Building sand castles

At the beach, probably most of us have participated in or observed othersí building sand castles. Some sand castles are built plainly, and others are built extravagantly. In any case, all these castles take much time to build. As soon as the tide changes, however, the first few waves dissolve the once strong constructions.

In todayís gospel, Jesus warns us that if we wish to build a tower, we must first sit down, plan what we want to do, and calculate the cost. He adds that if we lay the foundation, but donít finish the tower, people will laugh at us and say, "This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish."

We at St. Joseph Church just completed a three year project of repair and renovation of our church. The project required some paid professionals, a hundred volunteers, hundreds of man-hours, and $800K in cash; nothing comes easy. We can be proud in having done our part in passing on to the next generation a very safe, sound, bright and beautiful church.

Another building project in which we and many others are involved is the development of Western Civilization. Western Civilization usually is described as having originated around 500 AD. Western Civilization developed over a thousand years until 1500, when historians say its soul irretrievably became broken. For two hundred years before, the Church had been trying on and off again to reform itself; many people tried, but the institutional Church in fact failed to reform itself. In 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian Catholic priest, began the Reformation. By leaving the mother Church and starting his own church, the unity of the Church became fractured. The soul of the Church became broken. Political figures too share blame because many nobles used Martin to lead their struggle against Catholic kings and the Catholic Church so that the noblemen could gain political power and confiscate church property. The anti-Catholic revolution, which can be said to have started most significantly at the Reformation, was continued but for other reasons by the sometimes atheistic humanism of the Renaissance, which emphasized terrestrial rather than celestial matters, and valued the individual good rather than the common good. The Enlightenment of the 18th-19th centuries maintained not only the anti-Catholic but also anti-Christian continuum be seeking to eliminate religion as a dominant institution in society.

Since 1900, historians have said that the collapse of Western Civilization is inevitable; all historians describe Europe as being in its "post-Christian era." In the late 1900s, Pope John Paul II begged the members of the European Parliament to include in their constitution a one phrase reference to the Christian roots of Europe, but the European Union leaders voted not to do so. Why is that critical? Because religion is the soul of civilization. Without religion, civilization doesnít last, history teaches us. Religion provides vision for life, values to incorporate into private and public life, meaning for the inevitable sufferings and mysteries of life. Other institutions too are necessary for the development of civilization, but religion provides the basis of civilization, the well-spring for the growth of society. Europe is dying, spiritually and literally; not one of the two dozen countries in Europe currently has a replacement birth rate. Europe must invite in immigrants from other civilizations to perform the continentís work and creativity, i.e., artistic creativity and re-population. Europe is dying.

Where are we going in the USA? The popular saying among historians has been that "Europe catches a cold, and the United States sneezes twenty years later." I donít want the United States to die. I want our country and our civilization to be strong. Dear friends, religion lies at the foundation of civilization, of society. Letís do whatever we can to stand up for the Christian religion. Western Civilization needs to re-embrace Christianity. Tell your friends and neighbors to believe in Jesus and the Church he founded, and to support the Christian churches that have spun off from the Catholic Church. Tell your friends to practice their faith, for their and their childrenís salvation, and for the sake of our civilization. Tell your friends to stop complaining about what is wrong in our society and to get to church. Day after day, I read or watch in the media that the reason why crime is so high is because of poor housing, poor schooling, poor this and poor that. Most of us grew up poor. Poverty is a superficial answer to a complex reality. Challenge those friends to read and think deeply, and no longer superficially. Letís tell our politicians and judges that we are tired of and angry at their removal of religion from society. Letís stop caving in to blind leaders. Anti-Christian actions implemented by many public leaders are laying an anti-Christian flooring on top of our Christian foundation. Our faith is suffocating under the weight of anti-Christian laws and behaviors.

What must we seek to change? Abortion? Yes. Same sex marriage? Yes. Excessive wars? Yes. More fundamentally, however, worshipping God is not the call of a few but of every baptized Christian: Catholic and Protestant. Those who lie in bed on Sunday mornings, or who take their children to some sporting event instead of to Church, are contributing little by little, to the death of our civilization. These parents have a God-given responsibility to take their children to church every Sunday, unless bad weather or sickness impedes them, not some soccer match. Those who choose to use foul language maintain the downward direction of our civilization; God gave us voices to praise God, not to curse him and others. Be strong. Be manly. Be feminine. Be Christian.

We are building something. We donít want people to laugh at us for not completing what we have started. We donít want God to weep and mourn over us because of our lack of character, and lack of strength. Just as we take pride in having completed the Repair and & Renovation of St. Joseph Church, so too we want to take pride in renewing our civilization. Will our civilization be like a sand castle, which takes a long time to build but dissolves quickly with a change of tide? Or will we confront the popular anti-Catholic and anti-Christian words and deeds? Will we shore up our foundation in the Christian faith by standing up for what we believe? Will we challenge those who mock us, who laugh at us for belief in Jesus, life hereafter, and virtuous living? In this battle for souls and salvation, whom do you want to win? What will you stand up for privately and publicly?

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley