The Bishops Homily – 12th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2017

12th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 2 July 2017
Jer. 20: 11-13
Rom. 5: 12-15
Mt. 10: 26-33

INTRODUCTION: We return today to the regular cycle of readings in Ordinary Time and we are met with a bracing teaching from the Lord Jesus.

(1) The Church wisely couples this teaching with a passage from the Prophet Jeremiah, a man deeply in love with God but at times unsure of himself: as too young for the job, beset with so many enemies to the point of being somewhat paranoid and sometimes blamed God for his problems. This complex human figure says: “I hear the whispering of many: Terror in every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him! All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” (v. 11) In the midst of his fears, he senses some extraordinary power and says: “But the Lord is with me like a mighty champion. . . Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord! For he has rescued the life of the poor from the wicked.” (v. 13) Notice here that it is not a game of either. . . or. . . as if hey God loves me so I have no problem! Rather, it is in my struggles and troubles, I sense a power greater than all of these. A very fundamental teaching in the whole Bible is here! In my many troubles I sense a power that is greater!

(2) This teaching is reinforced in the Gospel: “Fear no one!” (V. 26) No matter who is threatening you, who is thundering denunciation, who is coming at you with furious intensity: “Don’t be afraid!” Why? Because in Jesus Christ you become connected to the very power of God, to that who is here and now creating the universe; you stand above the vagaries of space and time; you are in the center of the wheel of fortune which turns up and down but at the center is steady. To shift the metaphor, when you are in Christ, you are “in the interior castle” to borrow the words of Teresa of Avila. No matter what violence and mayhem you find outside, you have found a place of safety and a place of power. How wonderfully Jesus says it, “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.” (v. 28) The body is passing while the soul is the core of man in contact with his God. In other words, get your fears properly in order! Prioritize your fears. Who/what are you afraid of? Those paper tigers that kill the body? Or the living God who can kill both body and soul? In the midst of troubles and difficulties, you can find a place of safety and power when you are grounded in Christ.

(3) With that principle in mind, let us turn to the saints! Saints are better defined as those rare human beings who have rightly prioritized their fears:

  • The young Karol Woytila, behind locked doors at the height of the Nazi Regime was preserving the best of Polish Literature in plays which could have cost his life but as Pope John Paul II in his Inaugural echoed Jesus when he said: “Don’t be afraid!”
  • The 14 year old Mexican Jose Sanchez Del Rio during the Cristero Period when Government was putting priests and nuns to death who stood for his faith despite torture and the firing squad.
  • Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a young nun came to India and met the most despicable poverty and later as a Nobel Laureate challenged the US President, his Lady, and the whole Congress in Joint Session the issue of abortion in the United States.
  • Charles Luwangga, that 25 year-old Chief of pages, who refused the sexual advances of the King, defied his order to renounce the faith, and when being burned at the stake, was heard to sigh “Oh God”.

CONCLUSION: None of those figures lived a serene life, free of difficulties and persecution! Their example belie the common belief of people that either believe (love) God or you meet with struggles or problems. Rather, in the midst of problems you find courage when you cling to God as your rock. In terms of desire or fear, what do you desire or fear above all?

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches