Blog & Pastor Letters

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 25, 2023

06-25-2023Weekly ReflectionRev. Ryan Muldoon

We live in an increasingly anonymous world. In this highly technological and post-pandemic age, fewer and fewer are the opportunities to meet people, to really meet people — to get to know someone intimately and to let oneself be known. A renewal of Catholic parish life is needed as so many anonymous Catholics slip into the pews and out again without anyone ever knowing their story, perhaps not even their name. Then again, we see so many who have stopped coming to church altogether, many of whom claim to be “spiritual, but not religious” — who connect with God, but without wanting the constraints of a religious community and the associated traditions.

We know that we are created in the image and likeness of God who is a Trinity, a communion of Persons. We were made by communion and for communion; man is a communal being, not meant to go through life alone. When it comes to the practice of our faith, our need for community is essential, not ancillary. As a being made by God, man naturally searches for him, and this relationship is meant to be lived out both personally and communally—that is, spiritually and religiously. In an age where isolation and loneliness are greater threats than ever, it is perplexing that so many attempt to “go it alone” spiritually, distancing themselves from a religious community. Catholic communities, especially Catholic parishes, should provide strong antidotes to today’s epidemic of loneliness.

In response to whatever and whomever may cause us anxiety or fear, Jesus speaks in the words of today’s Gospel: “Fear no one” and, we could add, fear nothing. Have no fear, be not afraid; these are such familiar words of Jesus, especially in his post-Resurrection appearances. We find a similar sentiment in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah in the First Reading, who trusts that “the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.” We need not be afraid of those who can harm only the body, but we need be wary only of the one who can “destroy both soul and body.” If we are living the life of a Christian in both its personal and communal dimensions, then the one who could destroy soul and body “will stumble” and “will not triumph.”

The fact that our faith has personal and communal dimensions means that we must exercise our faith both in our private and our public lives. In our private lives, there is our personal life of prayer and our striving for holiness in hidden ways each day. In our public lives, there is the person that we present at work, at school, at the grocery store, etc. In public, just as much as in private, we are called to be “unapologetically” Catholic (i.e., not to apologize for our faith). It is easier and, in fact, more comfortable to keep our faith a private, personal matter. However, there should be no division between who we are in private and who we are in public; Christ calls us to a unity of life. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. “But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

It’s relatively easy to agree on a personal level, in a private way, with our many Catholic beliefs: for example, that all life, especially life in the womb, is sacred; that Jesus reveals to us the truth about the human person and our sexuality; that we believe that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and that we must prepare ourselves to receive Him. This personal, private faith must manifest itself in my public life, too. Examples of “Catholic” politicians notwithstanding, I cannot privately hold one thing to be true and publicly uphold the opposite. What happens, then, when we must witness publicly to our faith, when we must speak up with our voices and with the witness of our lives for our beliefs? What about when we are called to publicly defend the sacredness of human life, to publicly speak the truth about the human person and human sexuality, to proclaim publicly our belief in the Eucharist? “Fear no one,” Jesus says.

As Catholics, we exercise the public dimension of our faith each time we come to Mass. Our inner, private following the Lord moves us to worship him publicly. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us powerfully that there is no substitute for attending Mass in-person — that we cannot be nourished in the same way from our homes on a Sunday morning. As human beings made for connection, we need community to live out our faith; we need the community that Christ founded, the Church. The Church is for us not only a community of like-minded individuals striving for holiness. The Church is the fount of grace, as Christ chooses to give his “gracious gift” through the sacraments, which come to us only through the Church. Strengthened by the grace of the seven sacraments, the Lord gives us what we need to be his followers in the private and the public dimensions of our lives, to be both “spiritual” personally and “religious” communally, acknowledging Christ before all.