They Can Take What We Possess – But They Can’t Take What We Are

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.

November 20, 2022

June 25, 2017

Matthew 10:26-33

Listen to audio Hear Audio of this homily.

So do not be afraid of them.

Everything now covered up will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.

I had the opportunity to go home and to lay my Mom to rest. And it was a very bitter sweet moment – it still affects me, even today But, I think, as most people if you lost someone so close to you who has been a part of your life since you’ve been here, you kind of go back and take stock of your life. And so that’s what I did. And as I drove through the town, I started noticing there in our little town how much had actually changed. There were buildings where there used to be no buildings. And there were no buildings where there used to be many buildings. No more was it more obvious than when I went to where I attended elementary school. They had completely torn the building down. And our elementary and our high school had been moved to a totally different site. Now the thing that I discovered at that point was, they can take the buildings, but they cannot take our memories. And as I sat there and looked across the ground, I kept remembering all the things that had happened through my years in school. And one, today I would like to share with you, happened in the fifth grade.

Now, as fifth grade started, we had a new kid in our class.  He wasn’t new to the school, he was new to our class because of for the second time in just seven years he had been held back. And he was a very angry young man. Looking back from my vantage point today, I can understand. I mean, twice he had been ripped from people he had made friends with who were classmates and had to start over. And now he was starting over again.

And so, while I can understand that now, when I was in the fifth grade, this guy was big for his age. So, when you hold him back twice, and put him in with a group of kids, now he’s gigantic. And when you miss the size with the anger, you have the perfect ingredients for a bully. And so that’s what we experienced. We were all very much afraid of him. We refused to say anything when he was picking on someone. We would figure that as long as it was somebody else, it wasn’t us. We didn’t want to say anything ‘cause we didn’t want to draw his attention to us.

Now, as I said, he was a very, very big kid. Now I, on the other hand, was a very small kid for my age. I can see the disappointments [laughter]. Just because you have gotten use to the perfection you see standing before you now, doesn’t mean I was never small.

Nothing got me in trouble or anything with him until one day, he decided to pick on my best friend. And so, I snapped. Now, I know a lot of you like to flip to the back of the book and try to figure out how it all ends. You’re thinking right now this is going to be a David and Goliath story. The little guy beats the big guy and eveything’s wonderful in the world. I have to agree that would be a wonderful story. It’s just not this story. When I say I snapped, that should be a clue to the fact that I didn’t really think through what was going to be happening after this.

But I was running toward this big brute, somehow, he thought that making his arm like [making a circle with his arm against his body trapping the opponent’s head inside] was going to protect him from me. I mean, it took almost no effort to get my head in this little bitty place, and it confused him so badly that he was walking around with me like that, still trying to squeeze. So, since I had him confused [laughter], I decided it was time to change tactics. So, I took this little skirmish to the ground. Now when I say I took it to the ground there was some maneuvering, but eventually I got him in just the right spot, and down we went. During the maneuvering, I somehow placed my body between his body and the ground thus cushioning his fall [laughter], but at the same time leaving no room for air in my lungs, and so it just came out in a big whoosh.

Now, I have to assume, that about this time I was thinking that this was probably not the best move that I had ever made. I say I have to believe that because my memory becomes a little bit – fuzzy – during this time, probably due to the lack of oxygen to my brain. But only thing I remember very crystal clear was his grip on my head loosening, his weight on my body lifted, and as my eyesight came back, I saw this wonderful vision of him flying through the air! And I thought God had come to take care of this whole thing. Turned out to be one of my older sister’s friends who saw what was going on and he decided to stop it. And then he stands there and tells this kid, “I’d better not ever see you picking on these guys again.” So, in reality, he was sent by God.

Now for all you young guys, who are sitting in here, I am not condoning physical violence. It really doesn’t solve anything. So, parents, explain what condoning is, a little bit later. But I do want to say that the reason I used this particular memory, and made it a little bit lighter, is because the message today in the first reading and the gospel are pretty heavy. We are facing, I believe, the ultimate bully, as a Christian faith.

The evil throughout the world that we know is trying everything it can to destroy the Church that Jesus established for us. In Jeremiah today we hear, “I hear whisperings of many. Terror on every side. Denounce. Let us denounce him. All those who were my friends are now on a watch for any misstep of mine. Perhaps he will be trapped. Then we can prevails and take our vengeance on him.”

So, in what was once known as a very Judeo-Christian country, and the laws that were based on a Mosaic law, are now under attack. Any indication anywhere of the origin of these laws in the 10 Commandments there are fights to have them struck from public buildings and from public papers. Our schools are told that they cannot teach or even speak of our Christian beliefs unless, of course, they are being ridiculed. Our placed of employment choose to remove anything that references our faith. Striking out Christmas Party in lieu of Holiday Party even though the holidays are there because of the birth of Jesus Christ.

And around the world, people who profess to be Christian are murdered, raped, and beaten, simply for believing the message of Christ and a loving God. Missionaries carrying out that message are captured and killed or imprisoned. Much of this the forces of evil try to do in secret. But the Gospel today says that nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. So, they may try to do it in the dead of the night, but because there are so many areas of the media now, these messages are found out. And yet, we still sit silent, even as Jesus calls out today in the Gospel, “But I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light what you hear whispered. Proclaim from the housetops.” And yet we’re silent.

Now I can’t speak to what God is saying to you in prayer. I can’t speak to whatever God may be calling you to do. I don’t know who may be called to missionary work. I don’t know who God may be calling to help our legislators draft legislation to stop the onslaught of anti-Christian laws. Or who might be called to stand a line at a pro-life rally. I don’t know what it is you are called to, but I can promise you that every person sitting in this building right now is being called to something. I also know that we don’t need to fear. In both the first reading and the Gospel we are told not to fear those we will come face-to-face with.

When Jeremiah says, “But the Lord is with me like a mighty champion, my persecutors will stumble. They will not triumph.” And then Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

We shouldn’t fear man but rather the evil that is guiding our fellow man to persecute the Church. If you are afraid then you need to gird yourself – prepare yourself for battle – because all of us are being called to join into a holy warfare. You need to gird yourself by learning more about your faith in areas instead of just coming and hearing a Sunday homily. You need to desire to be more than a space in a pew. You need to become a disciple that Jesus is calling you to be. You need to become an evangelist.

And because evil does not take a holiday, evil is not letting up and the attacks are only going to get worse. So, don’t sit silent. Join the battle. Don’t think that you can just sit on the sidelines because you are afraid of the bully that we know is evil.

The next 3 verses of the Gospel of Matthew that we read today is a warning you can’t just huddle your family inside your home and just think that everything’s going to be okay as it passes you by because in Matthew chapter 10, verses 34-36, Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace, but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-on-law against her mother-in-law. And one’s enemies will be those in his own household.”

Now this is a warning against checking out and staying home. It’s a warning about becoming complacent because if its not happening to us, then we need to stay out of it. Otherwise, it will be turned on us. That’s the instinct that we naturally come to when we face a bully. But this bully that we’re facing cannot just be ignored in hope that he won’t come after us. He’s already after us.

And Jesus warns, “Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my Heavenly Father.” We deny Him any time we allow evil to happen. We deny Him when we gossip against others in a hurtful way. We deny Him when we bully those who can’t protect themselves. We deny Him when we lead someone away from a relationship with God. We deny Him whenever we take the life of an unborn or abuse someone who cannot protect themselves. We deny Him when we choose convenient over what is right.

If we cannot stand up for even the most precious – the unborn – how then, can we expect Jesus to stand up for us?

Brothers and Sisters, we are needed. So, we need to get involved. Because, as Edmund Burke once wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing. Don’t sit idly by and let others fill the breach. Don’t be the one to allow evil, and the bully, to win.

At least that’s what I heard Him say…

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