January 27, 2017

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 29, 2017, Year A

Fr. Charles Irvin
Senior Priest
Diocese of Lansing

The Beatitudes(Click here for today’s readings)

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche lived from 1844 to 1900. He turned out to be a philosopher of considerable stature — and an atheist. He is probably responsible, more than any other one individual thinker, for the rise of the Nazi Third Reich and all that the Nazis stood for, as well as for the shaping and formation of Adolph Hitler’s mind. He was the generator of Superman — not the comic book character, but rather the sort of character seen in many modern men and women of our day.

Nietzsche believed, and taught others to believe, that God is dead… or if not dead, then God is irrelevant, immaterial to our lives and ways of thinking and living. Said Nietzsche: “Two great European narcotics are alcohol and Christianity.”

In his last great effort, Nietzsche wrote a book blasting everything associated with Jesus Christ. He titled his book The Antichrist, and in it wrote: “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are too venomous, too underhanded, too underground and too petty — I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”

Nietzsche scoffed the Beatitudes. He asserted they were prescriptions for sheep and slaves to make them feel better. Christianity, he declared, along with belief in God, is a man-made prop, something to prop up the weak-minded, something for the shallow and those without any strength of character.

Life, for Nietzsche, is for the strong, the dominant, the ruthless; it is for those who understand power and its uses. Abundance, wealth and the ability to control and manipulate others comes only to the fittest of our species. All the rest of us resort to religion, to Christ, along with all of the weaklings who need Him. For Nietzsche, self-justification is the only justification worth anything at all. The only fulfillment which is at all fulfilling is self-fulfillment. Life belongs to those who help themselves above all others, particularly those super men and super women who help themselves to life and all that it offers. The individual human self is God… and is not responsible or accountable to any God, or to any moral authority.

Nietzsche saw the threat that Christ posed to Super Man and Super Woman; that’s why he reserved his most vicious attacks for Christ’s teachings. Christ’s way of life presented a devastating challenge to all that Nietzsche stood for. He howled and shrieked at Sacred Scripture, particularly what we just heard in today’s second reading when St. Paul, writing to the sophisticated and worldly people of Corinth, said: “God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise he singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong. He chose the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something; so that mankind can do no boasting before God.”

Christ is our redemption and our justification — we are not. Nietzsche claims just the reverse, claiming that Super Man and Super Woman are their own justification; they redeem themselves, they get whatever they want. Their own power is their own justification and their own ticket to happiness.

Happiness in being humble, in being poor in spirit? Nonsense! Happiness in setting one’s self and one’s accomplishments aside? Foolishness! Happiness in weakness, victory in surrender of one’s power into God’s power? Rubbish! Happiness in empathy toward others, crying when they cry, hurting when they hurt…. happiness in being compassionate and suffering with others? ARE YOU KIDDING?

Purity and chastity? That’s only for the frigid and impotent! Justice? There is no justice — only power. Truth? What is truth? Those who hunger and thirst for those things do so because of their own weakness and laziness. In Nietzsche’s way of thinking, people on welfare deserve to be on welfare because they’re good for nothing else anyway. They’re simply good for nothings in their very nature.

We hear Nietzsche’s shriek echoed around us — let the weak work, let the alien go back to where he came from, let all the bleeding heart liberals sit down, shut up, and get out of the way for those who have the strength and ability to make us great once again, the way we used to be great when we were freed of all external restraints, particularly those imposed by the government and the church.

The beatitudes are for sheep, not for super men and super women. Religion and Christianity? They are narcotics. “What is it,” Nietzsche asked, “is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?” In The Twilight of the Idols he went on to write: “Christianity is the one great curse, the one immortal blemish of mankind.” In another famous book he said — For thus spake Zarathustra: “Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest has not yet heard of it, that God is dead!“

“Blessed are you,” Jesus tells you, “when people insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Blessed are you when they drive me out of your schools and forbid that my Christ be mentioned or his picture shown in your public places and in your schools. Blessed are you when they tell you how stupid you are for being Catholics, when they call you fanatics, right-wing religious zealots who are divisive and want to hurt others. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great. For the absolute truth is that Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche is very much dead, and I am quite alive.”

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