Deacon Steven Johnson’s Homily 1-7-21

Deacon Steven M. Johnson – St. James, Belvidere, IL
Homily for Thursday after the Epiphany, 1-7-21, Year B 
Optional Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort Priest

St. Raymond of Penyafort – Priest
Birth date: 1175 Barcelona, Spain
Joined the Order of Preachers and was its Second Master General
At the command of Pope Gregory IX, he produced a collection of canon law.
He is most known for his work on “Summa casuum”, which is a correct and fruitful administration of the sacrament of penance.
He died in 1275 at the age of 99

READINGS: 1st Reading 1st Jn, 4:19-5:4; Gospel Lk 4:4-18
Theme: Tough Love

We’ve heard it said, to be good parent of a child, you must be their parent and not their friend. The difference in being their parent vs. their friend comes when choices need to be made and lessons learned.

Friend’s, at least in this sense, will usually see and think like each other. They won’t necessarily provide an alternative solution to a problem or disagree when a critical choice needs to be made, i.e., smoking, drugs or sex. Parenting, on the other hand, provides those alternative solutions and choices that come with experience, knowledge and understanding of the world that children and their friends just don’t have yet.

A good parent will make a distinction between being a friend and being a parent. For the child, having their parent tell them no when they want a yes, or expose them to God when they want to expose themselves to a video game can seem harsh and go against what they want. This is when we need to be parents, when our love for them needs to be tough. It will be painful for the child in the moment but in the long run they will be thankful for those tough love times. 

Jesus commands us, above all, to love one another. Paul re-affirms this in many of his letters as John does today in his letter. But what type of love is Jesus, Paul and John asking of us? Is it a true love or a false love?

Is it a love that agrees with whatever our neighbor does or wants, even if it harms them or their salvation? Is it a love that goes along with the crowd or society bending, even changing Christ’s teachings? Do we allow this because we feel a need to respect their choice and not upset them with a right alternative that maybe contrary to that choice? No, because this is a false love.

The kind of love Christ is talking about is a love that guides, nurtures, teaches and corrects. It is a love that is consistent, saving, stern, embracing, unafraid to say no, sees the bigger picture, goes against the grain when needed, is grounded in the goodness of the gospels and speaks Jesus’s name often with God as the ultimate goal. This is true love.

We must love one another always in every situation. But true love, “tough love”, leads our neighbor to salvation, while false love leads them away from it. Tough love is the true love of a parent, while false love is that of a so-called friend.

When it comes to the teachings of Christ, tough love maybe required. In today’s Gospel, the people of Nazareth appear to love Jesus because of his gracious words. But we know that right after they praised him, he admonishes them out of tough love by telling them that their faith is week. Instead of listening to him and changing their ways, they reject him and want to kill him. They expressed a false love for Jesus instead of true love.

Another example of tough love is when the adulterous woman (Jn 8:3-11) was about to be stoned. Jesus said to the crowd, “let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” They went away one by one until it was just the woman and Jesus. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Jesus didn’t tell her he loved her and to go and continue living her sinful life because it was her choice. No, Jesus instead, out of love, admonished her and told her not to live that life any longer.

To love a person to a fault and not help them to see the cliff in front of them, is not the kind of love John and Jesus are talking about today.

We must respect the free will choices of our neighbor without rejection or anger or hate. But respect with true love is way different than respect with false love. It’s tough love that really ends up being the ultimate true love because it saves one’s soul.

Published by St. James, Belvidere

Saint James Catholic Church, Belvidere, IL