I received this via email and thought I'd share, since I mentioned it in my last post. I'm going to highlight my favorite parts.
Rich in Mercy
Sermon 3 B
Jesus said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mk 1:14
In the American Civil War, a young man was drafted into the Cavalry of New York State by the name of Roswell McIntyre. With almost no military training, he was sent to the front lines because the North was losing ground and needed every available soldier. Shortly thereafter, McIntyre got scared, panicked and went AWOL. Not too long thereafter, he was caught, court-martialed and condemned to death for desertion of duty.
His mother appealed the case to President Abraham Lincoln. “Roswell was young”, she said, “poorly trained, lacking experience; could he not be given a second chance?” Before deciding the case, President Lincoln sought input from his army brass. They urged him to uphold the sentence. An army in such dire straits needed discipline more than ever. If the Commander in Chief pardoned a deserter, he would undermine army discipline
so badly that the war would be jeopardized. After some days of pondering the matter, Abraham Lincoln reached a decision. He wrote:
“I have observed that it never does a boy much good to shoot him. This letter will certify that Roswell McIntyre is to be readmitted into the New York Cavalry. When he serves out his required enlistment, he will be freed of any charges of desertion.”
This faded document, written and signed by President Lincoln, is on display in the US Library of Congress, with a note alongside which reads: “This letter was taken from the body of Roswell McIntyre, who died at the battle of Little Five Forks, Virginia.”
“It never does a boy much good to shoot him.” Abraham Lincoln understood the importance of mercy. But the Prophet Jonah did not; when first called to
bring God’s word to Nineveh, he had the mindset of the Civil War Generals in charge the Union Army. He did not want mercy for these enemies. Wrong is wrong, he insisted, and punishment is what they deserved.
But the mercy of God is everlasting. God persisted in loving the Ninevites and in calling Jonah to bear His message of repentance to them—for the sake of Nineveh but also for the conversion of Jonah. Much to his dismay, Jonah was immensely successful with the people of Nineveh, but it took much longer for God to successfully bring about conversion in Jonah, His stubborn messenger.
When the Lord Jesus began His Public Ministry, as recounted in our Gospel passage today, Mk 1:14-20, His first words proclaimed the mercy of God. He said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mk 1:14
In the Lord Jesus Himself, God enters human history and in Him the fullness of mercy enters. In His own divine person, the Kingdom of God is already present; and yet, He says it is “at hand” to indicate that its full consummation will unfold over time. God will allow time for His people to hear and to accept His call and to enter into the fullness of His mercy, as He allowed Jonah time to repent. Jesus calls for a two-part response: “Repent, and believe.” He leads us to desire what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
This call to repent and believe is not merely theoretical. To show how immediate and personal it is, Jesus begins at once to call His first disciples. To Simon and Andrew, then to James and John, He says, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Notice the parallel here to the mission of Jonah, with the humorous difference that instead of His disciples being swallowed by a large fish and then vomited onto the shore, they will fish for men and be instruments for the Lord to drag them out of the dark waters of sin and bring them into the clean water and safe harbor of the Church.
Notice the power of God’s mercy in Christ to bring about a radical change. The four whom Jesus called immediately abandoned their nets (i.e. their work, their profession), and followed Him: no hesitation, no questions, no discussion—just a radical and prompt obedience to the Lord Jesus. Again, this is like the immediate response of the Ninevites to the call to conversion announced by Jonah.
May you and I never lose confidence in the power of God’s mercy to change lives—our own and those whom He gives us to love. And may we never forget that God desires not that the evildoer be lost but that he be converted and live.
As we gather for Mass today, we cannot be unmindful that today marks the 39th anniversary of the infamous US Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade. That fateful decision made legal, and led to, the killing of over 50 million American children. Millions of these would be in their 30s today, some would be present here in Church, if not for abortion, which the Second Vatican Council called “an unspeakable crime.” What light does God’s word throw upon this national travesty? At least three things:
First, it illustrates the falsehood that abortion solves a mother’s problems. How could it ever be helpful to assist a mother to kill her own child—to do the very opposite of what motherhood means? As President Lincoln said, “I have observed that it never does a boy much good to shoot him.”
Second, the evil of abortion and the conversion of abortionists and all who support it will never come about unless animated by love and supported by God’s mercy. We do well to remember the words that Blessed John Paul addressed to women who had experienced an abortion (EVANGELIUM VITAE, 99), “The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. “But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and His peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”
Third, now is the time for action. “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Lord who called Simon and Andrew, James and John, to be fishers of men, is calling you and me now to be defenders of unborn children and to fight for the right to life and dignity of every human person. The stakes are higher now than ever before. Just two days ago, Friday January 20th, the Obama Administration decided to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans, beginning 12 months from now. In response to this decision, the president of the US Bishops Conference, Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, had this to say, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences...To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom...The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs.”
What is at stake here is the survival of the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution, in addition to the protection of unborn children and the rights of conscience. Cardinal-elect Dolan continued: "The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand...The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision."
This is not the first attempt in our nation to silence Catholics and other persons of faith. But it is perhaps the most grave. God calls us to respond with truth and love to this national crisis. No one is ever converted by hate, but neither are they converted by inaction.
“The Kingdom of God is at hand.” With unfailing hope, then, let us continue to be Christ’s faithful witnesses; As long as abortion is legal and whenever our rights of conscience are threatened, Christ asks us, as He asked His first disciples, to stand up against the culture of death and to allow Him, working within our minds and hearts, to build a culture of life.
God bless Bishop Olmsted. He is a wonderful warrior for life.