Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
Responsorial Psalm Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Reading 2 2 Thes 2:16-3:5
Gospel Lk 20:27-38
When I was a student at Loras Academy many, many years ago, I remember a venerable old priest who was my religion teacher. He often spoke of certain moral situations in which a difficult decision had to be made. He always referred to such a situation as “riding on the horns of a dilemma.”
I wasn’t a very serious student in my teen age years, and the concept of moral choices didn’t interest me very much, so every time he used the expression “riding on the horns of a dilemma,” I got a mental picture of myself sitting on the head of a great, hairy beast, holding on for dear life, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t be impaled on it’s sharp horns.
It’s been many years since my high school days, but I still get that picture in my mind’s eye whenever I hear the world “dilemma” and it always makes me smile.
Today’s first reading tells of seven brothers who were arrested and tortured in an effort to force them to deny their faith in God. Despite the cruel torture the king inflicted on them, they persevered and each accepted death rather than forsake their belief in God.
Certainly each of these men was “riding on the horns of a dilemma” as each was forced to make a choice between good and evil. It must have taken every ounce of fortitude and faith to choose death. The price of each man’s decision was very high, but each of the seven brothers remained true to his faith, right up to the very end.
Few of us today will ever find ourselves in such a position, faced with similar choices, but if we were, I wonder how many of us would choose death rather than deny our faith. Each of us could easily rationalize that God certainly wouldn’t expect such a sacrifice from us.
Yet how often do we compromise our beliefs by rationalizing and justifying actions which we know deep down are contrary to what we claim to believe as Catholic Christians? How about a few examples?
+ I’m going to pad my expense account this month by about $200. My house payment is due at the end of the month and I don’t have enough to pay it. I work hard for my boss, and he has plenty of money so he’ll never miss it. It’s not like I’m actually stealing. I know it’s wrong, but God will surely understand.
+ I won’t be going to Mass this weekend because I have to work early Sunday morning and I don’t want to give up my plans for Saturday evening. I know it’s wrong, but God will surely understand.
+ The cashier at the grocery store gave me too much change. I know I ought to tell her, but I could use the extra money. Besides, she should be more careful. I know it’s wrong, but surely God will understand.
+ I’m pregnant and I’m considering having an abortion. I’m 40 years old and I already have three children. Besides, having another child would cause serious financial problems in our family since my husband is out of work, and I would have to quit my job. I know it’s wrong, but surely God will understand.
Yes, God surely does understand. God understands more than we can imagine. God understands that we are human persons with human wants and needs, and sometimes we compromise our beliefs and make bad choices.
But never forget that we are God’s children and when we ask forgiveness and promise to try and avoid making bad choices in the future, God forgives us.
The problem we face is that if we compromise our belief’s once, it becomes easier and easier to do.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied simply, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus didn’t tell us to give away everything we own, embrace poverty and homelessness – rather he commanded us to love and help the poor and homeless, as Jesus did, as a way of showing our love for God.
I believe God expects a balance in our lives – a compromise plan which embraces God, our neighbor and ourselves. God has given us gifts we need to make this balance work. Gifts like our intellect and free will, the Word of God in scripture, our Catholic Christian faith, and the Holy Spirit who gives us the strength to choose what is right.
When you find yourself riding on the horns of a dilemma, ask yourself what Jesus would do. Then follow his example.