As critical as it is to be kind...compassion must not be purchased at the price of truth -- any more than, say, "pastoral sensitivity" ought to be practiced regardless of the jeopardy it might pose to what is morally right. There are times when honeyed homilies are as spiritually perilous as the fire-and-brimstone sermons of yesteryear, reminiscent of the psalm's warning: "their throats are yawning graves; they make their tongues so smooth!" (5:9 Jerusalem Bible; cf. Romans 3:13)....
We live at a time and in a place of grave moral chaos. Too often our thoughts, words, and deeds are influenced, if not governed, by intellectual and spiritual disorder. Too often we slip into the darkness of what is wrong rather than emerge into the light of what is right.
As Brian Gail [author of the novel Fatherless] points out, we all need fathers -- but by "fathers, " he means preachers who speak the truth; he means priests -- fathers -- whose homilies are powerful witnesses to Christian truth in a society which , much too often, rejects the Gospel because that holy Gospel insists that we conform to it...; he means fathers who, with paternal patience, will "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2; cf. Eph. 5:5)....
In 1917, Pope Benedict XV, in Humanae Generis Redemptionem...blamed ineffective preaching by priests for the decline in morals and civilization's backsliding into paganism.And here we are 100 years later. Have things changed? The "honeyed homily" seems to remain the norm allowing the clergy to avoid controversy and be liked and appreciated. I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes when the homilist starts talking about God's love because I can almost predict what comes next -- rainbows and colored stars like those in the My Little Pony cartoons my youngest grandchildren enjoy. Of course God is love, but it's a love that requires us to study the crucifix and that love needs to be related, not to some abstract mush, but to the moral crises and temptations we face every day as we struggle to live our faith in the marketplace.
Our families are struggling out here in the real world dealing with issues like our children abandoning the faith and marrying outside the Church, public schools letting boys use the girls' lavatories and locker rooms, gay-straight alliances and "safe zones" established to convince our kids that we can't ever condemn a moral evil if it hurts someone's feelings. What are we hearing from the pulpit to help us address these issues? Not much. Nothing to see here, folks, just move along. God is love. Hug your neighbor.
Last week in my little country town, a middle school child (14 years old) had sex with a 12-year-old while two of his buddies filmed it on their smart phones and spread it around the school. How could that happen? Easy! We live in a culture, even out in the boonies, where our children are inundated with sex from the time they enter pre-school. I wonder what these children were learning in "health" classes and sex ed. The 14-year-old is being charged with rape, but where are the "educators" who teach them about "fisting" and how to put condoms on bananas?
Starting in 2017, Washington State will be teaching kindergarten children about transgenderism. In my own state, Virginia, one of the largest school systems in the country, Fairfax County will be brainwashing kids in grades 7-12 about "gender fluidity." These are issues that impact our families. But do we hear anything from the pulpit concerning what's happening to our children during the six to eight hours a day they're being indoctrinated? Are parents being urged to know exactly what their children are being taught? Not that I'm aware of. Just bring the kids to CCD an hour a week. Ho-hum.
And gender insanity is just one issue. There are dozens of things going on outside the church door that require us to make moral decisions: the easy availability of pornography and drugs, the dangers of social media and sexting, the damage to marriages caused by contraception, etc. But the only time I recall hearing a homily about any of this was about ten years ago when a priest at a Texas parish warned parents about Myspace. With Amoris Laetitia's big push to be "pastoral" and give Communion to those in invalid marriages will we hear one word about the indissolubility of marriage and sacrilegious Communions. Somehow I doubt it.
Like Deacon Toner says, we need "rocky homilies" that preach the hard sayings of Christ, the ones that make us uncomfortable and challenge us to a rigorous and zealous love of God. Bubble gum homilies lead to bubble gum faith which ultimately endangers souls. And, you'd better believe it, all bubbles will be burst when we stand before Our Lord and Savior on Judgment Day.