[Fr. Mullan is a priest of the diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas. This was his homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter. He has graciously allowed me to reprint it here in full.]
I have been following news reports regarding the two brothers who bombed innocent people in
Boston. They were Muslims whose Youtube accounts
featured videos calling for the death of Americans, Jews, and Christians, and
the establishment of worldwide Islam. One
of their innocent victims was an 8-year old boy, who had just made his first Holy
Our nation struggles to understand this violence and evil. Each time there is a tragedy, the response is to tighten security, implement more screening, or create laws to outlaw guns. Since “9-11” in particular, this has been a constant progression: more laws, more limitations, more fear, greater costs. Will it help? How do you protect yourself when someone is motivated by irrational hate?
People are lost today, clearly. First of all, these terrorists, indoctrinated in Islam. From early childhood Muslims are indoctrinated in the teachings of the Koran, which confuses violence with zeal, and confuses service of God with hatred for the unbeliever. And while not every Muslim succumbs to this false doctrine, the warped worldview of the Koran certainly sets up an environment in which the irrational spirit of violence can and does flourish.
These young men, and so many others around the world, raised in the ways of Islam, were lost – unimaginably lost and confused and misled by a lifetime of indoctrination in teachings that do not lead to life, but only to death and destruction
But it is not just these terrorists who are lost. It is the secular American society as well, which cannot appreciate the root of the problem, because it cannot appreciate the religious and spiritual realities at hand. Even when the root of the problem – the errors of Islam – stares us in the face, our society and media find it difficult or impossible to address or name the issue. It’s not “politically correct.” Our society can never get further than what is “politically correct.” The fact is, Islam is not good for people; it is not good for children, it is not good for young men filled with zeal, it is not good for a society that seeks to live in peace.
The media will attack Christianity without any qualms, even trying to imply that the pro-life message of the Gospel fosters violence; or that the pro-marriage teaching of Jesus fosters hatred and intolerance. All of which is false. But little will be said with regard to the Islam underlying the terrorist’s motivation: a religion which, unlike Christianity, does indeed foster both violent hatred and intolerance.
Why the silence? Why the inability? Because secular society is also lost. People raised in our culture without religion, or with an anti-Christian, anti-Catholic bias, have little spiritual foundation for confronting the very strong spiritual forces in a religion such as Islam. At most, secular people have a vague kind of new age spirituality that focuses on being nice to others and protecting the environment, but has little sense of objective truth, eternal law, and ultimate judgment before God’s throne. This is not enough to confront spiritual evil.
Secularism focuses only on improving one’s life in the world, it has no understanding of eternal destiny and eternal consequences. Secularism lacks the heavenly vision of
St. John in today’s second reading, from the
book of Revelation: “I, John, had a
vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race,
people, and tongue. They stood before
the throne of God and the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches
in their hand.”
The 8-year old little boy who was killed by a bomb last week, had just celebrated the waving of palm branches during Holy Week, and put on his white garment for Holy Communion. Now he joins that great crowd before God’s throne, taking his place as a martyr of the Lamb, since he grew up and lived – and died – as a victim of hatred for being what he was, a Christian.
So between Islam on the one hand, which is lost and misled by a doctrine that fosters violence; and secularism on the other hand, which is lost and misled by a doctrine that denies religion and the judgment-seat of God’s throne, you have Catholics. Catholics are in the middle, caught between these two false roads, and very often Catholics themselves become confused and misled, either becoming attracted by the seeming zeal of fundamentalism; or being seduced by the false complacency of secularism.
But Catholics have to avoid both errors, and if we remain true to our faith, we will be a guide for both sides. That little boy is a witness both to his terrorist murderers on the one hand, of the doctrine of Christ which teaches peace, and even love for one’s enemies; and to the society on the other which denied him the right to pray in school and accused him (and all Catholics) of being a bigot for being pro-life and pro-family. This young man was a shining light because he followed Christ, and Christ leads his flock on the correct and true path, the only path that leads to human fulfillment and eternal life.
“Jesus said: ‘my sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the one true Shepherd who is not a hired hand out for his own glory. Jesus is the shepherd who lays down his life for his flock, instead of asking his flock to murder one another for him. Jesus comes to protect and safeguard the good, precisely from the false teachings and distortions spread by the false prophets and false shepherds we see all around.
That little boy who died, is safe. He lost his life in this world at a tragic young age, but he is safe for eternity. He made his first confession, purifying his baptismal robe to its original glory; he made his first Holy Communion, being nourished on the Bread of Life which conquers death; and like his Lord he passed through a death of cruel violence. But death is conquered already by his faith, which is the faith of the Church. He was a member of Christ’s flock, and Jesus will lose nothing of what the Father has given him. Christ will keep us safe.
How do Catholics respond to this tragedy? Certainly we can examine whether laws and policies might make our communities safer, but that would only be the tip of the iceberg, and in fact does not really get to the root of the problem. The true solution is found through the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. Unless we hear his voice and follow him, and feed on the green pastures and restful waters to which he leads us, we will not conquer violence or death.
Our task is threefold: first, renewing our own faith in Christ. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” Do we hear the voice of Christ and follow him? Can we honestly say that Jesus knows us as a member of his flock? In other words, is our Catholic faith ‘for real’? That is the first task.
Secondly, we have to evangelize our secular culture. Excluding religion from our society will not bring any good. Only with a strong religious and moral foundation can society find the resolve to deal with such threats in ways that are just and righteous, and not simply react to them in fear. We can’t continue to elect and empower secularist people to lead and guide us, who undermine religious liberty, marriage, and the family by implementing socialist and anti-life laws.
Third, we have to evangelize those who have strong religious faith, but whose beliefs are erroneous and distorted. This we do by understanding our own faith well, and being able to articulate it in a coherent way, not just through good argument, but also through the concrete evidence of a good life. Christianity is not just a ‘feel good’ religion, it is the serious truth about man, and the truth about God. Without the knowledge of the Holy Trinity, we do not have full knowledge of man as a person. Without knowledge of the Incarnation, we do not have full knowledge of sin’s consequences, and the gift of salvation. If we love our neighbor, we have a duty to present the Truth, and call them to the Truth.
Christ alone is the Good Shepherd; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Even at 8 year’s old, that little boy in
Boston knew more than
Islam could ever teach, and more than all the media and politicians will be
able to figure out. Jesus says, “I know
him and he follows me. And I give him