Homily: St Charles Lwanga and Companions

Here we are in the middle of retreat. One of my friends has noticed that once you get over the hill, you pick up speed. So, the retreat days you'll find, will go a bit faster now.

On this retreat we want to be developing a taste, a sense, for the things of God. Great breakthroughs may happen, though they don't for most. And that's ok; they can be forged by the devil. Develop a taste for the things of God. Persevere--be present to God, to nature, the good meals we're given, your 21 brothers, none of whom have stabbed anyone yet. You have this time to be with God, away from the world, from town, where people are screaming at eachother, comitting adultery, and getting divorced. Develop a taste for the things of God. Be able to return to the world with this taste in your mouth, because its often hard to tell whether something is of God or not. You want to be able to have an instinct if something is fishy. It's a matter of discernment.

I'm the only priest here without Irish blood in me, but I was formed among Irish Catholics. When I returned to Confession, my confessor asked if I was Irish. When I was 27, a Jesuit novice, I was sent to NY to work with poor hispanics, and on the subway I saw for the first time an Irish face that was not Christian. I was disconcerting to me; the Dying Gaul. I was speaking to a seminarian from Mexico; we don't have a lot in common, I'm not a bit Mexican, I don't even like Mexican food, but we were mourning the deaths of people we knew who had lived without electricity. It's different, even their eyes, having not watched a television, or played video-games; no offence to you all. We live in a world of incredible changes; there is really a dizzying pace of change. That you're all here is a miracle, it really is. The world is going in a completely opposite direction, and you've heard God calling you to this place to spend a month with him.

My favourite aunt is an atheist, though one with morals. One day she asked what I believe, and I spent a couple hours telling her. When it was all over, she said, "What a lovely imagination you have!" But she does have morals. In the 50s she was what you called a "career woman"--had a job, no kids, not married--what you now call a woman, I suppose. Well in the 50s she was living in NYC with a roommate. One night this roommate decided to entertain a man overnight. The next day she kicked her out. This same woman, by the 80s, was saying that abortion is permissible. "Things change, and you have to go along with it." In the world, morality, things, had changed. Now her husband, a scientific agnostic, has told me that "technology isn't all that they thought it would be." You're being sent out into a world where stuff is more important than people. There is constant change; there is nothing to hold on to. The only way to cope is to go with it. Things do change--we aren't all wearing cassocks, and women aren't going about in hoop skirts a la Gone with the Wind. You need to learn what legitimately changes, and what doesn't. Decide what you'll give your life for. My aunt gave up everything. You need a healthy sense of mourning.

Now to today's saint, Charles Lwanga. In Uganda in the 1880s, the king would use his attendents, and he was a sodomite. Charles and his companions refused the king's advances. So they can be called martyrs for chastity, for sexual morality.

In the world today there is so much depravity, so much misery. When I was driving a cab in Hawaii, I worked the overnight shift, and then we cabbies would go get breakfast together. Well one of these guys was a "kept boy". He asked me to take him to the airport one time, and on the way there he told me, "You're the only friend I've ever had." We went to breakfast together six times! Our was probably the only non-sexual relationship he had had for some time. So what is friendship in Christ? You must be men of love. Be a best friend to people. Be a man of liberation, of joy. You must be rooted in Jesus. Look to the loving relationship of Jesus and the apostles. They had intimacy because their relationship was non-sexual. We need the ability to be intimate. Beg the Holy Spirit to enter into your relationships. Bring the love of Jesus to your people. Bring love to people seduced by a counterfeit. The closest embrace knows no touch.

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