The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 21, 2020
“We Proclaim Truth!”
Jeremiah 20: 7-13
Psalm 69: 10-18
Romans 6: 1-11
Matthew 10: 24-33
Patriarch Craig Bates
I am really excited to be speaking to the Cathedral of the King even though I’m sitting in my bedroom in New York thousands of miles away. As I’m speaking, my mind is just rushing full of memories of having to spend a little while there and at the same time, filled with some sadness knowing that I won’t be able to be there for a while because of the corona virus. But I want you to know that the minute that those travel bans are lifted and it is safe, one of the first things I shall do will be to come back to the Philippines and to certainly be with you at the Cathedral of the King.
Happy Father’s Day! It’s one of the holidays that Americans and Filipinos share in common. Both countries are setting aside some time to honor fathers and I think it’s a good thing. Just as it is with Mother’s Day, it is a good thing to pause for a while and to honor fathers. Particularly, to honor fathers who have been faithful and who have taught us well; the fathers who have spoken good things in our lives and who make sure that we are taken care of and provided for. It is especially good, as Christian men, to reflect as well on our own fatherhood. Are we preparing young men to be good fathers? Are we passing on a legacy of character and righteousness?
I know that the Cathedral of the King has had a really good ministry to men and has a deep concern about raising up young men who are going to be good husbands and good fathers; not only because they are going to marry and become parents, but because there is a critical need in the world today – both in America and in the Philippines – for men of God to be the light in the world and to become leaders.
Let us thank God for the men in our families and the men in the Church. Thank God for our Bishop Ariel, who is a good father and a good husband as well. He is a good father to the Priests and Deacons; and he is a good father to us, the family of God. Let us thank God for the priests who serve us so faithfully.
I can picture in my mind the face of the Priests at the Cathedral of the King, some of them have been faithful for over three decades – serving God’s family and pouring out their lives; and the Deacons as well, many of whom are fathers. They are the Clergy who are acting faithfully and willing to sacrifice, to live selflessly by giving their time to do spiritual warfare in the heavenly realms, and to feed us with the Word.
Let us be thankful for the faithful husbands and fathers at the Cathedral of the King who work day after day to strengthen their families, who love and cherish their wives and their children. I look at the Cathedral of the King and I am thankful to see so many healthy, smiling children who love and serve God. The Church has also raised up a generation of young adults. I remember the Convocation wherein the young adults took the leadership. They were ready to lead not only in the Church but also in the world. And I believe the Holy Spirit, through the wisdom of the Church, is moving among men and women.
I don’t want to give a Father’s Day sermon. Rather, I think the Holy Spirit wants us to look at the Gospel this morning in Matthew 10. Jesus was well aware that we would have hard times in the world. Everyone - believers and non-believers of Jesus. We all have hard times; and all of us, in one time or another, will suffer. It is not a matter of whether we believe or not. Suffering comes into our lives.
I know that the Cathedral of the King, in the past few months, suffered because of the death of a great Deacon and servant. The Church also suffered the death of a godly woman who served the poor and had such a love and heart for life. We suffered together. Others suffered a loss of a family. Sometimes, we suffer hardships. We get discouraged. We get disappointed. We sometimes grow weary. It happens, and it happens to everyone, no matter where one lives or whatever one’s circumstances are. It happens whether one is a person of faith or not.
These circumstances are not in our control. But for those of us who claim to be disciples – to be followers and believers of Jesus – we have an additional burden upon us whether we believe it or not. We have been chosen by Jesus, by God, to bring His love, His forgiveness, His mercy and above all, His truth to the world. Jesus tells us that in following Him in our daily walk, and as we try to come closer and closer to Him, we will find peace, contentment and joy. It is not going to be because of the removal of the hard times or the removal of the suffering or even the removal of the difficulties. Instead, it will be because He will be working in our hearts. With our hearts close to Him, we will receive peace that surpasses all understanding.
In the Gospel, Jesus is talking to His disciples – those who decided to follow Him, like you and I. They know what they are being called to – to be like Him and to invite the Holy Spirit to take over their lives so that they can be like Jesus. They said “yes” – to go into the world – to their families and their neighborhood. For some, they go a long way from home. This is still true today. Jesus is looking at us, and if we are His disciples, He will say, “Where are you willing to go?”
In the Book of the prophet Isaiah, he had a vision of heaven. When God said, “Whom shall I send?”, Isaiah replied, “Send me.” “Send me” is to go to Him, to our families, to our neighborhood, and into work with the poor. I know you have one Church who ministers to the people in the prisons, while others are ministering to drug addicts and alcoholics. I know your Church has been faithful. It has been a hard time to bring food to the poor and to bring medical care, but the Church is the one whom Jesus sends to proclaim the Gospel. Some are called to proclaim the Gospel, to go into a mission field that may be thousands of miles away.
Most of you know a dear friend of mine, Bishop Elmer, who left the Philippines 30 plus years ago when he was a young man in his early 20’s. He started the mission in Europe and look at how it has expanded to reach hundreds and hundreds of people. Now, a whole new generation is being raised up there to follow the Gospel. But we don’t have to go to Europe, and I am not suggesting this. Some of you might be called and it will take with you a job or some other reason to get there; but you’ll be placed in a mission field. The important thing is: are you listening to where God wants you to be? Are you where God wants you to be?
Jesus tells us that if we follow Him, we will have enemies. Why? Because Jesus had enemies. We will be persecuted because He was persecuted. We’ll have trials because He had trials. We will be betrayed by friends because He, too, was betrayed by friends. All of these are to be expected; but He tells us: do not be afraid. Do not fear your enemies or those who wish you harm.
I remember when John Paul II came out of the balcony when he was elected as Pope. The cameras and media were all on Rome. Nobody knew who the Pope was going to be and out came John Paul II. Everyone around the world was shocked that he was elected because first, he wasn’t Italian. In the first 500 years, there has never been anyone but an Italian pope. Second, he was from Poland. However, the Church said that John Paul II was the man chosen by the Spirit to lead us.
I have learned how incredible of a man John Paul II was. He suffered so much. He lost his entire family. His mother, father and brother all died when he was still a young man - way before he reached adulthood. He was also a young man when he decided to go to the seminary. That time, Poland was controlled by the Nazis, so he had to attend seminaries underground and in hiding. When he came out of the seminary and eventually became a priest, he spent his entire ministry living under communism and dealing with the communist regime. Those were troubling times, and Poland had a church that was not far off the demands and dictates of the communism. Until finally, the communist surrendered the government and Poland became a democratic country. Under John Paul II, there was a tremendous revival in the Catholic Church. I have been there and I have seen young people pray and lead other nations with Christian values. It’s one of the only countries in Europe wherein abortion is still illegal.
When John Paul II, unknown, appeared at the balcony and spoke, his first words were: do not be afraid; do not fear. Hearing these words from this Polish Pope – you knew that something powerful is going to happen; that great things are going to be accomplished. John Paul II became a Pope to all people, and he knew that circumstances work on a change.
There are going to be difficult circumstances, and fear is indeed a powerful force. The real danger of fear is that it can cause panic, anxiety, and depression. It can actually bring us to hopelessness. And fear causes us either to hide or to do nothing. It prevents us and stands in the way of us finding joy, peace and hope that God has for us. And so Jesus says to you and I, “Don’t be afraid of your enemies.” The truth will come out. God is fighting for us. Don’t be afraid of our critics. In fact, He says, “If they criticize you for preaching the Gospel, preach it louder.” Be more aggressive with preaching the Word of God. Shout from the rooftop the love of Jesus! Shout from the rooftop the hope that Jesus has to offer! Shout from the rooftop the things of God! Don’t be afraid. The voice of our critics and our enemies are not the voice of God.
We spend too much time thinking about what others think of us. The truth is that they are not really thinking about us. We just think that they are thinking about us, and we spend our time worried about what they’re thinking. However, we spend so little time thinking about what God thinks of us, which is what we really need to think about.
Stop being afraid of those who are against you. Know that Christ is for you; and that you have brothers and sisters who are for you. God loves you, and He loves you with an unconditional love that’s extravagant, reckless, selfless and sacrificial. God is not going to give up on you. He is not going to stop loving you. He has surrounded you with people who love you and care about you. When you get out there and think that you are all alone, and that the circumstances are too big, stop being afraid. Just do what God wants you to do and become the person that God wants you to become. He will not forsake you. He will work with you and in you. God will not stop working in you and with you. You’re loved by God.
God knows you. He knows everything about you and every circumstance that you’re going through. God knows what it’s about. In Matthew 10:30, Jesus says, “Even the hairs on your head are numbered.” This is how much He knows about you. And even if one sparrow drops, God knows the sparrow. And so He knows you. God knows your family. God knows your children. In fact, if the children are baptized, they belong to God; they are His, not yours; and He promises to take care of them, and so Jesus says, “Stop being afraid.”
Think of God’s love because perfect love casts out all fear. God’s love causes God to know everything. It is God’s love that says, “Whenever you feel hopeless, know that I’m not going to abandon you.” It is God’s love that says to us that He is answering our prayers, that He has heard them and He has responded to them. “Don’t be afraid” is God saying to us, “I’ll take care of you and I’ll be with you until the end of the ages.” Knowing that and walking away from fear, or walking in faith in God’s love, in the person of Jesus, allows us to step out. Fear doesn’t move mountains. Faith moves a mountain. Faith will work in us and in the impossible. Faith puts us in the unseen realm of God where all the spiritual blessings are ours.
Step out today to do the work of God! Listen today in the Eucharist, in the readings, perhaps even in the sermon, and in the prayers of the people. Listen today, particularly young men and women. Listen, godly men and women who are called to lead the Cathedral. Listen!! Listen to the tug in your heart. If you are young, perhaps you’ll become a priest or a missionary or a teacher or even a missionary nurse or a missionary doctor. What is the Voice saying to you? Don’t be afraid to do it. If you do it, you will find God’s meaning and purpose for your life.
In this Cathedral, I know that the young adults here are like a generation of Joshua who are going to conquer the Promised Land and lead this Church into a renewal – not only of the Church, but of the land around us. I encourage you today. Think on God’s love. Think on God’s mercy. Hear His voice. God is asking, “Who shall I send?” Can you answer, “Send me?”
“Father, we want to hear Your voice. It’s the only voice that matters. We want to know You and know You more. Lord, make us Your servants. Lord, move in us toward a level of faith that’s mountain moving. Work in us, Lord, a courage that is birthed out of Your love, mercy and forgiveness. Send forth your people, Lord. Send forth an army to win not just one but thousands for Your Kingdom. Amen.”