Dangers and courage
So they said then, but it did and it didn’t.
For a time, people banded together and many gathered in churches and other places of worship to seek comfort, guidance, and strength.
But in a little while, the political unity of those days would fracture and most people pretty much ended up going back to their old ways.
Except for the enemies of religion in general and Christianity in particular.
For decades they had been hewing with the axe of a twisted interpretation of the Constitution to suppress the “free exercise” of religion.
For years they had been more subtly stabbing with the dagger of political correctness to stifle the religious expressions of individuals in everyday life.
Now they had a new weapon: people of faith could be accused of being religious fanatics, just like the ones who flew airplanes into buildings and killed over three thousand people.
(Never mind, of course, that atheists and other enemies of religion have been responsible for the murder of tens of millions of men, women and children during the course of the past several decades, usually in groups of millions within a handful of years.)
Now popular singers can call for the banning of organized religion, comedians can have television shows ridiculing and denouncing faith, government agencies in North America and Europe can prosecute Christians for expressing their beliefs, and mainstream media websites can have atheists as some of the most prominent commentators in their “Faith” section.
It is not an easy environment for faithful Christians. The words of the prophet Jeremiah in today’s first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) resonate strongly:
Yes, I hear the whisperings of many:
"Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!"
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
"Perhaps he will be trapped;
then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him."
But the message of today’s readings is not to lament or to seek refuge in a “bunker mentality”.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes this very clear in today’s Gospel (Matthew 10:26-33):
What I say to you in the darkness,
speak in the light;
what you hear whispered,
proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid
of those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one
who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
Living and expressing our faith can sometimes be awkward, sometimes it can be dangerous, and we must exercise prudence and discernment, but we need to be clear in our own mind about what the greater dangers are.
Expressing our faith in word or deed may cause problems for a time, but failing to express our faith in word and deed may have an infinitely greater downside.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.
In this sometimes difficult world, may we cling to the Lord and may we find our refuge and strength in him.
But the LORD is with me,
like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble,
they will not triumph.
In their failure
they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts,
you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
for he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!