Homily, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
My homily at the 5:00 Mass at Holy Ghost today.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Is your faith a private matter? Do your co-workers know that you are a Catholic?
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus tells us:
“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Have you bought into the notion that pervades our present culture that religion is to be regarded as a something you believe in private or do only within the walls of a church building?
Do you bring your faith into your workplace, to the places where you do business or where you go shopping? Or, is your faith kept in a little box that is opened only for an hour on Sunday and perhaps in the privacy of your home for a few minutes each day?
In today’s gospel Jesus COMMANDS us to proclaim our faith from the housetops. He tells to proclaim boldly that which he reveals to us in private prayer when he says “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” He tells us not to be afraid to proclaim our faith … to FEAR NO ONE!
I recently had a conversation with a Catholic friend whom I regard as a very faithful Catholic man. Upon my request, he referred a business associate to me to help me with a particular matter. He and this connection had been doing business together for over 20 years. When I met with this man, I learned that he too was Catholic.
When I saw my friend the following day I told him that I was surprised he hadn’t mentioned that the individual he referred was Catholic. My friend told me that he didn’t know he was. He stated that he never brings religious discussion into his business relationships, so it wasn’t unusual to him that neither of them knew the other was Catholic. He matter-of-factly proclaimed that his business relationships are all business. Now remember, these two men have been doing business together for over 20 years!
How sad. Two men who share our Catholic faith have never talked to each other about their faith in the 20+ years they’ve done business together. I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind when he commanded us to proclaim our faith from the housetops!
Jesus told his apostles to “fear no one.” NO ONE! I suspect many of us don’t share our faith because we’re afraid of what others might think of us, or maybe because we’re afraid that we won’t know how to answer their questions. Or perhaps we think that our faith doesn’t belong in our business or in other relationships outside of church.
We may be worried about what people will think about us if we appear to be too religious, maybe they’ll think we’re some sort of religious freak. Or maybe we’re afraid we’ll lose our job if we speak of our faith in the workplace? Perhaps we think that proclaiming our faith publicly will somehow damage our reputation or our good name? Do you worry more about what others think than you worry about what Almighty God thinks?
Listen again to what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. “And 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.”
Let us not be afraid of those who can only kill our bodies. Rather, let us fear Almighty God, who controls the destiny of our souls! We must be more concerned about offending God by not sharing our faith and Christian values with others than we are about what they might think of us because we bring our faith into the workplace and the public sector.
There is nothing that is hidden from God. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed nor secret that will not be known. NOTHING! God knows our thoughts before we think them. He knows what we think about others, he knows our fears and he knows our desires. He knows us so well that Jesus tells us he knows how many hairs are on our heads. In my case, it’s pretty easy!
God is certainly merciful when we think thoughts and do things that offend him, we all do this, but we are absolutely accountable for all of our thoughts and actions. We must decide each day to be faithful to him and to never deny him, regardless of what we think the consequences may be. And when we do fail, it is so important to pick ourselves up and get to confession so we can start anew, renewed by his grace and his mercy.
I’d like to tell you one more story about witnessing to your faith in public. Let me start by asking how many of you make the sign of the cross and pray before your meals? OK, now how many of you do this in public? When you go to a restaurant do you pray the same way you pray at home? If not, why not? Are you afraid of what others around you may think? Are you in some way ashamed to publicly give thanks to God for your meal?
Some years ago Christine and I were alone on a cruise. We didn’t go with friends, it was just the two of us. After boarding the ship it was lunch time. We went to the sumptuous buffet for a plate of food and went to sit at one of the nearby tables. As is our custom, we made the sign of the cross and prayed the blessing prayer over our meal, concluding with the sign of the cross.
About 5 minutes later someone from another table approached us and asked if we were Catholic. They had seen us make the sign of the cross and figured that it was quite likely we were. Of course we said we were and they went on to tell us that a group of them were on the ship from a parish in Florida with their pastor. They told us that they had plans to celebrate Mass every morning and wondered if we would like to join them.
Wow! Here we were concerned that we would most likely not be able to attend Sunday Mass due to the cruise ship’s schedule and now we were invited to participate in daily Mass. Why? All because we prayed before eating our lunch.
We were so happy to have found this group of Catholics and we enjoyed various activities with them throughout the week. We even gave the priest the nickname Father Flowrider, because he would use the surfing simulator on the ship called the Flowrider. We made new friends that day and our entire cruise experience was enhanced and blessed because of that small public witness to our faith.
Each of us must choose who is most important to please in life. Will we try to please others by keeping our faith a private matter? Or will we please God by always being willing to share our faith and its values in any setting?
Be not afraid! Trust God and he will never abandon you. He loves you more than you can ever know…all he wants is for you to trust him through your faithful witness to his love.
Don’t worry, he will inspire you with the words he wants you to speak as long as you are willing to speak them. As we would with any good friend, we must always be willing to defend Christ in every situation. This is how we show him that our love for him is true, that it is genuine.
At the end of the Mass today I will conclude our celebration by proclaiming the following: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”
Please pray this week how you might better glorify the Lord by the life you live. Resolve to make your faith more public so that the whole world will know that you are, indeed, a Catholic Christian. You may be surprised by what God does for you as a result of your resolve to live more publicly for him.
God bless you.