With last week’s Sunday scripture readings we came out of the VINEYARD and into the BANQUET. For three weeks before, we heard tales of those who did—or didn’t–work in the Master’s vineyard, a nice image of my main motivation, the Kingdom of God. In last Sunday’s Gospel we finally were at a banquet, a wedding banquet, where the goods of the vineyard were used for celebration—juicy rich food and pure choice wines (Isaiah 25:6). Many were invited who were not originally deemed worthy—like us, perhaps. But there was still a problem. One poor guy was wandering around the banquet without a suitable wedding feast garment on. This seems to be a warning to all who claim to enjoy the honor of being in the church through Baptism, but don’t keep up the purity of their baptismal life through ongoing repentance and seeking God’s, and the community’s, forgiveness.
This leads right to our wonderful celebration of Confirmation last Wednesday.19 of our young people from school and PSR essentially made the commitment of Baptism, by choosing now, in the dawn of adulthood, to live in Christ in the Church. None of them did this “automatically”. I interviewed each one of the students, in person and a couple of them on the phone, and asked their understanding of Confirmation. Each of them, in different words, said that this was their own decision to live up to the Baptism they’d received as a baby, because they now understood Christ and his life, and how we live it in the Church, and that is their choice going from here. I was very proud to present them, with Mrs. Rohman, Mrs. Love, our teachers and catechists, to Msgr. Dennis Stehly for Confirmation. (The local bishop can delegate any priest to confer Confirmation, as I’ve done a few times, and for years priest members of the Archbishop’s inner circle, the Vicars, travel to do this as our 2 bishops do.) He did a fine warm, loving, and joyful job to thank the young people and exhort them to their continued Baptismal life.
And this Sunday, we have the fascinating and timely Gospel of “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. When this comes up every three years, it’s always at the time of an election cycle, and it’s a sobering reminder. We’re so divided as a nation in our loyalties right now; how do we resolve this? Archbishop Rozanski recently echoed the American bishops statements (faithfulcitizenship.org) saying that, of all issues in American civic and moral life, abortion has a pre-eminent importance, because of the sheer scale of the destruction of human life and the casual disregard for it. “No Catholic can decide a vote without wrestling with which candidate would improve the nation’s moral fiber in this.” Then he referred to other life issues—poverty, racism, sexism, the environment, education, euthanasia and capital punishment, and said again: “No Catholic can decide a vote without wrestling with advancing the public good in these issues.” The result, he said, is that again, sadly, there is no one candidate who stands for all the issues that we as a Church promote. That’s why a vote for an informed Catholic conscience is a kind of an unsatisfying compromise— promote the most good, promote the least harm.
Largely out of this, it’s a good time for me to call for keeping our worship environment pure in a contentious political time. Political buttons or other promotional material have no place in the worship assembly. The only person we are promoting in Church is Jesus Christ. No one wants to come to pray in unity as the Body of Christ and see that someone nearby is pushing a particular candidate, who, as above, won’t stand for all the church’s values. I urge you to seek to influence others’ votes in another place and time; come to Church to be in unity in Christ, and leave buttons and pamphlets naming candidates at home or in the car. While we can’t police this throughout the gathered assembly, we will see that no one who ministers the Word or the Eucharist will wear a sign or item promoting anyone but Jesus Christ.
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”
With that, I’ll be on retreat this week till Friday. Thanks for a wonderful 3 months. See you next weekend.