11th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Exodus 19:2-6; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8

At the sight of the crowds, we were just told, Jesus was moved with pity; He had compassion for the crowd of humanity in front of Him. They were lying prostrate with exhaustion.

Evidently Jesus saw that they were not just physically exhausted; more importantly He saw they were spiritually flattened and empty. They were lost, like sheep without a shepherd. They were leaderless, not knowing where to go to find what they needed to sustain them in the life of God’s Spirit.

Our spiritual world is much the same as theirs. Even though science and technology along with our transportation and communications industries have moved us much closer together in what we’ve come to call “The Global Village”, we are as divided and fragmented as ever… as lonely and as isolated as the generations of humans who have lived before us. Our fragmented and divided world, our violent inhumanity toward or fellow humans, is the stuff of nightly television news broadcasts. No one can realistically deny that we are fragmented and divided as a human community.

The intellectuals tell us that we live in what the philosophers call “The Post-Modern World.” They’ve labeled us as post-modern men and women living in a culture and a society that is beyond what we used to know of as Modernism.

World Communism has collapsed; it is discredited. Consumerism and pragmatism govern our decisions and direct our energies. The religious quest is one in which we enter a church much like we enter a shopping mall. Our search is for “what works for me” rather than for what the bible tells us is the pearl of great price, namely for that which is true. By the word “true” I mean what is true in it’s own right, true in itself, not simply what I declare to be true in my own arrogant self-definitions of all reality outside of my own mind. The Post-Modernist, however, concentrates on the here and now, and declares all thoughts of eternity, and universals, and life beyond death, to be irrelevant.

We’re living like sheep without a shepherd, wandering around without direction in an era in which we’re all privatizing that which we used to hold in common, particularly morality. We are sewing the seeds of our society’s destruction when we privatize morality. We no longer live in a society that has any shared commitment to a certain core of moral values. Even the curricula of our nation’s schools are supposed to be “value free”.

What is moral is simply that which individuals privately declare to be moral. Post-Moderns reject any absolute ways of speaking of truth or of moral norms. Everything is relative; there are no universal truths that we as a people hold to be self-evident. Everything is subjective; there are no objective, unchanging things that exist in certainty. Jesus, they declare, is simply an idealist, not a realist.

The consequences are apparent — all too painfully so. If there are no points of reference, no objective realities beyond my self, outside of my own tiny little egocentric universe, then reason and law are things that are only to be exploited by the powerful, the elite, and the influential. The weak have nothing left to protect them. That point is dramatically demonstrated when you consider what is happening to human life at its conception and at its ending. How else can one account for the popularity of abortion and euthanasia in the Post-Modern mind?

We, like sheep, have been flattened. We lie prostate in our own exhaustion; rudderless and without direction we run after anything and everything. I believe it was the great Russian novelist, Dostoyevsky who told us that when human beings no longer believe in God they will believe in anything. And believing in anything and everything is the certain road to exhaustion and emptiness, the road to cynicism and individual arrogance.

The great and defiant battle cry of our time is Freedom of Choice. The crushing answer of the universe in response is the one answer we can’t stand to hear and yet at the same time the answer that confronts us daily, namely that in so very many respects we are not free to choose. We have no choices in so many things. Individual choice, as a matter of shattering fact, is severely circumscribed. Divided as we are by individualism, we are powerless over people and so many of the things that happen to us in life.

A more fundamental awareness is now dawning upon us, the awareness that post-modernism has left us exhausted and famished. It leads us nowhere and nourishes us with nothing. It, too, among all of the other philosophies of mankind, will seduce us for a while and then ultimately betray us and then abandon us, leaving us ravished and in spiritual death.

At the sight of the crowd, we were told in today’s Gospel, Jesus was moved with compassion. That vast crowd of humanity was lying prostrate with exhaustion, like sheep without a shepherd. Thereupon Jesus called twelve of His disciples and commissioned them to be His Apostles. Go out, He commanded them, into this ravished and famished world and announce to all who will listen that God’s Kingdom is near to them. Point out to them that God Himself is near to them. Give them Living Bread come down from heaven that they may recover their strength. Give them eyes to see and ears to hear that they may encounter God’s living and loving presence within them. Give them the refreshing waters of God’s love and grace. Tell them they need no longer hunger and thirst for that which will give them happy lives.

And so I repeat to you what we just heard St. Paul write to the Romans in today’s second reading: “It is precisely in this that God proves his love for us; that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Now that we have been justified by his blood, it is all the more certain that we shall be saved by him from God’s wrath. For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him by the death of his Son, it is all the more certain that we who have been reconciled will be saved by his life.”

No human philosophy can ever do that!

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”