12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Jesus says “Fear no one.”
What do you fear? For our new graduates, they can be happy and excited to have graduated but life transitions can bring the unknown and new things. Whether it be a new school, new job, or new stage of life in retirement, uncertainty can bring us some fear. I know from me personally my one fear is probably fear of the unknown.
Another fear might be “failure.” We don’t want to fail but we must not let that fear stop us from acting.
Another fear might be “rejection.” We might fear speaking up lest we become as our psalm says, “an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my children.”
Jeremiah faced similar issues. He was a prophet of God in a time when many people were not living as God commanded. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to tell them to change their ways. They didn’t like that. So they were plotting to kill him. These were the same people who had been friends with Jeremiah. One should note that if you read the entire book of Jeremiah, the people never say they disagree with Jeremiah and we are never told they attempt to prove him wrong. They don’t argue what he is saying. They just don’t want to have to do it. So they plot to get rid of him.
Like Jeremiah, we live in a society today where many people are not living as God has taught us. Today they are even bolder than in Jeremiah’s day insomuch as many today will argue against Church teaching or deny that God even exists.
There are some today that will freely speak publicly in favor of things that go against church teaching like same sex marriage but if someone speaks in against it, they label it as hate speech.
Today we even see the government trying for force people like pharmacists to prescribe drugs against their faith, medical staff to participate in procedures that violate their faith, and religious employers to provide insurance for medications they don’t agree with. We are not talking here about whether something should be legal or not. We are talking about people being forced to violate their conscience and their faith.
With this in mind, a few years ago our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), began an annual “Fortnight for Freedom” as a time to stand and pray for religious liberty. It hasn’t received much attention in the news or in the church. It begins on June 21st, the vigil of the memorial of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More and continues until July 4th when we celebrate our independence.
St. John Fisher was the Bishop of Rochester in England in 1535 (and hence with the connection of the name of the diocese is the patron saint of our diocese) while St. Thomas More was the chancellor of England under King Henry VIII.
Henry VIII had asked the Catholic Church to grant him an annulment from Catherine because she had not borne him a male heir. The Church denied the annulment as not having male children doesn’t affect the validity of the marriage. Henry VIII decided to split the church in England from the Catholic Church and named himself head of the church in England. He ordered the bishops and his court to sign a statement accepting this.
Saints John Fisher and Thomas More refused to follow the king’s order. They held to their faith over the king’s order. King Henry VIII ordered their execution and today they stand as martyrs in our Catholic Church.
The Fortnight for Freedom ends on July 4th, the day our nation celebrates its independence. Our Declaration of Independence refers to rights given by God. The First Amendment to our Constitution establishes the freedom of religion.
During these Fortnight for Freedom let us pray that we always be able to speak up for what we believe and for the courage to do so even when it is not popular opinion.