Fear no one….Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven (Mt. 10: 26, 32).
Our Lord addresses these words to us as He did to His Apostles; and we need these words of encouragement and reassurance as we contend with the challenges of remaining faithful to the integrity of our Catholic faith, as it is attacked and undermined from without and from within. The intolerance of the tolerant, as we often see, brooks no opposition. ‘Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Mt. 10:16). These are words of warning against the ill will and violence to be expected from those God wants to save. How ironic; and yet it tells us something of God’s love for us that despite our sinfulness, He continues to seek us out. The whole object of their being sent is that they might proclaim openly before the world what they have heard secretly from Jesus. The same is true of us. Disciples are to world what Jesus is to disciples: this is the whole equation of salvation history (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the World, Vol. I, p. 594). In asking the Apostles, and us, to acknowledge Him before the world, Our Lord is asking us literally, to say the same as (όμολογέω) He said; that is, to be faithful to His word and not to alter it in any way. What I tell you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops (Mt. 10:27). The disciple may neither add nor subtract from what he has heard from His Master.
Our attentive reading and hearing of the gospels each Sunday, and our efforts to be faithful to Our Lord’s teaching, fraught as these may be because of our weaknesses, is what is required of us who believe the Church to be both mother and teacher (mater et magistra). Those who advocate for a ‘listening church’ that would subject the immutable teaching of Our Lord to contemporary demands and worldly fashion and concerns would do well to reflect on the demands of faithful discipleship and prophetic witness. A servant is not greater than his master (Jn. 15:20).
In both the Sacred Scriptures and in Sacred Tradition Our Lord has left us all that is needed for our own salvation and for the evangelization of the nations. What is needed most in our days, are shepherds who will speak the truth boldly and bravely. Yesterday, June 24th, we celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The collect of the Mass expressed in a succinct manner (as collects are meant to do) what we need to do even and perhaps especially because we are like sheep without a shepherd: truly repent according to [John’s] preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake. To suffer patiently is never easy; but we must never forget that though evil seems to triumph, this victory is always for a short time. God is not mocked. So we take comfort from the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed (20:11).
Fear no one. So Our Lord instructs us; yet is there anyone we should fear? In the words of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, when asked if she feared the Prussian troops advancing towards Paris, she said, ‘I fear only bad Catholics…nothing else’. We do well to take this to heart. If our collective task is to be the light of the world, then St. Bernadette’s fear is completely justified. Church burnings, cancelled priests and bishops, religious indifference on the part of most, locked churches, the sacred liturgy violated, schools overtaken by transgender ideology; we have seen a lot. And this is by no means an exhaustive list. We live in a culture of competing and conflicting anthropologies, to put it mildly. We can bemoan the fact that we live in insane times or we can bravely acknowledge that these are the times allotted to us and Our Lord expects us to acknowledge His truth and yes, also to fight the good fight so that we might keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7).
Above all, we must have a reverential fear of God for then we can indeed fear no one. St. Ephraim the Syrian (306-373), says of this reverential fear: Whoever fears God stands above all manner of fear. He has become a stranger to all the fear of this world and placed it far from himself, and no manner of trembling comes near him. Practically, we must resolve all the more to live a profoundly Catholic life, a life of devout humility centred on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; for here we are immersed in the truth about God and man. Let us endeavour always to give primacy of place to God and the order established by Him in everything we do; even as government legislation attempts to impose a totalitarian order on us and doctrinal confusion causes many to stray from the truth of the faith.
In the midst of this irrational order, we must all the more deliberately endeavour to establish communities inspired by the truth of God and the charity of Christ Our Lord. Catholics evidently have done this before us; and with the help of God’s grace we can do it in our day. May our communities radiate the truth and the charity of God; that those confused and tired and victimized by the lies of the world will find among us a haven of sanity, of order, of true charity, and of peace.
May God our Heavenly Father hasten the triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart.