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Daring to speak the Truth ...

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 84(83):10-11 — “Turn Your eyes, O God, our shield; and look on the face of Your anointed one; one day within Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”

First Reading: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 — “A man of strife and contention to all the land.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 40:2, 3, 4, 18 — “Lord, come to my aid!”

Second Reading: Heb 12:1-4 — “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us.”

Alleluia: Jn 10:27 — Alleluia, alleluia. “My sheep hear My voice, says the Lord; I know them and they follow Me.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Lk 12:49-53 — “I have come not to establish peace, but rather division.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 130(129):7 — “With the Lord there is mercy; in Him is plentiful redemption.”

We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his or her life in defense of a just cause. In discussing fortitude, the Catechism references two passages in Scripture: Psalm 118 states that ‘the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation’ (Ps 118:14). And in the Gospel of Saint John, Jesus tells us: ‘I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’(Jn 16:33) [CCC 1808].

When considering that, if I were to sum up this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word, one of the things I’d say is that we must speak the truth even when we know there will be pushback. For example, I’m hoping that parents and grandparents know they must challenge the wrong behavior of their children and grandchildren even if the response is a door slammed, a foot stomped, or a pouty face. Can parents or grandparents claim to truly love their children if they don’t discipline them when necessary? I believe the same goes for Pastors, Teachers, Coaches, or, for that matter, anyone charged with leading others. If we care about the ultimate welfare of those for whom we are responsible, can we claim to love them if we do not challenge their wrong behaviors and attitudes? And having said that, if we are on the receiving end of challenges such as those, perhaps we need to consider that reasoning and do an internal self-check before lashing out or claiming we were wronged.

Jesus Christ was sent by the Father on a mission. He was to establish the kingdom of God, preaching the Good News of repentance and salvation. He taught His disciples what it meant to live in the Kingdom, and the behaviors and values inherent in doing so: mercy, unconditional love, commitment to justice, concern for the least ones, and more. In His teaching, Jesus was offering us the path to new life. Yet He knew not all would embrace His message, especially if and when His words challenged their behavior and attitudes.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “I have come to set the earth on fire.” He came to purify and refine. He came to free us from sin and all that squeezes life out of us. Those who embraced His way might, in fact, find themselves at odds with their father, mother, sister, brother, or friend. Surely this was not their intent, but alienation could well result from their choice to follow Jesus.

The prophet Jeremiah faced resistance and even persecution for the Word of God he proclaimed. Faithful to God’s call, he reminded the people of Israel and their leaders that corruption, greed, and inattentiveness to the orphan, widow, and poor were not part of God’s plan and would lead only to ruin. For speaking the truth, he was thrown into a cistern filled with mud and left there to die. To his credit, Jeremiah did not back down from preaching God’s Word, even though he knew there could well be dire consequences. This perseverance and determination made a difference to Ebed-melech, the court official, because he argued for and brought about Jeremiah’s rescue.

Christian discipleship is not a popularity contest. Inevitably, there is a cost involved. For followers of Jesus Christ, we trust that His path ultimately leads to Eternal Life. We should, therefore, never apologize for the Truth, nor ever shrink from articulating and living it. Whether as a Parent, a Co-worker, a friend, or a neighbor, we can ask the Lord’s help in being a voice for Gospel living ... speaking the truth in love against behaviors and values that run contrary to God’s commands, especially when there are offenses against the human dignity of another.

In the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we are encouraged to persevere in running the race, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus who, Himself, embraced the Cross so that we might have life. The passage reminds us that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnessesthe Saints – men and women identified by the Church who are our heroes for their courageous living of God’s Word. We need to learn from them. Living the Gospel is not always easy and may even lead to opposition. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we need to walk in His way and trust that life now and forever awaits those who are faithful. Saint Michael the Archangel ... pray for us. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family of the Nativity ... pray for us. Saint Catherine of Siena ... pray for us. All Holy Men and Women ... pray for us.

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