Sunday, June 21, 2020

How to be faithful, not fearful (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, Jeremiah knows people around him
are plotting his destruction.

In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Fear no one” – only be faithful to God.

The fear I’m talking about is that which holds us back;
timidity or faintheartedness or cowardice.
These are vices that are opposed to fortitude or courage –
and that virtue of fortitude is what we want and need.

If we are in a conversation,
and we are shy about bringing up an important subject; why is that?
Sometimes there are good reasons, but often isn’t it because
we don’t want to be thought less of?

Jeremiah shared God’s message at the risk of his life.
What do we risk? Being laughed at, or whispered about?

This week we remember the martyrdom
of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More,
who both died because they were faithful
to Christ’s teaching on the permanence of marriage,
when the King of England demanded they go along
with his desire to divorce his wife and marry another.

In our time, so many around us are readily, eagerly going along
with a redefinition of marriage,
which has been declared the law of the land.
Two men, two women, who cares?

It can be so hard to stand up to this,
especially if you are called a bigot,
as members of my own family have called me,
because I will not bend to this redefinition of marriage.

And now the latest idea is that our identity as male or female
is not something given by God, but something we give ourselves,
and is changeable.

Let me just point out that this week, the U.S. Supreme Court –
led by one of the justices who was supposed to be our friend –
redefined what “sex” in a way that normalizes what is unnatural;
and it will spark great mischief.

Along with the decision five years ago redefining marriage,
This line of thinking means that when you and I insist
that male and female are hard, physical facts – not mental inventions! –
according to the new normal, you and I are nuts; freaks.

I have said this before, and I say it again: it’s going to get worse.
You may try to ignore this, but those pushing this revolution
aren’t going to ignore you. They are coming on all fronts.

You and I must fortify ourselves for the day
when we will have to stand up, alone like John Fisher and Thomas More,
for the truth! In this case, that male and female
are made for each other and for children:
that’s what marriage is; that’s what family is; and that’s what sex is.

Pope Francis has called these theories
about marriage and sexual identity “demonic.”
Strong language, but he is exactly right;
because what is under attack is not just some old rule.
What’s under assault is what it means to be human.

When God had finished his Creation,
with the man and woman his crowning work, he called it all “very good.”
When Satan saw it, he vowed to ruin it all,
And you and I, all humanity, are his main targets.

So notice what’s happening in our time:
the killing of unborn children; the elimination of the handicapped;
so-called “assisted suicide” for everyone else,
especially the elderly and those who are discouraged;
the poisoning of marital life
with contraception and divorce and pornography.

And now, the most breathtaking denial of all:
that being a man, or a woman – are not real, physical facts;
But merely wishes, constructs of the mind!
Why is Satan doing this?
The end goal is that we will know longer know who we are:
the image of God, who he calls to union with him.

Now, that is a hellish vision, and it’s frightening
to see it spreading in our world.
Nevertheless, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid!

One reason I don’t like giving a homily like this
is because people react with fear,
and that is the opposite of what Jesus tells us to do.

When Saint John Fisher refused to buckle,
he was imprisoned for over a year.
During that time, he was not allowed to offer Mass,
receive Holy Communion or go to confession.
He grew so ill that the king sent his doctors
just to get him well enough so he could be executed.

When the day came, the guard woke him and said, today you will die.
Do you know what Bishop Fisher said?
Let me go back to sleep for another two hours!
Does that sound like he was afraid?

You see this time and again:
when people have nothing left to lose, there is amazing peace.

This is why acts of penance and mortification are useful all the time,
not just during Lent. This is why we need confession and conversion.
The main battle each of us faces is within ourselves.
As you and I strengthen virtue in ourselves,
we will have what it takes when the time comes.

Jesus warned us the world would go mad. Do not be afraid!
He is patient; be patient!
This world and its idols will not last forever, but Jesus reigns forever!
By his grace, may we remain faithful witnesses to him!

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