Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 21, 2020
Saint Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Romans 5:12-15
Matthew 10:26-33

I would like to begin by expressing my best wishes and pledge of prayers for all of those here today who are entrusted with the gift and responsibility of Christian fatherhood on this national celebration of Fathers’ Day. I thank God for the gift of my own father and I also ask each of us to remember our own fathers in our prayers today — both living and dead.

The Rite of Baptism for Children includes a blessing at its conclusion for the father of the newly baptized child.  The priest or deacon prays: “God is the giver of all life human and divine. May He bless the father of this child.  He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the faith. May they be also the best of teachers bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is precisely that point of bearing witness that Jesus addresses in the Gospel of today. Jesus is very clear that belonging to Him requires accountability to the commitment made to Him in response to the commitment He made to each of us in obedience to the Father’s will by dying and rising from the dead for us. He is also very clear that this accountability requires the disciple to acknowledge the very real fears and threats that we face because of the hostility directed by the world of the flesh against the Gospel and against us who embrace it and its Master. Jesus offers both direction and encouragement that produce confidence in the hearts of those who believe in Him. In so many ways, it is the ministry of the father in family life to be the conduit of God’s grace of confidence in the hearts of their baptized children. Jesus does not leave fathers alone to do it themselves but Himself offers direction and example for them in the Gospel of today.

Jesus tells the Apostles, “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. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of those who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” In so saying, Jesus is so doing to the will of His heavenly Father.

When we hear Jesus say that there is nothing that is concealed that will not be revealed, we can become afraid and think that He is only saying that there is no privacy and that our most embarrassing sins and bad days will be made public — so be good or else you will be humiliated. That is not what He says. He says more. Jesus continues, “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Scripture presents God as speaking in whispers. What Jesus speaks to us amidst the darkness are His words of mercy, words of the fullness of the truth, words of justice, and words of liberation and deliverance from the darkness of evil. These are the words that reveal our accountability. These words deliver to us the grace of being able to keep our own promises of accountability: the promises made on our behalf at Baptism, the promises renewed by us at Confirmation, the promises made in freedom in the Sacrament of Matrimony, and the promises made by a deacon, priest, or bishop at their ordinations. Without the proper focus and follow-through that comes from the spiritual and moral discipline offered usually to us through the ministry and example of our human fathers, we can become confused and think that what we are to shout from the housetops are the words of the darkness and obscurity, the words of shame and extortion, the words of calumny and gossip. These are the words of the great accuser, the devil, the prince of this world who is the father of lies. The lies that he sires are not simply untruths or falsehoods; they are abuses of the truth that are twisted to defame and to excuse our own sins and to blame others. His lies lead us to deny Christ and our accountability to Him through discipleship. We can lie by uttering factual statements for purposes of defaming. The devil operates by manipulation and shame; Christ hides nothing and operates with clarity and confidence. Christ reveals the rest of the full story that includes His victory over sin and death and the redemption and forgiveness of our sins.

It is the fruit of confidence that Jesus gives to us that marks the prophetic character of the Church and Her membership. Prophets speak in the light what God’s desires are for us as His children in this world of darkness. The anger of the prophets is prompted by the injustice of darkness that clouds God’s desires; the anger of the prophets brings light. The contemporary anger of the anarchist brings only heat and is ignited only in the darkness and obscurity of the night — it brings heat but no light, fire but no purification. Prophets face rejection, as did Jeremiah, because of the light of their words and the accountability to God that they convey — the light of faith and right reason. Anarchists reject accountability and their words follow their deeds — they lack faith and right reason and in place of confidence they only bolster the arrogance of self will and chaos.

Saint Paul writes to the Romans, and to us by faith, “the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” The gift is not like the transgression. The transgression is selfish and frightening; the gift is selfless and liberating with confidence.

People have a right to hear the Gospel proclaimed from housetops and each of us has the responsibility to proclaim it. Confidence born of the freedom of the children of God is indispensable for carrying this out.  Nobody— including the state and the government — can take the place of our parents in the order of nature, our fathers and our mothers. Nobody — including the state and the government — can take the place of God, our Father, and the Church, our Mother, in the order of grace.  When we allow this to happen, the result is further darkness of fear and chaos and the erosion of our confidence as individuals and as a nation. Our only path to authentic freedom is our embracing of the human vocations of fatherhood and motherhood and the grateful reception of our filial relationship to God and to the Church.

There is an old saying that in family life it is for mothers to give their children roots and for fathers to give their children wings. Fathers and mothers do this in tandem and not exclusively of each other, just as God, our Father by adoption through Christ, does so with our Mother the Church. Our belonging to the Church as our Mother and our confident part in the mission of salvation to proclaim the Gospel in obedience to the Father are fused together at our Baptism. Let us pray for the grace today not to deny Christ by failing to embrace our membership or our part in the mission.

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