Message for 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Levine; June 21, 2020
Readings: Jer 20:10-13; Ps 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; Rm 5:12-15; Mt 10:26-33
June 13 was the day the Church celebrated St. Anthony of Padua. Everyone knows and loves St. Anthony. He helps us find our car keys. Well, on June 13 there was priest who made a very humorous and apt post on Facebook. It was a pretended tweet sent to St. Anthony and St. Anthony’s response. To St. Anthony: “Please help America find its sanity, it has been lost … thanks.” Response: “Dear Father; I have forwarded your letter to St. Jude.” I think most people know about St. Jude too.
The post speaks both to the gravity of our present situation, while at the same time giving expression to a unique Catholic humor that reminds us of the hope that enables us to face all the circumstances of life with a joyful spirit. That spirit of true hope is very needful for us now.
May St. Anthony, St. Jude, and all our friends in heaven intercede for us before the throne of God that we might find our way to the fulfillment of hope and so share with them the vision of God.
Hope does not hide from the reality of evil but gives us the strength to recognize and confront evil.
The times in which we live are evil. A woman I know, who was born in Poland in 1941 and spent the first years of her life in a Nazi concentration camp, then spent some years in a Displaced Persons Camp in France before her family came to the United States, recently told me that it has never been so bad.
Now, there are those who talk of ‘systemic injustice’, but even if they have correctly identified the injustice, their only solution is to destroy ‘the system’ – another injustice – in order to build something new. What they fail to realize is that they themselves, and all of us, are part of the true systemic evil about which we heard today in the 2nd reading, the evil of original sin and its effects, that remain as a task even after baptism, which can be remedied only in the measure that we turn to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance and are transformed by his gift of grace.
In the last analysis, the truly essential struggle of life is between the inheritance we have received from Adam (which is found in which one of us through the darkening of the mind, the malice of the will, the lack of courage, and the inclination to pursue sensual pleasure, as we flee from the inevitability of death) and the grace of Jesus Christ (through which the Holy Spirit gives light to our mind, turns our will to God, fills us with courage and strength, frees us from the slavery of passing pleasure, and directs us on the path to eternal life).
The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel focus our attention on what we need for this truly essential struggle between grace and sin.
First, though, we must back up to Jesus’ words that give us the context: No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household. (Mt 10:24-25)
Jesus is warning his followers that if they are faithful to him, they might well be regarded as the most wicked of men, enemies of the human race, partners of the devil. After all, during his own life Jesus’ enemies accused him of being possessed by the devil and even the devil himself and he was condemned to death for the crime of blasphemy against God. Why? Because he declared that in truth he was the very Son of God, equal to the Father. (cf. Jn 5:18, 10:33)
Today it is allowable to declare that a woman can be a man and a man can be a woman, but it is not permissible to affirm that one is in possession of the truth that comes from God. It is not permissible to affirm that the Catholic Church is in possession of the truth that comes from God. It is not permissible to affirm that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that there is no salvation except in him. Today that is judged as the most wicked, intolerant, and unacceptable doctrine.
We are, however, being offered a diabolic deal. We are being told, “You may hold on to all of that stuff as your ‘personal belief’ – but do not dare declare that it is true – and you may even be allowed your religious practice, once we have a vaccine for Covid-19, but for your part you must at least give lip service to the lie that a woman can be a man and a man can be a woman. Just burn a little incense before the shrine of LGBTQ and BLM and then we will leave you alone – maybe. Otherwise we will denounce you as wicked racists, homophobes, and transphobes, the vilest of creatures upon the earth. No one will want anything to do with you. No one will hire you.”
Does it seem strange to associate LGBTQ and BLM? Surely many people who have been caught up in the mania are unaware of this, but if you look through the official BLM website you will find that is integrated with LGBTQ; finally BLM is not about real racism, it is about rebellion, it is about overturning all established order; racism is merely the pretext. (https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/)
We are being hit from below with a protest movement that wants to destroy the evil ‘system’ – to which we necessarily belong if we refuse to affirm their creed or if we have the wrong skin color – and now we are also being hit from above by the US Supreme Court which has been bringing about the complete corruption of the system, leaving us with less and less to defend. Meanwhile, at every step of the way we are being lied to by the major news media and the so-called ‘experts’.
If we persist in following Christ, being faithful to him, and professing him before men, we will be hated and condemned for being the most wicked and hateful of all.
In this context, Jesus tells us: Do not be afraid of them. Even if you should die a cruel death with your reputation utterly ripped to shreds, there is nothing that is hidden that will not be brought to light. Nothing is hidden from God. The truth of our heart and the uprightness of our thoughts, if we are faithful, is known to him and he will vindicate us eternally. That is what counts: the judgment of God, not the judgment of men.
Do not be afraid of them. They could destroy our reputation and they could even kill us, but that is all that is in their power. So long as we do not yield to them in heart and mind we belong to God. Do not be afraid of bodily death, be afraid rather of eternal damnation. The essential struggle between sin and grace is the struggle between heaven and hell. If we give way to sin, we are the path to hell. If we submit ourselves to the rule of grace and persevere upon the way of grace, we will arrive at heaven, we will join St. Anthony and St. Jude and the other saints in the vision of God.
But does God really care for me?
Jesus, the Son of God, says: Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Yes, the Almighty Father cares for you and wants to guide you on the path to eternal life, providing with all that you need for your salvation, even in evil times like these. All things work together for the good of those who love God. (Rm 8:28)
Someone might reply: “But I am afraid because I am weak and frightened by everything taking place. The next words of Jesus speak about those who acknowledge him and those who deny him. I know I have denied him many times, both by my words and my actions. I have often been ashamed to let people know that I believe in Jesus. I have often failed to do something I should for fear of what people might think. I have often kept silence from fear.”
This parish of ours is dedicated in honor of St. Peter. He was there when Jesus said, He who denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. St. Peter also denied Jesus that night in the courtyard of the high priest, not once, but three times, with an oath. He denied Jesus, but he repented, and was forgiven. He denied Jesus, because he was relying on himself, not on Jesus.
In any case, St. Peter’s denial teaches us not to give up hope; St. Peter’s denial teaches us the implicit condition in Jesus’ statement. The meaning is: He who denies me before others, if he continues in that denial and does not repent, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
In the 3rd century the Church was divided as to whether or not an apostate, someone who denied Christ during a time of persecution, could be forgiven. The Roman Church, the Pope, the Successor of St. Peter affirmed that ‘yes’ he could be forgiven and receive absolution. So do not be afraid; put your trust in Jesus.
Fortified by that hope let us look squarely at how we are being asked to deny Jesus at this present time; how the US Supreme Court is asking us to deny Jesus.
The first article of the Creed is: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Without faith in God, the Creator, faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God makes no sense. The understanding of God the Creator is inseparable from the creation he made, which includes this: God made man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27) For good measure, Jesus himself affirms this very teaching: Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’. (Mt 19:4) Therefore denial of this fundamental, ineradicable distinction between male and female implies a falsification of the truth of creation, a denial of the Creator, and a denial of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Pronouns are little things, but let us be clear, when we are asked to call a ‘he’ a ‘she’ and a ‘she’ a ‘he’ we are not just being asked to lie, we are being asked to deny Christ, who affirmed that a ‘he’ is a ‘he’ and a ‘she’ is a ‘she’.
You have probably heard of the ‘mark of the beast’. The Book of Revelation tells us about all people small and great, rich and poor, free and slave being forced to receive a stamped image on their right hands or foreheads, so that no one could buy or sell except one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for the name. (Rev 13:16-17)
At this time of insanity when the craziest conspiracy theories can seem believable you may have heard of plans to force everyone to receive a microchip on their hand or forehead. Well, the technology seems to be there and there may even be people that want to institute such a means of control. Nevertheless, from a perspective of biblical symbolism, without getting worked up about deciphering the infamous number, something much more obvious is staring us in the face.
Whatever else the ‘mark of the beast’ involves, it involves a denial of Jesus Christ; in biblical language, the forehead represents the realm of intentional thought; the hand refers to actions or works. Thus to receive the mark of the beast on the forehead means to deny Christ in thought, to embrace a thought, belief, or ideology that is contrary to the faith; to receive the mark of the beast on the hand means to deny Christ externally, in word or deed.
So, if someone really thinks that a ‘he’ can be a ‘she and a ‘she’ a ‘he’, then he accepts the mark of the beast on the forehead, but if someone merely renders lip service, accepts making use of the chosen pronouns, just in order to get along, to keep his job, to stay out of trouble, he accepts the mark of the beast on the hand. The message will be: “You don’t have to really believe it, but just say the word in order to get along.”
It is beginning to look like the US Supreme Court, a proven false prophet, would have us at least receive the mark of the beast on our hand – otherwise our job, or our school, or our Church might be in danger.
Well, we live in evil times and scary times, but we must not be afraid. We must trust in God and in his plan.
As the same time, we must take to heart the words of Jesus to St. Peter: Watch and pray so that you do not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)
We must be aware of the evil that surrounds us, but we must not focus on the evil, but on Christ. We must set ourselves to the task at hand, the task that he has assigned us.
We each have an interior task: to fight against the sin and falsehood within our very selves, so as to make room for the kingdom of God’s grace, and to cooperate with that grace through the practice of virtue, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, and those very special Christian virtues of humility, patience, chastity, generosity, and mercy.
We each also have an exterior task that is most generally determined by the duties of our state of life: the duties of a husband or wife, of a father or mother, of a son or daughter, of a brother or sister, of a priest, or of a consecrated religious.
We must above all seek to do the will of God, because it is his will and in the manner that he wills.
As for the evil around us, pray the rosary; pray the chaplet of divine mercy; unite yourself with the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and offer your own life to God through, with, and in Jesus Christ. Do these things all the more urgently, the greater the evil presses upon us.
Pray also for the conversion of sinners; pray for the conversion of sinners with a view not to the evil they have done, or the lies they have bought into, but with a view to the dignity of the immortal soul for which Jesus Christ shed his blood. Pray for the conversion of sinners with sure knowledge that sin does not bring happiness and blessing, but comes from the utter poverty and wretchedness of a heart that has turned away from God. Pray for the conversion of sinners that they might be delivered from the fires of hell.
We turn now to Our Lady of Fatima who asked for and has received entrance into this parish. She has been given to us as our protection in these times. I think everything I said very much accords with her message to the shepherd children, which accords with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and applies it to our own age. We can take heart from her promise to Sr. Lucia: “My Immaculate Heart will be your comfort and the way which will lead you to God.” (Apparition, June 13, 1917) And the great promise made known to the children as part of the ‘secret of Fatima’: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. (Apparition, July 13, 1917)
Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.