12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
21st June 2020
Year A – Psalter week 4
Do not be afraid.
As we enter back into ordinary time in the church’s calendar, we are presented with some very challenging passages of scripture. The first reading gives us some insight into the attack upon the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, who was called by God to warn the people of a coming disaster should they continue to reject Him and follow their own selfish ways: “I hear so many disparaging me, ‘”Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’” We know too, that this was certainly Jesus’ experience before the religious leaders of Israel in his time. He warned too that this would also be the experience of those who are faithful to him, and his words to us today are the same as his words to the Twelve in the gospel, “Do not be afraid.”
Whether we like it or not, this life is a battle between good and evil, between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. The battleground is not only our world, our country, our town, our community and our family, but first and foremost our own lives, our own hearts and our own souls. The kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of love, light, truth, freedom, faith, hope, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We choose the kingdom of heaven when we seek to live our lives in true freedom under the lordship of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and the King of Heaven.
The kingdom of Satan, however, is what is left when the kingdom of heaven is rejected. Its characteristics are therefore things such as fear, darkness, deception, bondage, unbelief, despair, tyranny, un-forgiveness, hard-heartedness, anxiety, impatience, selfishness, hatefulness, betrayal, forcefulness and over-indulgence. We choose the kingdom of Satan when we reject the lordship of Jesus and prefer to live as though we ourselves are our own god. This, not surprisingly, is a lie, as by doing this we are actually following the path of Satan, who is “the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Anyone in their right mind and aware of this spiritual battle would, one would think, seek to choose the kingdom of heaven all the time. But we all know the struggle that this involves, as I’m sure that we are all familiar with some of the effects of the kingdom of evil, and have our own battles going on within our own lives. Often we can fall short of our desire to live out the good because there is a cost, whether that be of the fear of rejection, or the fear of being different and standing out in the crowd, or the fear of having to suffer, to name but a few. No wonder, then, that Jesus says over and over again in the gospels, “Do not fear”. Fear, in this sense, is the opposite of love, and as St. John says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
While we may not currently be in a situation where we are being physically martyred for being Christian, we are living in an aggressively secular society where we are continually being called to a spiritual martyrdom. One just has to think, for example, of how a teenager who seeks to follow Jesus authentically today, as indeed in my day, will undergo much persecution and testing from his or her peers, even when in a Catholic school. If they manage to hold faithful through this, then the time may come when they meet a partner, and may be put under pressure to enter into physical relations before marriage, that’s if their partner wants to commit to marriage at all!
This type of situation, of course, has become the norm in our society. One can discern, however, that this teaching is from the father of lies, who says that your body is for you to do with as you please and at no cost (the whole of the abortion industry thrives on this lie, and is a clear testament to just how costly that lie is in terms of human lives). To choose to remain obedient to Jesus in this situation is also very costly, but a cost that leads to life when one takes to heart the words of Jesus who says that his body is a temple of God (cf. John 2:21), and those of St. Paul who warns the Christians at Corinth: “Shun immorality! Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
The worldly teaching that our bodies are our own, to do with as we please, is therefore at complete odds with the biblical truth that our bodies belong to the Lord, and it takes great courage for a young Christian to resist this lie of the enemy which is so prevalent in our society and, even more sadly at least in practice, within the Catholic community at large, a lie which seeks ultimately to weaken and undermine Christian marriage and the “domestic church” which is the family.
This is, of course, just one example, and I’m sure that there are many more challenging situations that you could think of. I would, however, like to encourage you to keep persevering in your journey with the Lord, and to keep choosing love and truth over fear. By continuing to choose the kingdom of heaven, we build up Christian spiritual muscles known as virtues. Conversely, if we keep choosing to act out of fear then our vices grow.
I feel also as your parish priest to thank you for every time that you have chosen Jesus despite the cost, and for every battle that you have fought for good, even when at times, it has seemed to end in loss. The Lord sees our hearts, and knows the temptations and human weaknesses that we each suffer with and is always ready to show mercy and forgive when we seek to turn away from sin, and turn back to him in repentance. His bitter suffering, crucifixion and death demonstrate the price that Jesus was willing to pay for our salvation. As is his way, however, he will never force us to follow him, but always holds out his hand for us to freely choose him and his kingdom of love despite the cost.
In your great love, answer me, O Lord
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
The Word was made flesh and lived among us:
to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God. Alleluia!