Homily by Fr. Frank Pavone
Broadcast on EWTN, September 26, 2002
Click here to listen.
One of the ways, brothers and sisters, that we understand who or what Jesus was like, is by reading the people that he was compared to -- and today we have one of those passages where people are saying about Jesus, "Maybe this is John the Baptist come back from the dead or Elijah or one of the other prophets."
Presumably, there were things about Jesus, the way he spoke, the way he acted, that reminded the people about these other people, so that what we read in Scripture about these other people reveals to us something about Jesus. And if it reveals to us something about Jesus, guess what? It reveals to us something about us. Because we are the people of Christ, the body of Christ, called to follow him, imitate him and in fact continue his mission on earth.
Now one of the things about John the Baptist and about Elijah, the two who are mentioned explicitly here is that they challenged kings. Oh, they challenged them quite directly, quite powerfully, to live up to the law of God. John said to Herod... remember what his complaint was, "You're breaking God's law about marriage, you're taking your brother's wife. You're breaking God's law about marriage." John witnessed to the public authorities that they have no authority to change the law of God about marriage.
Elijah…remember Elijah? King Ahab was fostering false worship and Elijah confronted him. He said, "There's only one true God." And he got in trouble for that; both of them got in trouble for that…in trouble with earthly authorities but rewarded and praised by the only authority that has the ultimate say, God Himself.
Now, here's the point. These great men had the opportunity to challenge kings. You and I in our nation and in so many nations of the world have the opportunity not only to challenge them but to choose them. To choose them. Do you think we have some kind of responsibility for whom we choose to lead us?
Now, you read through the Old Testament and you see that the way that the king acted was either to lead the people to renew their faithfulness to the Covenant with which God had blessed them or led the people in rebellion against the Covenant. It was one way or the other, and when you read the history of the Old Testament, it's like a pendulum swinging back and forth. You have the faithful kings. They led the people in the ways of God and the land was blessed. Then you had the unfaithful kings. They led the people in sin and the land was cursed because God allowed their enemies to come in and overrun them -- and that was not a political problem, that was a spiritual problem. The Old Testament is theological history. People who rebelled against God suffered not only spiritually, they suffered politically.
And so it is today. Our leaders in civil government will either, and this may be explicit or implicit, they will either lead us in the ways of God or they will lead us in rebellion against God. Now I'm not saying that people get up and say, "Let's rebel against God." I'm saying they get up and say, for example, "Marriage is not necessarily between a man and a woman, we want to pass laws to legitimize gay marriages." Now you tell me if that's any better than King Ahab setting up sacred pillars to Baal and giving the people an opportunity for false worship.
Brothers and sisters if we think for one minute that government has the authority to change God's plan for marriage, we might as well go worship at some kind of temple of an idol because we're violating the Covenant in the same way. And if we choose, by voting, to put someone in office who's going to do the same thing we might as well go on Sunday to a temple of idols to worship. We might as well do that because we are violating the Covenant.
Or of course those who will stand up and say "Hey, I want to be your leader, folks, I want to be your senator, I want to be your governor, I want to be your president, I want to be a judge, but I think it's OK for the government to allow the killing of unborn children. As long as the mother says so I'm not going to interfere with that. I'm pro-choice." You think if somebody votes for a person like that, that they're violating the Covenant in some way? Do you think there's some responsibility there before God? …that when we choose the leaders that are going to lead us we somehow take account of whether or not they respect the Covenant? …we take some account as to whether or not those who are going to pass laws in our society have any notion of a the higher law to which they and we together are subject?
Brothers and sisters, we don't have our leaders today setting up false churches. But when they claim the authority to throw the unborn away or to redefine marriage or any number of other things that run totally contrary to the Gospel...well then they are leading us into false worship. And we have a duty, not only an opportunity, a duty to take active part in the process by which these people are either put in to office or thrown out of office.
Let me tell you honestly that one of the questions I get most frequently all around the country is, "When are the Bishops going to start excommunicating pro-choice Catholic politicians?" Now, this question is not only asked in our country but is asked throughout the world. I'm not asking that question right now. I'm not saying to our spiritual leaders what they should do. All I'm saying is this question is constant and one of the answers I heard to this question from someone in Rome was, "Well, you know, in democracies you have a way of dealing with this and it's called elections." Get them out! Get them out. As Christian people if they're leading you down a non-Christian path, vote in somebody else.
So I want to ask a few questions, but before I ask the questions, I want to point out to you the critical importance of the elections that we here in America are about to enter in on in November, the so-called midterm elections. Unlike two years ago, we're not electing a President. But this election coming up is just as important.. Why? Because when we talk about such things as our Nation's policies about marriage and about the protection of life, we're not simply talking about edicts of the President. We're talking also about decisions of judges and we're talking about actions of Congress. And in this midterm election we are going to be electing a significant number of people in the Congress, both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Now, who those people are and what they believe about such fundamental things as life, family, marriage, Christian values...will determine, not only what kinds of laws get put before the President to either sign or to veto but it will also determine what kind of laws even get out of committee.
Understand the process of how laws come about. You can have St. Paul sitting in a seat in Congress, but any laws that he himself puts forward are not going to go anywhere if the people in charge of the committees don't let them go anywhere, if they don't let them come to a consideration by the full body of the Congress. In other words, the party that's in power and the philosophies of that party are going to determine whether laws that contradict that way of thinking even see the light of day or are even considered or debated, even if they may have the ultimate support of the President. If they don't even get out of committee and get to a vote, the President can't sign them..
And so it is with judges. Think about some of the radical changes that have taken place in our culture over the past generation. Staring us in the face, obviously, is the legalization of abortion. That didn't come about because people voted for it. That came about because of the decision of unelected judges. And not only at the level of the Supreme Court but at the level of the Federal Circuit Courts. You have so many judges in place who make, for all practical purposes, the final decisions about questions of life, morality, family and so forth. They have the final decisions because some 98% of cases don't get to the Supreme Court … cases which, in other words are proposed to the Court, even if they get that far. Some may say, "We're going to take this to the Supreme Court." But the Supreme Court can only do so much and can only handle about 2% of the cases that are presented to it, which means...and again on questions that deeply effect Christian morality and the direction our Nation goes...most of these decisions rest with judges on a lower level than the Supreme Court.
Now, why am I going into this? Because brothers and sisters, it's the United States Senate that confirms these judges. It's the President that makes the nominations and then the Senate and the people sitting in those chairs make the decision as to whether or not this man or this woman will end up having the awesome obligation of judging such things that affect the lives of all of us. In other words, even though the judges are not elected, in a sense they are, indirectly, when you elect the people that are going to serve in the United States Senate.
Now we don't have time to go into this much further but I hope you see what I'm saying… That whether or not you go to the polls on November 5th, whether or not you vote and how you vote is so critically important to the future of the Covenant in this country and in the world!
Two simple questions. Are you registered to vote? Our United States Bishops issued their document "Living the Gospel of Life" in 1998. In that document they tell us that participation in the election process is an obligation for us -- not an option, an obligation. To take part in this process is a virtue. It is not a virtue to stay home and just pray on election day. We've got to get out there.
Now maybe you're not able to get out of your home. Let's pause for a moment here. There are a lot of people listening, joining us by television or radio and it's not so easy for them to get to the polls on election day. So what do you do? Does that mean you don't have a voice? Does that mean that your vote doesn't count? No, it means you use an absentee ballot. That's what it means. You make sure that if you're in that situation where you can't get out of your home, that you have your friends, your family, get you the absentee ballot. You fill it out in the privacy of your home and you send it in the mail. And maybe there are people who are going to be out of state, who are going to be away, who are going to be at college. The same thing applies to you. If you are not in your place of residence and going to the polls at the place where you're registered, then you too fill out an absentee ballot. Make sure you don't lose your vote simply because you're not at the polls physically. But, are you registered and are you planning to vote on election day?
Secondly, do you know anything about the people whose names are going to be on that ballot when you walk into that voting booth? Do you know anything about who's running in your state? …for the United States Senate, for Congress? Do you know these people? If not, you've still got plenty of time to find out who they are and whether, using a scriptural analogy, they are going to lead us in the ways of the Covenant or are going to set up false places of idol worship and lead us into sin.
I'm not saying that they're responsible for our sins. I'm saying that they're responsible for the moral climate of this country and ultimately of the world. And if they're responsible, ultimately it's not they but we who are responsible because they get in only by our vote or by our not voting. I'm not telling you who to vote for, I'm telling you to vote and to vote with a Christian conscience. I'm telling you to vote in an informed way. I'm telling you to find out now who's running for what office in your state and you line those people up with the Gospel!
You're a believer in the Gospel? Then vote accordingly. Do you know? If not, before the end of today start finding out. Plenty of information is out there about who's who, whether they support baby killers or whether they support God's plan for morality in any number of ways.
Now, finally, here's a big one. Some people don't care who the people are that are on the ballot. Let me say that again. Some people vote alright and they vote faithfully but they don't care whose name is there. They don't even pay attention to the name. They pay attention to the little letter after the name indicating the party that the person belongs to. Let me tell you one thing, if you just vote according to that little letter that comes after the person's name and you don't know whether that person has any respect for the law of God or not, you are failing in your moral obligation! You go into the voting booth and you say, "I'm going to vote according to the party that my father voted for and my grandfather and his great grandfather, we have a family tradition, we have a cultural tradition, our people are aligned with this particular party."
Well, my brothers and sisters it's time for you to find out whether that party has any respect for the law of God. There are parties out there that don't. There are parties out there that stand for every abomination that make Ahab look like a candidate for canonization. There are parties out there that stink to high heaven --and I'm not talking politics here, I'm talking morals! I'm talking morality! I don't care about the politics involved, I care about the law of God, that's my role as a Priest. That's the role of all those Priests out there.
Brother Priests, let me say a word to you for one second. Beware of the deaf and mute spirit. Remember Jesus cast out the mute spirit because the man couldn't talk. We were ordained to speak the word of God and some of us have been infected by a mute spirit in our churches. Election time comes around and it's "Shhhhh, don't say anything, Shhhhh, you're going to lose your tax status." Nonsense! The great laws of this great nation give us plenty of opportunity to speak to our people about the obligations they have in the voting booth. The laws don't require us to be silent; it's only our fears that require us to be silent! It's time to break the silence and to call our people to rally, to choose leaders who are Godly men and women, who care about life, who care about God's plan, who care about the Covenant!
We've run out of time dear brothers and sisters. Let's go on with our worship and let's renew the Covenant right now, saying Lord, I am here and I will do what must be done. Amen.