The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Jeremiah 20:10-13 + Romans 5:12-15 + Matthew 10:26-33
“What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
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references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church cited for this Sunday by the Vatican’s Homiletic Directory:
CCC 852: the Spirit of Christ sustains the Christian mission
CCC 905: evangelizing by the example of life
CCC 1808, 1816: courageous witness of faith overcomes fear and death
CCC 2471-2474: bear witness to the truth
CCC 359, 402-411, 615: Adam, Original Sin, Christ the New Adam
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During the first three centuries of the Church, being a Christian was no easy thing. Christianity was illegal. The first thirty-three popes were all martyred. For over three hundred years, to lead the Church from the Chair of St. Peter meant to be killed. It’s no wonder that there arose in the Church such a reverence for the office of the Pope. In their earthly leader, Christians could plainly see the image of Jesus Christ, whose death opened the gates of Heaven.
Of course, it was not only the popes who became martyrs. Thousands of Christians from every walk of life—carpenters, farmers, mothers and fathers, tradesmen and fishermen, to name just a few—were martyred generation after generation until Christianity was made legal in the fourth century.
Once the Emperor Constantine joined the Church, Christianity became not just legal, but the religion of the Roman Emperor. Christian martyrs seemed a thing of the past. For hundreds of years thereafter, the Faith was wedded to the rule of empires, nations, and kingdoms throughout the world.
Unfortunately, this led to a different problem. Martyrdom often took another form. Instead of people being sacrificed, the Truth was at times sacrificed for the sake of worldly peace. The Faith was sacrificed at the altar of the secular.
Even in our own day, God asks us Christians to consider such a form of martyrdom. He asks faithful Catholics, the members of His Church, to stand on guard. We do not know when the truth is going to be attacked. Have you ever been surprised by something you’ve come across in the media which takes the truth and twists it? Have you ever heard the topic of the Church brought up in conversation, only to be met with laughs and sneers?
Throughout the Gospel accounts, you don’t hear Jesus talk much about the Devil. Even when He was tempted by Satan in the desert, Jesus did not pursue Satan. Jesus simply fought against the temptations that Satan placed before Him. When Satan was through trying to tempt Jesus and fled the desert, Jesus did not give chase. The devil fled to fight another day, and century, and millennium.
In Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Jesus says that what we receive within the walls of our parish churches we need to be willing to speak in public. We don’t have to go searching for arguments. When we hear someone putting down the Church’s beliefs, we ourselves are being putting down. The Church is the Body of Christ, and we are all members of that Sacred Body. When the Body of Christ is attacked, her teachings ridiculed, or her rights suppressed, we must be willing to speak out and at times even act against what is false and unjust.
But how do we go about doing that? Sometimes, just speaking out and saying that a remark is offensive makes someone understand his wrong-doing. Yet sometimes we may be challenged by another to defend what the Church teaches, and that demands that we understand the Faith. This raises another important point about Jesus’ words in Sunday’s Gospel Reading.
There hasn’t been a saint in the history of the Church who has completely understood everything that there is to know about the Faith. Nonetheless, we must be willing to explain as much as we do we know. Furthermore, we must be willing to learn more than what we currently know, whether we do this by reading, watching television shows that accurately teach about the Faith, or simply by holding a conversation with knowledgeable Catholics.
Of course, the greatest resource we have at our disposal is God the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism we have received the Holy Spirit, and those of us who have been confirmed have been strengthened by the Spirit’s seven gifts. Four of these seven gifts strengthen the human intellect to help us know the Faith: wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge. The other three gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthen the human will to help us spread the Faith: fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. All of these help us to speak Jesus’ words in the light and to proclaim them on the housetops.