Last Sunday Jesus warned against judging others. Today he gives a sensible reason to avoid premature judgments. Just as we don't know if a tree is good or bad till we have tasted its fruit, so with us. The fruits - the full results - of our decisions won't be realized until the end of human history. Each of us is part of a web stretching back to our first parents and pressing forward to the final human child. What we do - or fail to do - has an impact.
A German citizen in the 30's may have minded his own business, treated others kindly, paid his taxes, etc. Still he had a role in supporting history's greatest horror. His degree of culpability will be known at the final judgment. The same applies to any of us. In the United States there are a million plus surgical abortions each year - together with a huge number of chemical abortions. Abortion clinics - like concentration camps - did not fall out of the sky. They belong to an intricate social web which includes you and me.
Being part of a tainted web corrupts even the socially isolated person, perhaps especially him. In today's Gospel Jesus describes an inner rot which eventually manifests itself in heinous deeds. (Lk 6:45) But such corruption is not inevitable - even in a totalitarian system like Nazi Germany.
The life of Karl Goldmann demonstrates the possibility of resistance. A Franciscan seminarian, he was drafted into the German army when World War II began. Because of his intellectual acumen they wanted him to join the Hitler's elite SS. But he balked at the oath - essentially a pagan creed, it did not include God's name and ultimately involved renouncing the Catholic Church. Escaping death he served his country in France and on the Eastern front. As an ordinary soldier he performed some daring actions against Nazi neo-paganism. The book Shadow of His Wings tells his remarkable story.
Goldmann's inner strength came from a source available also to you and me. He began each day with prayer (if possible, the Mass) and during the day devoted what time he could to conversation with God. Our responsorial psalm tells about a tree which bears good fruit even in old age. How? It was "planted in the house of the Lord." (Ps 92:13)
None of us can predict the fruit of our action. I have sometimes put in long hours, fretting over a project. Looking back I realize it bore meager results. On the other hand, a word or a gesture - perhaps when I was too tired or distracted to even realize what I was doing - had enormous consequences. The difference does not come from my own goodness. I have none. What matters is that I in some way can be a channel of real, lasting goodness. Prayer.
This Wednesday we begin a time of prayer, almsgiving and fasting called Lent. The Church has certain rules of fasting and abstinence from meat which are explained in the bulletin. For almsgiving you will receive a Rice Bowl which we ask you to place on your dining table. What I most want to emphasize this Lent is prayer.
At the church entrances you will find a booklet Drawing Closer to God. For a one dollar donation you can obtain a copy as your lenten companion. It has wonderful, practical meditations for daily prayer. Also this Lent we begin round the clock adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Even if you have not signed up for a specific hour, please consider this: better than giving up candy or TV (altho that would be worthwhile) offer one hour each week to Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. If you do, the rest will fall into place. Jesus himself will excise whatever corruption has lodged within you - and you will begin to bear the fruit he desires.
Ash Wednesday Homily
Bulletin (Lenten Discipline, Irish Humor)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C