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What are you doing to change the culture?

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Mass with archdiocesan priests on final day of convocation

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass with archdiocesan priests on the final day of their annual convocation, Sept. 22, 2022, at the Hyatt Regency in Miami.

Herod said, "John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things.” And he kept trying to see him. We don't really know whether his conscience was bothering him — or if was only curious. But, in the end when he did meet Jesus it didn't result in his becoming a friend of Jesus, rather he became a friend of Pontius Pilate. 

Prophets and kings have a history of strained relationships. That was true before John the Baptist and it's been true ever since. Speaking truth to power is always a risky business. John, we should re—member, died because he defended the truth about marriage.

We do well to remember St. Paul's advice to Timothy — we heard it just this last Sunday. "First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life." 

The way I understand St. Paul here is that while we pray for kings and those in authority we do so not to endorse them or their policies but so that they leave us — the Church of Christ — alone so that we can worship the Lord in hope, witness to his truth in faith and serve our fellow men in love. 

As you know, the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral letter, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The current letter is essentially the same one we have issued since before the 2008 election. It doesn't tell anyone who they should vote for. The Church doesn't endorse candidates — and we don't not because we're afraid of losing our tax exemptions. We don't endorse because that is not our role.

Older bishops tell me that when they would visit St. John Paul II for their ad limina visits, he would never ask them what you are doing to change the politics in their particular country. He would ask them, what are you doing to change the culture? Politics — or politicians — follow the culture. Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Jessie Jackson, all started their political careers as "pro-lifers." Don't think their flip flopping were profiles in courage when they became "pro-choice." They had their finger in the air and sensed a change in the winds of our culture. The same with Obama and other politicians on so called "gay marriage." They were against it before they were for it. And their position on either side of the issue also wasn't any profile in courage. 

I think "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" is a good document — a resource for you and your people especially in the month ahead. And it's a good document because it speaks of principles, it sets forth clearly Catholic social teaching. I hope you put quotes from this document in your bulletins — and if you dare, in some of your homilies. If we and our people understood these teachings we could do something about this culture in which we live. It is a culture deeply wounded by individualism, by narcissism; it is wounded by a materialism that denies the transcendence of the human person. We cannot expect a miraculous cure; but we have to hope for healing. 

Again, to return to Sunday's second reading, God wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. This Paul says was the testimony at the proper time. 

Prophets, like John the Baptist, are called to give testimony — testimony about the truth. And as I said Tuesday night, as we observed the feast of the Korean Martyrs, there is "no testimony" without a test. Before we can heal this culture, we will be put to the test. And so we pray for kings and those in authority; we do so not to endorse them or their policies but so that they leave us — the Church of Christ — alone so that we can worship the Lord in hope, witness to his truth in faith and serve our neighbors in love.