My friends in Christ, the Gospel of Matthew tells us, “Do not fear those who kill the body; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is a very powerful passage of the Holy Bible. In simple English it means, “Bear your crosses and at the end, you shall be rewarded.” Those who deny their crosses, they shall be disowned by the Lord.
As I began preparing my homily I was reminded of someone we studied during the early phase of my Diaconate formation. This modern Saint is the epitome of someone who bore his cross and feared not those who would harm. This man was St. Maximillian Kolbe. Maximillian Kolbe was a Polish priest who died as a prisoner in Auschwitz on Aug. 14, 1941. When a prisoner escaped from the camp the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed in reprisal. One of the 10 selected began to cry out, “My wife, my children! I will never see them again!” At this Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place;his request was granted. After two weeks of trying to starve him to death, they gave Fr. Kolbe a lethal injection. In his death we can find many great themes of sacrifice, but to me here is a man that had no fear of mortal man, but found it better to carry the cross of death.
Now back to our readings. Today’s first Reading from the Book of Jeremiah recalls an event that took place in the days of the Old Testament. In those days, the Lord God had called the great prophet Jeremiah as His spokesperson to warn the people of the coming judgement that awaited Israel because of the sins of the people. The unbelievers laughed at Jeremiah. They plotted against him so that they could silence him. Frustrated with the people, Jeremiah decided to keep quiet, to stop talking on behalf of God. The Lord implanted on the heart of Jeremiah the eternal dishonor that awaits all who those who reject the Lord. Jeremiah was burning with such an intense fire within his heart that he could no longer withhold the warnings of the Lord. He had to speak up on behalf of the Lord. Upset that Jeremiah was again speaking on behalf of the Lord, the wicked people tried to trick him, hoping to get his downfall so they could get their revenge.
In much the same way the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus and to entrap Him when He began to speak about the evil of the people. That evil is the same kind of evil that continues to this day against those who try to persevere in their living faith in Jesus Christ as true Christians. Many try to put out the light of Christ because it exposes corruption, dishonesty, oppression, lust and many of the evils that are found in the hearts of some men, all in the name of “Political Correctness.” Against these evil ones it is our duty as Christians to stand up and make our voices heard as true followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reading from the Gospel of Matthew advises us not to fear men. Remember the words of Jeremiah from Ch. 20 v11, “The Lord is with you like a dread warrior. Your persecutors will stumble and they will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will not be forgotten.”
We must never forget that by the sacrifice of Jesus we were made righteous in the eyes of God through faith and the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the Sacrament of Confession our righteousness is maintained throughout our Christian life. When we walk our faith with Jesus, in Jesus and through Jesus, in the eyes of God we are more valuable than two sparrows. Every hair of our heads is counted. We are able to affirm that we will not stumble for the Lord is with us. The Lord is our strength. He knows the hearts of all, those dark secrets of those who plot against us. One day everything will be uncovered and the truth will be known to all.
Our only fear should be fear of the Lord and the eternal dishonor that awaits those who turn away from the Lord because of their fear of men. Fear not men; fear God. If we acknowledge Jesus before others, He will acknowledge us before His Heavenly Father. The Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if we are children of God, then heirs of God in union with Christ. In fact, we suffer with Christ so that we might also be glorified with Christ. For, if we deny Christ before others, He will also deny us before our Heavenly Father. The Spirit of Christ will not testify on our behalf. We will have lost our one and only advocate, Jesus Christ. He, being the only one to defend our cause before the Father.
My friends today’s message is that Christ died for our righteousness so we may inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Since Christ suffered because of the truth, we should not expect to be treated better than he was. With Christ, we must persevere in our living faith for the glory of the Body of Christ that embraces all the baptized who live their Christian life.
Our true friends are Jesus and all the saints who dwell in the invisible Kingdom of God, the great prophets and all those who humbly served in their lives for the glory of God. Today we may be rejected by many, possibly our family our peers or our co-workers because of our living faith. While this is so we must remember that we will not stumble because the Lord is with us. In the end, by the Grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be victorious in our race towards eternal salvation and the final resurrection of the elect. AMEN!!!!