TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The gospel reading this weekend is part of what is called the Missionary Discourse. Jesus was instructing his Apostles on what to expect as he sent them out into the world to preach the Good News. He tells them that they will have the same power that he has to heal the sick and to expel demons. But he goes on to tell them that they can expect the same treatment that he will receive. It will not always be easy to proclaim the gospel.
Jesus says, “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.” It’s quite a promise, isn’t it? As Jesus instructs his apostles, he gives this promise to them, and through them to us. This promise is at the very heart of our Christian faith. All we have to do is declare ourselves to be openly in favor of Christ and of his Gospel.
It doesn’t seem much, does it? Yet, if we look at it in another way it is everything. We declare ourselves openly for Christ but of course we then have to start living accordingly. If not, it is the same as denying Christ, and this will mean the other side of Christ’s promise – if we disown him, He will disown us.
The plain truth is that if countless numbers of people down the generations had not openly declared themselves for Christ and suffered the consequences of doing so, and quite often this meant torture and death, then we would not be where we are today. There would be no church buildings, there would be no community of Christians. The Church of today is built on the foundations of those who openly declared themselves for Christ.
A famous man of the world was asked if he was a Christian. His answer was, “Yes, but not offensively so.” He meant that he did not let his Christianity interfere with the things he did or the lifestyle he led. There is the other man who when asked was he a Catholic said of course he was. He was then asked if he went to Sunday Mass. He said, “I’m a Catholic, not a fanatic.”
There are three principle ways we can deny Christ. We can deny him by our words, by our silence and by our actions.
Each of us has moments like Peter when the cock crows; moments when we are deeply shamed by our open denial of Christ. We are put on the spot and we brazenly deny him. There are other times when we fail to speak up. We see we are outnumbered and so we say nothing. And we deny him by our actions, by living the sort of life that is unworthy of a Christian. We do this in many ways: by basing our life on lies; by manipulating others, by cruelty; by a life driven by values contrary to the gospel.
Because of what others may think, or because it may cost us in some way, often we deny declaring ourselves for Christ or for the Gospel. It has been said, that every Christian occupies some kind of pulpit, and preaches some kind of sermon every day. A banner I saw somewhere says, “You are the only Gospel some people will ever read.” Being a Christian requires being totally a Christian. There is no way of being a half-Christian. We hear the sayings: “Don’t rock the boat; leave well enough alone; let sleeping dogs lie; don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong; those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Mind your own business!” At times, this is good advice – except where truth and justice are concerned. Truth and justice are the business of every Christian, and no Christian can remain silent or uninvolved if truth or justice suffers. Christians not only should get involved but are obliged to get involved. And that can be unpopular!
We spend all our lives worrying about what others may think or about what others may do. We plan our words and actions around their possible responses. We actually, very often calculate our behavior to win friends. Well, today we are called to be Christian – in all that this means. We are called to worry about what God thinks of us. One day we will be judged by the absolute holiness and absolute truth of God. Our human fears will mean nothing then. Truth and justice is the business of every Christian. We must never remain silent in the face of injustice! If we remain silent about Christ before men. Christ will remain silent about us to the Father.