in Luke’s Gospel he says:

If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Love your enemies but hate your parents and your family! Love your neighbor as yourself, but hate your own life! What a religion! “What great violence is necessary,” says St. Augustine,

in order that a man may love his enemies, and hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers! For He commands both things who calls us to the kingdom of heaven.

G.K. Chesterton once quipped that “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

Jesus goes a step further: Love your enemies, but be prepared to hate your family members, because if you follow me, your family members may be your enemies! From Matthew’s Gospel:

Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death…

I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.

He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Notice that instead of hating parents and family, here Jesus says we must not love them more than we love him. This, of course, is what it means to “hate” our parents and family: We must not love them more than we love Jesus.

But this isn’t a matter of feelings, this love and this “hatred.” It’s about actions. Jesus is warning his disciples that following him may mean turning their backs on their own family, who may reject them, expel them from synagogues, bring them before authorities, deliver them up to persecution and even death.

What do you do when your family members force you to choose between them and following Jesus? Many saints have had to make that call. Take St. Perpetua, whose father wanted her to renounce her faith. She refused and was imprisoned and eventually martyred.

Francis of Assisi was brought before the bishop by his outraged father. St. Clare was also opposed by her father. Thomas Aquinas’s family was so opposed to his religious vocation that they hired a prostitute to seduce him.

Are we prepared to turn our backs on our families if it came down to it?

The True Family of Jesus and the Human Family

If we are, Jesus promises us a new family, not just in heaven, but here on earth.

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Jesus came to form a new family, a new people of God, the Catholic Church, which is nothing less or other than the divine communion of the Holy Trinity shared with us on earth.

Membership in the Catholic Church, in the family of God, makes us partakers of the divine Nature. It makes us all brothers and sisters of one another in a way that makes natural family bonds insignificant in comparison.

All other divisions among human beings — differences of race, sex, nationality, age, education, income — mean nothing in Christ.  Whether we are Jew or Gentile, male or female, old or young, rich or poor, white or black or brown, wherever we come from, whatever our nationality, whatever language we speak — we are all brothers and sisters. This is our family.

Even the division between Christian and non-Christian is a cause of division for them, not for us. For our part we are all brothers and sisters, non-Christians included.

Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, writes in his famous book The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood, that “For the Christian, every man is ultimately a brother” — either a brother in Christ or that “other brother” in the parable of the Prodigal Son standing out in the field, refusing to come in to the party, but not rejected or excluded.

Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists are our brothers and sisters. Even if many of them reject us, we don’t reject them. The whole human race is one family, all born of Adam, all redeemed in Christ, all sharing the common fatherhood of God, though not brotherhood in Christ.

Who Is My Brother?

This what we’re called to as Catholics. We have a long history of failing to live up to it.

Antisemitism, racism, discrimination against women, discrimination against the poor — these and other forms of tribalism and prejudice have existed among us since the days of the early Church. St. Paul warns today in the second reading about “biting and devouring one another,” adding, “beware that you are not consumed by one another.”

What about now? When we look at the Church today — when we look at our lives — how well do we live this out?

Have you ever noticed how many Catholics go to Mass like they go to a supermarket, to pick up the sacraments. They fulfill their obligation, but the Church isn’t their home, their family. They don’t know the names of the people in the pews around them. They dash for their cars during the closing hymn instead of talking to people who should be their brothers and sisters.

That’s not how it’s meant to be.

When we walk past a Muslim on the street or in the supermarket, do we see a brother or a sister? What about a homeless person? What about a police officer? What about someone wearing a political slogan we disagree with?

When we hear about Latin American children in cages, sleeping on hard, cold concrete — with nowhere to rest their head, in our Lord’s words from today’s Gospel — unable to bathe or change their clothes, do we think of them as our own children?

The immigration debate in our country is complicated, and there are no simple answers. No right answers, anyway. Wrong answers are another story! Warehousing people in inhumane conditions that are neither clean nor safe, is wrong — no matter where they came from, how they got here, who they are, or which party is doing it.

Loving Your Neighbor, Hating Your Country

Many people today put political or nationalistic concerns above our common humanity. No Catholic can do that.

On Thursday we celebrate the Fourth of July, a patriotic holiday. Patriotism, proper love of one’s country, is a virtue — one that the Catechism covers under the fourth commandment, the same as honoring your father and mother.

Which means that when Jesus talks about “hating” your father and mother, he’s also talking about “hating” your country when your country’s actions are hateful.

Every member of the human family is our brother or sister, from unborn children to undocumented immigrants. Liberal or conservative, straight or gay, Jewish or Christian or Muslim or atheist.

I’m not saying none of these differences matter. Some of them may literally be the difference between heaven or hell — and it’s important to say that! It’s also important to say that God is their judge and ours … and he will judge us, in part, by how we judged them.

This ran on the day before Independence Day and generated a lot of response, a lot of it hostile, from the readers of the Register.  It hits a lot of buttons near and dear to the conservative American Catholic heart concerning family, fertility, patriotism, xenophobia and The Other, demonstrating pretty clearly that a lot of that demographic is no more prepared for what Jesus has to say than his contemporaries were.  My favorite bizarro response in the comboxes began, “Children are separated from their families to protect them.”

Jesus’ teaching on the family begins, not ends, with the sanctity of marriage and the family.  You know the drill: marriage between one man and one woman for life.  Children are a blessing to be received from God.  So the Church teaches and has always taught that the family is the basic building block of society.

So far, so good.  American conservatives like that (unless the family is being torn apart so that a racist Mob Boss can use brown refugees as hostages, then they lie that, “Children are separated from their families to protect them.”)

How has that exception crept into the thinking of a demographic that famously exalts marriage and family?

Thereby hangs a tale.  Some time back a famous right wing culture war priest who loves to dress his gospel in camo and military imagery and advertise himself as ROMAN CATHOLIC MAN with (I am not making this up) SPIRITUAL AMMO KITS and US GRACE FORCE swag and so forth came across (quite naturally considering the company he keeps) a cartoon by an artist with the handle Jinjerzilla called “How the West will be saved”.  It seemed innocuous enough.  A father and mother  with a couple of kids and mom is pregnant.  Pious Catholic family values, right?

So here’s the thing: Jinjerzilla is an out loud white racist.  The point of the cartoon, which totally flew under the radar for ROMAN CATHOLIC MAN was that the family is white and that Our Kind will save the West by outbreeding Their Kind.

Another data point: a decade ago, one of the many Right Wing Panics du Jour, back when Muslims were the main Right Wing Bogeyman was “demographic winter”.  American Christians needed to Get Busy and outbreed the Muslim Hordes or America was doooooomed!

Oh look!  What a gift!  Millions of hard-working family-oriented taxpaying brown Christians at flooding into our country, swelling the Christian population of America!  Surely the white conservative Christians will be happy to welcome this shot in the arm to the Christian population, depleted by all those awful liberals who are contracepting and leaving us vulnerable to the Muslim Menace!

What’s that you say?  Rip their families apart and put their children in concentration camps?  Stigmatize them as rapists and vermin?  Well, it would appear that the issue is not so much about religion as about race then, wouldn’t it?

Conservative white Christians in the US chatter about the “liberal attack on the family” while responding, not with the gospel but with a conservative attack on brown families that is breathtaking in its contempt the gospel.  The lie, “Children are separated from their families to protect them” the emblem of that.

The family is indeed the building block of society as the Church teaches.  But building block are for building.  Libertarianized American society has refused the gospel command to transcend the family and seek the kingdom of heaven.  Where Jesus commands us to seek the common good as Christians, libertarianized Americans have turned the family into a “selfish unit” and declared any thought of the common good beyond it to be “socialism”.  The cry is “Why should I think of those people?  I’m putting my family first!”  The idea that brothers and sisters in Christ do not cease to be brothers and sisters in Christ by the accident of being brown or poor is dismissed as Social Justice Warrior liberalism.  That is a lie.  It is the gospel.

The solution to a diseased approach to family is not another diseased approach to family, The Right Wing attempt to make the gospel a white ethnonationalist fertility cult is not the answer to the Left Wing attempt to redefine the family out of existence. Catholics falling for the Right Wing lie in droves do far more harm to the gospel than any direct assault on the family by some fantasy socialist state in their imagination. They stupidly fear persecution while embracing seduction with open arms. Read the comboxes at Steve’s piece and see how many of the Righteous hate the gospel’s teaching regarding our fellow Christians, not to mention those who do not share our faith.

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