Bishop Olmsted: Do not rejoice in wrong-doing

Following is the prepared text from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s homily for the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

February 3, 2019

“Love does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor:6). In St. Paul’s famous discourse on love, 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle begins by mentioning two positive traits of love (it is patient and kind); then, he lists 8 faults that love is not; and then, he writes again of five positive traits of love. Verse 6 bridges the second section to the third, listing the last of the 8 faults and the first of the five positive traits. As such, it highlights two pivotal facts about love: “Love does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.” This key teaching of God about love instructs us on how to interpret the horrific “rejoicing over wrong-doing” that occurred when the governor of New York State gleefully signed an infamous abortion bill into law and led those around him in a raucous applause. They applauded the fact that unborn children, the most innocent and vulnerable among us, now, have no legal protection in New York State. This is demonic! The Second Vatican Council called abortion “an unspeakable crime (Gaudium et spes, 51).” Pope Francis recently said that abortion is like hiring a hit man to murder the innocent. St. John Paul II wrote,

The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behavior and even in law itself, is a telling sign of the extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name…In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Is 5:20).

My sons and daughters in Christ, some evils are so horrible they should sour our stomachs. They should make us sick. They should also move us to action. Jesus said, “Some evils can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.” Please join me in fasting and praying that this law will soon be overturned.

The promotion of abortion is so outrageous because of the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception. The Prophet Jeremiah mentions this in our first reading today. He writes, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you…” (Jer 1:4-5). Every human being, from its very beginning, is eternally loved by God and destined by Him to live forever. “Love rejoices with the truth,” with this truth about the infinite worth of every person, but, in a world that labors under the weight of sin, the opposite of love is promoted by Satan. “Love is not pompous,” says the Lord, but whoever does evil is. Love “is not inflated,” but evil-doers are. “Love does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices with the truth.” Because the devil promotes what is pompous and inflated, whoever speaks the truth in love will encounter opposition. That is why the Lord told the Prophet Jeremiah, “They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:19). This is also why the people in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, “rose up [against Him], drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong.”

As Simeon foretold, Jesus was destined to be a sign of contradiction, a messenger to be opposed and rejected by those not ready to listen to the truth or to put it into practice. But God the Father sustained His Beloved Son: “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” (Luke 4:30).

God supported Jesus, His beloved Son; God supported the prophet Jeremiah. God supports you and me as we face difficulties in the mission He has given us.

When married couples remain open to children, trusting the Church’s teaching on marital love, refusing to practice contraception, God is near as “their courage and their song.” When couples face a difficult pregnancy, when advised to get an abortion, God supports them to make the right choice, to carry the baby to term and to receive the baby with love.

If the Lord is calling you to marriage at this time in history, to be a mother or father today, He is inviting you, like Jeremiah and Jesus, to be a sign of contradiction, precisely by living the truth in love. This is a formidable task. But when done in union with Christ, it is prophetic, it brings great blessings to children and bears eloquent witness to the presence of God in the world.

You remind us of the freshness of the Gospel, which is ancient yet ever new. You are signs to us of the new life of grace that the Holy Spirit stirs up in our world. God stands with us whenever we “do not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoice with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6).

Do you ever slip into “if only” thinking? If only I had been born in a different family, if only my spouse was not like this, if only I had not gotten sick, if only I did not get so emotional about these issues, if only, if only, if only… “If only” thinking undercuts our trust in the providence of God. It is the opposite of the love described in our second reading. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

God could have placed us in easier circumstances; God could have removed what look like obstacles in our path; God could have given us better neighbors or kids with less problems, or better elected public officials. Faith believes in God’s love, no matter what – even if you are thrown out of town as Jesus was. Let us resist the temptation to doubt God’s plans. Let us stir up our trust in His promises. If we but persevere in hope, we will discover a deeper truth: God is with us. If we persevere, we will discover the wisdom St. Paul describes in Philippians 4:13, “In God who is the source of my strength, I have strength for all.”