Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for April 7, 2013

2 Easter C ’13 • Acts 5:12-16 • Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 • John 20:19-31 • 

Scripture Readings: Second Sunday of Easter

Print PDF: Weekly Homily 04.07.2013

Audacity is a word seldom heard in ordinary conversation. Perhaps that is because the word is most commonly understood as meaning “rude or disrespectful behavior.”  However the word also means “the willingness to take bold risks.”  I bring the word before us today with that meaning.

Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!)  Jesus of Nazareth lived in 1st century Palestine. He was passionate in teaching about “the reign of God”.  His passion and audacity led him to Jerusalem where the Romans executed him as a criminal.  The Gracious Mystery we name God raised Jesus from the tomb, not as a reward for a meritorious life, but affirmation of his life and message.

The experience on Calvary terrified his companions.  They feared they would meet the same fate, so they abandoned him.  They lost all hope and were literally and figuratively in darkness behind locked doors.  They were focused on their grief and held captive by their fear.

Then “Jesus came and stood in their midst”.  He spoke to them, breathed on them and assured them they would be okay.  Courage replaced fear.   “Audacity is the willingness to take bold risks.”   They opened the doors, and walked into the streets with the inexplicable message that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) The church was born.

The companions of Jesus were and remained devout Jews.  They gathered openly in public places.  Their audacity had a significant impact on society.  The “church” emerged and spread rapidly, until hampered by intense persecutions instigated by Rome’s Emperors.

Within two centuries, through compromise and political accommodation, persecuted Christianity was transformed, endowed with power and privilege.   As the favored religion of the empire, we were protected and showered with buildings, status, titles and wealth.  There was a cost.  Gradually the church, once dominated and persecuted, became the power, the dominator.

Ever since, our history as church has wandered a curving and inconsistent path.  In every age Christians have proclaimed that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!)  by standing with the poor and powerless and calling for justice and peace — “God’s new reality”.   Simultaneously in every age, the church as institution viewed itself as a secluded island or a fortress, forced to defend its power and privilege rather than proclaiming the gospel.

We have seen all of this replicated in our own time.  The Second Vatican Council tried to put aside the fortress mentality.  The “aggiornamento” or spiritual renewal called for by that Council has not been achieved.  Instead, over the past half-century that fortress mentality has returned.  There has been an unprecedented concentration of authority in the papacy and the Roman curia. The institution has become more centralized than ever.

Our images and expectations of the papacy need to change. “The church is not the pope!  The pope is not the church”! “The church does not live by popes alone”!   Don’t make a big deal about the Pope.

When Benedict XVI retired he reminded us that the pope is a fragile and mortal human like all of us.  Why visit Rome or travel anywhere with the hope of seeing the Bishop of Rome as if he were more important than the Bishop of Helena? The liturgy celebrated by the Pope may be more glamorous than the liturgy celebrated by a simple parish in some rural area, but Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) and as fully present in that little rural community as in St. Peter’s.

Francis is the newly elected Bishop of Rome. Our future as church does not depend on him.  It is up to us – laity, religious and ordained to assume our responsibilities and make a difference in the world. Be audacious!  Our primary responsibility is to proclaim “God’s new reality”, using words if we must.  We do so when we are seen and heard as the Living Body of Christ!  It is only through our words and actions that others are able to know that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!)

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7 Responses to Weekly Homily from Father Jim Hogan for April 7, 2013

  1. I admire the audacity of Father Hogan, preaching the reality of the state of the Catholic church at the present time. Some may construe Father Hogan’s homily as a disrespect for the Pope, but I see it as reaffirmation of the essence of Catholicism: that the church is not the Pope, or the bishops or the priests, it is the Catholics, the members of the Catholic Church. They are the ones that make up the Church. Without its members the Church does not exist. The Pope, the Archbishops, the bishops, and the priests are our leaders who guide us to a closer understanding of what our faith, the Catholic faith truly is. I wish all of our leaders must truly lead us according to the example that our leader, the Pope, is trying to exemplify. I like Father Hogan’s homily. His audacity is an example of what a priest should be, not someone who is more interested in making the church more powerful, more centralized. They should emulate the example of our present leader, Pope Francis. Cesar D.

  2. Chris L. says:

    I say the following with a lot of respect.
    While I truly admire the audacity of Fr Hogan and I see his homily as a beautiful piece of intellectual work; fit for a research and for a class material but not in any way fit for a homily before a congregation of faithful. A homily is a sacrament, and a sacrament brings life and injects energy and hope. It never arouses curiosity or doubt or even causes inciting comments at any circumstance. This piece of work can be misunderstood by many and can be interpreted in many ways.
    My only fear in this is that, then if you speak like this it begs a reflection that there is no need for church leaders! A leader gives direction to the people entrusted under their care, if everybody is audacious (which is not possible) then why do we look at the bishop of Rome as our spiritual leader? Why do we need the Church anyway?
    Please correct me if I am wrong. Many people perceive and understand things differently. Our intellectual capacity is different.

    • Rosemary says:

      Chris, I respectfully disagree that this is “not in any way fit for a homily”. This Homily gives me great life, energy and hope! As we like to say on this website, “we are Church”. It is up to us “laity, religious and ordained to assume our responsibilities and make a difference in the world.” Father Hogan’s words are a great reminder that “we are Church”. We are not the institutional church. We are the people of God and we need to go back to our roots and become the church we want to be. It is our responsibility (with or without the church leaders) to spread the good news and as Father Hogan says “use words if we must”.

      • Andrew says:

        Respectfully, I would agree with Chris. I find Father Hogan’s historical insights useful and (for the most part) fairly consistent with accept historical accounts of the early Church. It all boils down to this: When we say the Creed, when we say “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church,” We are confirming the Christ-given authority of the Magisterium. If we’re going to argue for spiritual lives based on Vatican II, we don’t have to look very far:

        “The bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ and Him who sent Christ.” -CCC 862, from LG 20.)

        I would humbly submit, as a Brother in Christ, that the “aggiornamento” that dissenters (and I don’t use this term as an accusatory, merely as those who reject the Magisterium) are searching for have not been fulfilled, because to them this aggiornamento would be a transformation of the Church to be bound and loosed by the intellectual and spiritual whims of their own liking, instead of that of the authority which has been given to the Magisterium by Christ, both in scripture and tradition.

        Why must we insist on hiding behind loose interpretations of Vatican II and using it to create a religion that is wholly and completely un-Catholic? When we separate “Institutional Catholic” from “Laity Catholic,” really all you’ve done is become a Protestant. Is this definitively incorrect? I have to ask you exactly what you would like the Church to do…pander to the whims of every Catholic on Earth? Have each community vote for Bishops? I think you’d enjoy that notion until you lived somewhere outside your own personal set of values.

        We owe our allegiance as Catholics to the Apostolic successors of Saint Peter. I would like to mention that includes Father Hogan, and I again thank him for his insights, even if I would firmly, firmly disagree that Christ’s vicar on Earth “isn’t a big deal.” Remember, in a relativistic world with no objective truth, there’s no such thing as “audacity.”

        I submit these thoughts humbly, with no hateful judgments or illusions of superiority before God. I am and will remain your Brother in Christ.

        • Mary K. Small says:

          That’s catholic with a small c in the creed, Andrew, meaning universal.
          “wholly and completely un-catholic”? We who strive to emulate Christ on a daily basis, to be Eucharist to one another, who have received a reverent tradition and do our best to make sure it is true to the Holy Spirit we have received and not making a mockery of Christ’s teachings?
          If you know history, you know no human is without fault. Let’s all do our best, shall we? The Pope, you, me. Let’s pray for our leaders and become good leaders when called.
          It’s not about our own whims, it’s about sharing the faith, growing in goodness, learning from one another and from those who have gone before us who have been true to Christ’s teachings.
          Don’t tell me I’m a Protestant. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not my faith. Like it or not, we are one Body, so we’d better be respectful of all the parts if we’re going to function well.
          Peace, Mary Kate

    • Yes Chris, I understand your concern and I know some Catholics will be shocked by the audacity of Fr. Hogan, but I also know that there are so many Catholics who need to be shaken in order for them to respond to some of the abuses of the clergy. We need priests who make us see what they are expected to do to minister to the needs of their congregation, to be the embodiment of humility and to seek nothing for themselves except to inspire and promote the true exercise in spirituality. As long as he stays within the bounds of his job, I cannot see anything wrong when he expresses his real concerns of some of the leaders who appear to be more interested in the material wealth of the church rather than to help the needy in their community.

  3. bud malby says:

    “Then “Jesus came and stood in their midst”. He spoke to them, breathed on them and assured them they would be okay. Courage replaced fear. “Audacity is the willingness to take bold risks.” They opened the doors, and walked into the streets with the inexplicable message that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) The church was born.”

    If that ain’t powerful sacramental preaching, please explain to me what is! It’s the same message that the “popeless” primitive church in Jerusalem turned the world upside down with.
    Bud Malby

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