Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.
1 John 4:7 - 10
Jesus said, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another".
John 15:9 - 17
I happen to love readings from John, both the Epistles and the Gospel. We chose readings from John for our Wedding Mass. I grew up hearing the opening of the Gospel of John (the last Gospel) every week after the Sunday Eucharist (Anglican) and the poetry and meaning still move me incredibly. There was so much good stuff in yesterday's readings - I was looking forward to a wonderful homily.
Due to a set of circumstances, we ended up at a different Mass in a different parish than we had originally planned, but I wasn't terribly worried. The pastor of the parish we ended up attending is a wonderful and holy priest - the one that I blogged about a while back who pulled out his Rosary from the folds of his robes in the middle of a homily. The parishioners of this parish are wonderful faithful people, too, who participate joyfully in the Mass. The parish is in the process of establishing Perpetual Adoration for our area, something to which I am looking forward. The music is more lifely than reverent, but is still within the bounds of good taste. We arrived early, got some good places, and settled down to worship God in the Holy Sacrifice of the altar.
I was a little concerned when I saw that it was a substitute priest, especially when he found it necessary to introduce himself (at length) after the opening prayers. But I chided myself for being uncharitable. When he started his homily, my radar started to go off. I am not even sure just how to convey what I was hearing and responding to. It was, as Bill Luse says, a bit of erosion by emphasis.
He started off by referring to our God being a God of love, which is true. What got my radar buzzing was when he started to talk about the classic question, "Do you know where you are going after you die?". I guess I got irked because this is a classic opening for Evangelicals who are trying to pull Catholics out of the church. Because of the Protestant belief in 'once saved, always saved', most Evangelicals will answer a resounding "Heaven", whereas most Catholics are likely to respond more along the lines of "I hope I will get to heaven some day". Well, Father answered the question with the comment that we, as Catholic Christians, should be able to speak with assurance that we are going to Heaven, as God loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven. This is factually true - God does love us, He does desire that we join Him in Heaven. But I would find it presumptuous to state that I am going to Heaven immediately after my death. While I will do everything I can to be in a state of grace, I fully expect to spend quite a bit of time in Purgatory getting scrubbed up for Heaven. Well, Father didn't even mention the concept of Purgatory. He then went on to ask the question - do we think there is anyone in Hell? He stated that we will probably be very surprised to see how few people, if any, are actually in Hell. He continued to flirt with the heresy of Universalism, but never quite crossed the line. He spoke about how, at his age (63) he remembered when if you ate meat on Friday and died before getting to confession, you were going straight to Hell. Again, I waited for a more nuanced discussion of this, maybe bringing out that in order for it to truly be a mortal sin the transgression against the discipline of the church had to be intentional and so on, but he just went on to his next point. It was a kind of mocking of the meaning and significance of one discipline.
He did have some good points in the rest of his homily. He pointed out how we are obliged to try to love one another, and how this is hard work. But so much of the homily struck me as touchy-feely feelgood stuff, and I was rather disappointed.