32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Fr. Anthony Brankin
Gospel: Matt. 25:1-13 The five foolish virgins
Full homily text: One of the most enduring and fascinating themes in our Western literature is the theme of the person who makes a bargain with the devil. If the devil obtains for me—this or that—then at the end of my life, in return, he may come for my soul. Pretty awful really.
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And always the deal is for something like wealth, or power or some hidden wisdom—something desirable but unobtainable by other means. In the story of Dr. Faust for example—Faust already knows everything and has the power that comes from knowing the secrets of the Universe. But he wants something different; and he strikes a bargain with the devil to possess Helen of Troy—the most famous beauty in history. In the classic American story — “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, the subject bargains away his soul just so that he can be more prosperous than his neighbors.
Jesus does not fall for it
I wonder if this theme originates in the story of the temptation of Christ where Lucifer appears to Jesus and tempts Jesus to either worship him or turn stones to bread or jump off the parapet. And if Jesus does this, the devil will give Jesus all the power and riches of the universe.
Well, of course Jesus does not fall for it. Being God He already has all the power and riches of the universe — but you have to hand it to the devil for trying.
Maybe, the theme of selling one’s soul to the devil begins with Adam and Eve. Do you remember how the devil takes the form of a snake and tempts Adam and Eve. He doesn’t tempt them with something superficial like how good the fruit will taste: “Oh this is really delicious—You should disobey God and eat it.” No he tells them that if they eat of this fruit they shall be as gods. Oh my, is that ever the fundamental temptation — the fundamental desire —not to have to bow down before some God out there—not to have to follow someone else’s will—not to have to be beholden to anyone but themselves.
Oh how tempting! To trade the weakness and smallness and dependency of being human for the all powerfulness and all knowingness of God. And in the bargain—all the universe falls down before you—and praises you for your greatness and your wisdom and your glory.
Not gods, but slaves
Does that not become the model for all sin—and set the stage for the next thirty-thousand years of all human struggle and temptation? And in fact does not the Temptation in the Garden of Eden give us the actual dialogue for all our dealings with the devil? Every sin we ever commit is our attempt to trade away our souls so that we might be as powerful as the gods. Not His will be done—but ours. What a goal! What a gain! What folly! The unspoken part of the bargain is that we really will not become as gods—because the one who is offering it to us is powerless to make us gods, and moreover will make us suffering slaves to him. That’s the irony of it all. In our very desire to be like gods—we are reduced even lower than the animals—who for all their animality will not go to hell. But we will.
And for what—a few moments of paltry pleasure? Or couple of years of earthly success? To have the praise of sycophants and sinners? To bask in the false flattery of the world—only to spend the rest of eternity in hell? Reading about Governor Quinn and the cardinal and the bishops of Illinois I think that the ancient drama is being played out again—at least in Governor Quinn’s public life. (I have no idea what God sees, and I hope it is more than what we can see.) But it seems as if the Cardinal and Bishops are trying to save his soul by trying to recall him to reality and to God and to the faith of his Ancestors.
Governor scoffs at bishops
The news story is this: [Illinois] Governor Quinn seems to have accepted an invitation to bestow an award for an organization that promotes the killing of babies in the womb. The cardinal and the bishops of Illinois called Quinn on it and chastised him in a very public and pointed letter for being so involved with these people who encourage the murder of children in the womb. But amazingly the governor scoffed at the bishops and indicated that he was actually energized by the Cardinal’s criticism—that he was happy to award these people who foster abortion. In fact Quinn said that to congratulate them for their pro-abortion work was the Christian thing to do.
Well I guess we can relax now that politicians are defining what “Christian” means—but Governor Quinn doesn’t say that besides all earthly honor and praise and kisses and handshakes that they gave him for being their big buddy—this organization also gave him 500,000 dollars.
The price of a soul
So is that the price of a soul these days? Half a million? Would he have taken a quarter million? Would he have given the award to these people if they had only given him a hundred thousand? How about fifty thousand? How about thirty pieces of silver? I suspect he would not have refused more and would have accepted less. Jesus always came cheaply to such people. So for 500,000 dollars and a couple slaps on the back from the Sun-Times or Tribune he figures they will all like him now—at least now he doesn’t sound so Catholic and Irish anymore.
But is this not what every Catholic politician who promotes such moral atrocities as abortion—or even gay marriage hopes? That Carol Marin and the editorial boards of the Sun-Times would finally like them and everyone will vote for them? Is this not what the Pelosis and Kennedys and Daleys and Quinns do? That for the sake of electoral victory—they throw out everything they ever believed about life and love—everything their mother and father taught them—everything they ever learned from Jesus and His Church and Mother Theresa and Padre Pio.
Governor Quinn, it is a baby!
“Just toss it overboard—throw it away—you don’t believe that stuff anymore!” How can Quinn and all the rest of them just say they don’t believe any of this anymore? What does Governor Quinn not understand about abortion? Did he miss the part that it is about a little baby— that it is a little boy or girl? And that no one—not a man—nor a woman—nor in any circumstance can cold-bloodedly take that baby’s life? That you cannot poison that baby or dismember him or hurt him in any way. You cannot—My God, Governor Quinn, it is a baby! You don’t kill the baby! You don’t kill the mother.
You do what you can to save everyone’s life! But for five hundred thousand dollars—Quinn is willing to promote abortion as the “Christian thing to do”.
Quinn used to believe that abortion was the taking of a human life—and now he doesn’t? But why not? Because they won’t give him money anymore? When St. Paul in today’s epistle says that our struggle and wrestling is not with earthly beings—but with the powers and principalities—the devils and demons—he is warning us that our very souls are at stake in this struggle—in this fight—and that we dare not—at risk to our eternal salvation—misunderstand what all this is about. The enormity of this fight is that it is about eternal life or eternal death.
Rejoicing with God forever
It is about saving our souls and rejoicing at the end of our lives forever with God in heaven—or suffering in the bowels of hell and without hope ever of release.
Faust risked his soul for the most beautiful face in history—Adam and Eve risked their souls to be like gods.
But, Governor Quinn—for Illinois?