The Urgency of Holiness
There is a question that people used to ask in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s to see what kind of baby-boomer members of my generation are. The question was simple: What is the most important event that happened in the Summer of 1969?
The trick was to see how many of us would say “Woodstock” only to be reminded that the Apollo 11 Moon landing happened one month earlier. We celebrated that the fiftieth anniversary of that most important event one week ago. It is fascinating to look back at that time and know that we were all united as a nation on that July weekend. People all over the country and the world watched live video pictures from the Moon. I, this week, watched some of the originally live ABC news moon landing coverage with Frank Reynolds and Jules Bergman and right on the desk prominently displayed for the cameras was the word “Tang”. Invented by the way, by the father of an elementary school classmate.
Of course, 1969 followed 1968 which was a terribly turbulent year with two assassinations and chaos outside and inside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
It is fifty years later and our country is in an interesting situation, we are closer to 1968 than 1969 and what is most concerning is many people believe we have surpassed 1968. Our nation is deeply divided and is falling into even more division. It is of great concern. The question is what is our role.
What is dividing our nation? Let’s look.
For years, I warned people we are on the path to Romans 1. If you look at the chapter, you will that it is commonly used to condemn one form of sin but, in reality, it is a road map. St Paul explains that there is a process: first you have an abandonment of God and replacing him with a form of idolatry, then there is moral breakdown and finally civil breakdown. It is all laid out in Romans 1.
We have been walking down that path for some time and I think we are running closer to stage 3.
Always remember the answer to this simple question: How does a small country take over a large country? Simple—get the people against each other. That is a well-established military tactic used in many wars all over the world.
For many years now we have seen an attitude in our country that basically screams: “My world, my way.”
We are even living in a time when people are talking about the need to harvest fetal tissue so that we can make great advances in science. There is only one way to harvest fetal tissue to the level it is needed and that is through promoting abortion. Do you know why there is a move to legalize abortion for the entire nine months? That is why. That is creating more division and it will further divide our nation into the genetically haves and genetically have nots.
That will increase the my world my way attitude. A nation where that attitude infects the population will eventually fall because there is no unity, there is only division.
In fact, of all people, Paul Krugman in the New York Times wrote of the great division such technology will produce creating a world of generations of haves because they had the money to pay for the technology for this to happen.
Charlie Richards, a writer on Medium.com actually notes that Krugman is only partially right. If such technology could lead billionaires to live forever which is Krugman’s lament, Richards notes it will do even worse, for it will destroy humanity by causing a breakdown in the social fabric. One of the non-negotiables of society is the limitations of time and it would eliminate it which would undermine the whole fabric.
Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal this week cited how the pronoun issues of our current culture are similar to the language changes by Robespierre during the French Revolution. She sounds a warning.
Christopher Hedges in his book When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists noted the extreme of this: my world, my way. He cites one of the world class atheists advocating for a nuclear first strike against the Islamic world. I was shocked that so called moral people would believe that was a viable option in any scenario. He expounds on the reality that technology will ultimately support the values of those who possess it and not improve the lives of all.
The “my world, my way” scenario is what is at the base of our first reading. The reading is one of the most important for us to consider. Abraham begging God not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and God responds that even for the sake of ten righteous people, he will not destroy the cities. We learn that there were not ten righteous people. Why would God destroy the cities? Because they had become a viral anarchy. Their poison would infect other nations and destroy them from the inside as well until it destroyed the whole race. They were not just engaged in sin, every community has sinners, but each member of the community had become infected with a selfishness in their my world my way mentality that led to social anarchy. If you read the story closely, you will see that the surrounding communities complained that they were exporting their evil.
We know that there are people doing all they can to destroy our faith from the inside and the outside. But Jesus always said not to worry about them, worry about you. Do all you can to live your faith because your living your faith will save others.
In today’s Gospel we see Jesus talk about the power of prayer. He said to trust in it and to practice it. What is the most important thing we can pray for? Simple the salvation of ourselves and others. We pray for our enemies that even they can be saved. We pray for our friends that they can be saved. We pray for all those in our lives that they can be saved. That is a mission we have as Catholics
We obviously must pray for other things, but we have a mission as Catholics which is the salvation of souls. The reason why our country is so divided is just as St. Paul teaches our residents are walking down the path of this division, we as a country have embraced a form of atheism and a politicized Christianity, then we have moral breakdown and finally civil breakdown.
Today’s readings are a reminder to us that we have a mission to seek holiness so that we can be prophets to the community that without those seeking to be holy will collapse under its own weight. We have a mission as Catholics and as Americans and people may reject us for it, but in the end, they will be thankful for living it and so will God himself.
Questions for discussion
at home or work:
Where do you see the “my world my way” attitude in the media?
How does the quest for holiness speak people today?
Photo: Francesco Fontebasso (Italy, Venice, 1707-1769) Public Domain,