For the Sake of My Own People

(Homily for Nineteenth Sunday - Year A)

Bottom line: As St. Paul was willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of his people, so we are called to faithful citizenship.

This Sunday I would like to take a survey. Do not be afraid. The survey has only three questions. First, how many have read this document - "Faithful Citizenship"? The full title of the document is: "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States." It explains *why* the Church teaches about issues affecting public policy and lays out the seven key themes of Catholic Social Teaching. The document then applies those teachings to major issues: Human Life, Family Life, Social Justice and Global Solidarity. It concludes with some challenges for citizens, candidates and public official. So, with that explanation, the second question: How many would read the document if we made it available? OK, now the most difficult question: How many would pay two dollars to have their own copy?

Very good. I will make this document and other materials available in the coming weeks. I hope it will help in forming our consciences for being good citizens - especially as we approach elections in September and November.

In today's second reading, St. Paul speaks about the love - and anguish - he has for his own nation, the Jewish people. He describes what he would be willing to suffer for the salvation of his fellow Hebrews. That love of one's own people is a virtue we are also called to. It is the virtue of patriotism. It is not the greatest virtue, but love for one's own country can lead a person to noble efforts, even heroic sacrifice. In the bishops document on Faithful Citizenship, they speak about what love for one's country means for us as Americans.

We can easily misunderstand the virtue of patriotism. While a patriotic person naturally recognizes his own people's gifts (as did St. Paul) It does not mean saying that one's nation is superior to others. Nor does it imply that one's country is always right. President Harry Truman gave a good lesson when he visited Mexico in 1947. He paid a visit to the monument of the Ninos Heroes - the six adolescent boys who died defending the Chapultepec Castle during the Mexican-American War. In a gesture filled with poignancy, President Truman placed a wreath on the tomb of the teenage soldiers killed by American forces. When a reporter asked him why he had gone to the monument, Truman said, "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it."

President Truman had a deep, simple patriotism. It enabled him to transcend his country - to see those same emotions and values in others. For us as Catholics, patriotism is a good value, something we want to encourage in our children. I am concerned about the example we set for our children. In recent national elections (let's not even talk about primaries) of all those eligible, only around fifty percent cast their ballot. It gets worse if you break it down by age groups: only 32% of those ages 18 to 24 voted - compared to 68% of those over 65. When you think about, 68% is not that great. It means that almost one of three seniors don't take the time to fill out a mail-in ballot or go to the polls on election day.

Now, a person could have a valid reason for not voting - and I admit, I have not voted in every election. But if I am tempted to not bother voting, I think of my Aunt Katherine who died in November of 2000. She was blind the last month of her life, but she had her daughter read the ballot and fill it on her behalf. Aunt Katherine was careful to sign the ballot and make sure it was mailed. It was one of the last things she did before she went to the Lord. She knew that Our Lord will ask us whether we cared about other people or cared only about ourselves.

I do not mean to imply that voting is the most important thing we do as citizens. It is not. Being honest in one's everyday dealings is a greater act of patriotism than voting. Still, voting is part of what it means to be a good citizen: to love one's country, to want the best for her. Saint Paul was willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of his people. What about us?

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General Intercessions for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2011: Two Tasks For Youth
2008: For the Sake of My Own People
2005: Lord, Save Me, I Am Drowning
2002: Men of Faith
1999: The Small, Still Voice

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Upcoming Election, Our Lady of LaVang Procession, Masses of Reparation - Schedule)

Letter to U of Mn President regarding desecration of Eucharist by biology professor

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