Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Homily for July 7th, 2016: Matthew 10:7-15.

“Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,  or sandals, or walking stick,” Jesus tells the Twelve as he sends them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He wants those whom he commissions as his messengers to travel light. They are to depend not on material resources, but on the Lord alone.

          Jesus’ words are especially relevant today. All over the world, the forces hostile to the Church are rising. In our own country the government is trying to impose on Catholic organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, requirements which we cannot, in conscience, accept. We are being asked, for instance, to pay for sterilization and abortion. In Ireland, unlike the United States a historically Catholic country, there is even an attempt to pass a law which would compel priests, in certain instances, to violate the seal of the confessional. TV entertainers air gross jokes about Catholic priests which they would not dare make about Muslim imams or Jewish rabbis. And the media show little interest in reporting studies which show that Christians are the Number One target of religious persecution in the world today.

          We rightly lament this tide of anti-Christian and anti-Catholic sentiment. But it has a positive side as well. Whenever in its two thousand year history, the Church has been favored by worldly powers, whether financially or in other ways, it has grown spiritually flabby and weak. The Church is always at her best in times of persecution. When persecution is raging it is difficult, mostly impossible, to see this. Things become clear only when we look back. So let’s look back.

In recent centuries the most violent attack on the Church came in the French Revolution, which started in 1789 and lasted more than a decade. Thousand of priests were murdered under the guillotine. Most of the French bishops fled the country. Those who remained had to accept restrictions on their ministry which they justified on the plea that there was to other way to continue offering the sacraments to God’s people. 

As the Church moved into the nineteenth century, however, there was an explosion of religious vocations in France, and the foundation of an unprecedented number of new religious orders, for both men and women.

          When we grow discouraged at the hostile forces confronting us, we need to remember: God can bring good out of evil – and he does, time after time!