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12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 26, 2017


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By Deacon Jeff Mevissen


There are two clear messages in the Gospel today.  The first is the necessity for each follower of Christ to witness about Jesus and the second is that our Heavenly Father will support us when we witness.  Jesus paints a dark picture for those who fail to be witnesses for him: He says fear not the one who can make your life a living hell - fear the One who can make you live in hell.  Jesus adds that if we deny him on earth, he will deny us before the Father on the last day.  Regarding the support of the followers who are persecuted for their witness, Jesus says if God knows when each sparrow falls to the ground, how much more is he aware of our trials.  I want a T-shirt that says, "I'm more important than a sparrow.”

 

We might ask why Jesus is so sure we will encounter persecution when sharing the Good News. The truth is that Jesus encountered persecution in his ministry.  Recall how Jesus returned to Nazareth and at first the people were amazed at his success.  Then they said, "Do for us some of the works you have  performed in Capernaum."  Jesus refused their request because they were asking for a special favor as fellow Nazarenes.  Jesus performed mighty works not to be a spectacle but to glorify God.  The Nazarenes took offense at Jesus and wished to throw him off a cliff.  Jesus also could foresee the persecutions his followers would face - note that all of the twelve apostles were martyred except for John the Beloved.

 

We are proud of our Mission St. James missionaries who are in Honduras this week and we are grateful that they make us a missionary community.  We note that these brothers and sisters of ours are ordinary people with an extraordinary calling.  To be missionaries we simply need to answer the call of the Lord and trust in him.

 

We need not go to Honduras, however, to be missionaries.  Fr. Greg Wilson tells the story of how he observed a fellow grade school student make the sign of the cross when he prayed over his lunch.  Fr. Greg was so intrigued that he asked the boy about his prayer which led to Fr. Greg becoming Catholic and then becoming a priest.  Imagine a priestly vocation growing from one sign of the cross.  We plant the seed,  God supplies the growth.

 

While God provides the power behind our witness, we should prepare ourselves to answer the call of the Lord to be his witnesses.  1 Peter 3:15 advises us, "Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply, but speak gently and respectfully."  This means we should immerse ourselves in sacred scripture and study our Catholic traditions.  God will use us a instruments to speak to others but we must be ready to cooperate with grace and be ready to face resistance.

 

There was a movie released this Spring called, "Silence."  The movie is about persecution of Christians in Japan in the 17th Century.  The title refers to the perceived silence of God during the persecution when Christians were sought out to be beheaded, drowned, or bled to death while suspended upside down over a pit.  In fact, the movie points out God speaks through the willingness of His disciples to undergo suffering and death - the fidelity of disciples under persecution speaks of the fidelity of God for us.

 

I remember whenever my Mom grew anxious, my Dad would simply embrace her.  Dad surrounded Mom with strength and intimacy.  No words were spoken - no words were needed; the power of the message was the embrace.  In the same way, God need not speak when he supports our witness - God surrounds us with strength and intimacy in his embrace.