Stir Into Flame – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom’s Homily October 6, 2019

“Today in that second reading we have a very powerful reference from St. Paul and I’d like to share that with you (pulls out his phone) and by the way this is the first time you’ve ever seen this…Fr. Viet will say, ‘He’s finally in the 20th century!’  But anyway St. Paul says, ‘I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God which you have received through the imposition of my hands for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.’ Powerful words that we are to stir into flame the gift of the spirit that we have received through baptism, through confirmation, through ordination, but that power of the spirit is truly a power that makes us strong in witnessing to faith and to living our faith more fully.  That’s a tremendous challenge that we have because it’s so easy for us to become kind of complacent with our faith. We kind of go through the motions week after week with a sincerity of heart, but its kind of the same thing over and over again rather than realizing that God wants to come into our life with power and that power is continual transformation and that power is to reach out to make a difference within our world. Some of the members of our parish recently participated this last week in a convocation on enflaming our hearts, enflaming our homes, enflaming our community.  It was called by our Archbishop as an opportunity for all of the parishes of the Archdiocese to think together around the action of the Holy Spirit within our parish life and within our own individual personal lives and that is the great challenge of evangelization is to allow the spirit to truly transform us, to make us new people for we have not received a spirit of cowardice or of complacency, but rather of power and of love, to live that out and to allow the Holy Spirit to enter more deeply, more personally into our lives through a deeper life of prayer, through a deeper awareness of God’s action within our life and our world, to allow the Holy Spirit to enter into our families.  We know there are a lot of threats against families, against marriages today, but we need to allow the Holy Spirit to enter more fully into our family life to bring about transformation that the Gospel may truly be lived and proclaimed to our young very actively within our families and to allow the spirit to enflame our world, to enflame the world, the community with which we live that we are called not so much to go out to knock on doors or to stand on street corners, but we are called to transform this world through positive action and commitment and we seek to allow the Spirit to work through us, to work for good. That’s the challenge of evangelization. It’s a challenge that certainly for many of us comes as second nature, but for many of us, it comes as a stretch to be more open, to truly stir up the power of the Spirit within us to stir up that power of the spirit within our parish community and to allow the work of the Holy Spirit first of all to transform us and through us to transform our families and to transform our community.  There’s a lot of different challenges that are there, but certainly during this month of October each year we are invited to think about respect life, to think about the dignity of human life and the many threats that there are to human life in our world today. That first reading today from Habakkuk talks about the challenge of violence and will violence ever end and unfortunately violence has not ended and there is so much violence against the dignity against the dignity of the human person. We know that there’s so much violence in our world, violence of degradation of the human being through human trafficking, through abuse, the degradation of human beings in the opioid epidemic that we have and the drug addictions that are there. There are so many ways in which human life is denigrated and also so many ways in which human life is truly threatened through active euthanasia, through abortion, in so many ways in which life is seen as so cheap and so dispensable and not important in our eyes or in the eyes of our community and so we are challenged about life and how can we build up and promote a culture of life where we reverence the human person from conception ‘til natural death where we truly reach out to the poor, to the neglected, to those who are oppressed and to work for justice to where we would seek to try to work against human trafficking which yes, is very high within our own community here (not in our parish community, but in our geographical community) that there is human trafficking that there are so many different evils that are there and obviously the one that speaks to the very essence of innocent human life is that of the termination of the unborn, the termination of the lives of those who are so totally vulnerable and obviously also the harm done to so many women and yes men through that evil of abortion.  There are many victims of abortion. It’s not just the unborn child, it’s also the mothers, the fathers and they need healing as well and so we are people who must really speak of healing and of better care for each other and of better commitment to the dignity of the human person and we here in Kansas have a particularly difficult situation that we face right now. Last spring our supreme court here in the state declared that they had discovered (they didn’t use that term) but they discovered a right to abortion within our state constitution. Now we have had a state constitution for over 150 years and no one has ever found a right to abortion within that. In fact for a hundred years, abortion was absolutely illegal and criminalized within our state and it was only with the reform of the penal code in the late ‘60’s and then Row V. Wade that that was changed, but the supreme court has rather preemptively discovered this right to abortion under the clause, I believe, of liberty and the pursuit of happiness that those are basic rights that we have and therefore give us rights to abortion, to kill the unborn. Now one of the reasons I believe that this has been done is that there’s a real concern that if Roe V. Wade is restricted federally by the Supreme Court or if it is overturned then it comes back to the state and so by having the state already saying that there’s an absolute right in our constitution for abortion then we are saying we are going to be a state that will always approve of abortion that we will be a state much like New York that even accepts some of the more horrendous ways of abortion, partial birth abortion, the other forms of abortion that we wouldn’t allow to happen to animals, but it’s done to the unborn who yes can feel who can suffer pain and yet any safeguards or limitations, parental notification with regard to abortion, if your teenager wants to get a shot or medical care, they have to get permission of the parents.  Well up until there was a notification law that was put it, it wasn’t required for abortion and all of that is in jeopardy because of this new interpretation of the constitution, but there’s only one check on the supreme court and that is the citizens of the state along with the legislature. The legislature has the right to approve the voting for an amendment that would reverse that ruling of the supreme court. It will be an uphill battle. It will be a challenging battle, but there is an effort now among many of our lawmakers and it’s gonna take ⅔ vote of both the house and the senate within our state legislature to approve that and then if they approve that it will go on a ballet and then it will go on a ballot and then the citizens of Kansas must approve that amendment by a simple majority. As I say it’s going to be an uphill battle. It’s going to be a challenge for us because believe me, the other side is well organized and well financed and there is strong efforts to make sure that abortion is always legal in our state, but it’s up to us to become better educated and yes to put aside the cowardice to be able to take a stand to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. I encourage you to take some time to become better informed about this. Go on and read whatever regarding it. I would encourage you to read the letter of the Archbishop in the Leaven this weekend. I would invite you and encourage you to come as Chuck Weber who is the director of the Kansas Catholic Conference and a former one of our legislatures will give a talk here at Ascension on Wednesday evening, but it’s incumbent on all of us to become better informed, better educated so that we can make better decisions as citizens of this state so that we can whatever way the Lord leads you we can make our voices heard.

Two weeks from today we will have the opportunity here at Mass in order to put our name down on a piece of paper to be sent to our legislatures and everyone who is 18 years and older is invited to do that to make that statement to our legislatures because they need to know that there is a broad base of support for this within their own legislative districts and that is the purpose of that is stepping forward to help them to realize that this is truly a human issue.  This is something where the supreme court unfortunately has bypassed the legislature and the citizenry of this state and this is the only check that is there and so you’re going to hear this term, ‘reversing the ruling’. It’s an amendment that just says that there is no right to abortion guaranteed in the constitution. It doesn’t criminalize it, it doesn’t overturn Roe V. Wade or anything like that. It doesn’t do those things, but it just says there’s no constitutional basis for that right to abortion and so I just encourage you to prayerfully think about this, to reflect upon it, to become better informed so that we as a people, as individuals can make our voices known as God prompts us to do so. Remember we are a people of life. We are a people of life. We are a people who affirm the beauty of each and every human life as a creation of God as a beautiful reflection of God of a person of beauty within their own right before us and before our world. That is the challenge: how can we build up and truly respect the dignity of each and every human person from conception ‘til natural death? Amen.