Fr Alec's reflection on the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fear no one. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit.
Happy Father’s Day!
Let us pray.
Grant, O Lord,
that we may always revere and love your holy name,
for you never deprive of your guidance
those you set firm on the foundation of your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen
We will continue with the gospel reading from this Sunday's mass. In your Bibles, it's Matthew, Chapter 10, Verses 26 through 33.
Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Earlier this week, I was preaching at daily mass about mentors. And I said that Fr. Pat Mascarella, who used to serve in our cluster, was one of my mentors in the Faith, one of the people who helped me become the Catholic I am today. (He was the blind priest who was here with Fr. Uter.) And one of the things that especially impressed me about Fr. Pat was that he had the courage of his convictions. That is to say, he would stand up for what he believed. That didn’t mean that he was without fear. A courageous person is one who feels the fear, and does the right thing anyway. When you feel the fear and do the right thing anyway, that's courage.
On this Father's Day weekend, Jesus calls all of us to be courageous, with God's help. “Fear no one,” he says. Remembering that God is going to judge us on our choices, not on our feelings, I think what he means here is that we shouldn't let our fear of others keep us from doing the right thing. And what is the right thing? “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” Jesus expects us to acknowledge him as Lord, yes. Whenever we come to Sunday Mass, we do that. We say, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of God,” and so on. We make this public profession of faith, this acknowledgment of him over and over again, every weekend of our lives.
But that's just the start. It's a good start. It's a necessary start. But acknowledging Jesus as Lord is just a start. As he himself says elsewhere: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Put simply, we have to acknowledge Jesus not just with our words. but with our lives. We have to have the courage of our convictions.
Over the years, a lot of you have sent me Facebook Friend Requests and, in fact, most of my Facebook Friends are cluster parishioners. But I do have some people that I’m friends with on Facebook from my childhood. One of them posted this week about memories that had resurfaced from his school days. Memories of being called the n-word at school by classmates, and how it affected him at the time. Crying when someone called him that at age seven. Being enraged in sixth grade when someone called him that. “The only other person that heard it,” he wrote was the best friend of the girl who called him that name. She “laughed. I was absolutely furious, but even at 10 years of age, I knew that with no witnesses that would corroborate my story, it would have been my word against theirs. And that would've been a no-win situation.” “No 10-year-old child,” he continued, “should ever feel so disempowered to have to experience this, process what happened, weigh the options, and decide to do nothing.”
As I wrote a reply to my friend’s post, I remembered a racist nickname that somebody used to refer to him and I said, “I hope I never used it. [I don't think I did.] I'm sure I at least failed to stick up for you when I should have.”
Had I been silent? Had I laughed? I don't remember. I must have known it was wrong for someone to call him what they called him behind his back. But, like I said, I failed him. And I failed the Lord. I didn't have the courage of my convictions. I didn't do the right thing and speak up to challenge the racism I witnessed.
Maybe you have sinned as I sinned--by not speaking up when it's hard to do. An author in an interview gave the rather common example of somebody making a racist remark during a family gathering, and everybody else flinching, but nobody speaking up, so as not to ruin the occasion. “Why would interrupting racism ruin your dinner?” she asks. “And why would not interrupting racism not ruin your dinner?” “Why would interrupting racism ruin your dinner? And why would not interrupting racism not ruin your dinner?” I take her words as a personal challenge to be more courageous, with God’s help. I take her words as a personal challenge to feel the fear and do the right thing anyway.
I stand here in Saint Michael Church before the statue of Saint Martin de Porres, one of our black saints and the only one depicted in one of our cluster churches. (It must be an old statue, because it’s labeled, Blessed Martin, and he was declared a saint almost 60 years ago.) Among other things, he is the patron saint of “all those seeking racial harmony.” Saint Martin de Porres suffered racism—including in the Church--in the late 1500s and early 1600s in Peru, as the son of a woman who was once enslaved. May he pray for us, as we seek not only racial harmony but racial justice--that we may have the courage of our convictions, that we may feel the fear and do the right thing anyway, that we may acknowledge Jesus as Lord before others by the way we live our lives.
This being Father’s Day weekend, I will now impart the traditional Father’s Day blessing on all of our fathers, godfathers, and father figures:
God our Father,
in your wisdom and love you made all things.
Bless these men,
that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers.
Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.
Grant that we,
their sons and daughters,
may honor them always with a spirit of profound respect.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.
The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit.
May Almighty God bless you all: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.