Today’s Gospel account has Jesus calling for witnesses, that is, people who are not afraid to be seen as his disciples in a sometimes hostile world. Fear is something that can hold a person back from being a bold witness to the Gospel. Jesus told his apostles, “Do not be afraid.”
Fortunately, there are always those in the Church who, by the grace of God, are able to overcome fear and joyfully witness to the Gospel in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.
One of the greatest witnesses to this in recent memory is St. Oscar Romeo. When he was named Archbishop of San Salvador in 1977 he was a conservative and rather quiet bishop. However, things changed dramatically for him when he saw what was happening. Every Sunday he preached fearlessly at his cathedral. His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs halted when he preached. He made public the unspeakable crimes being committed, many by agents of the government.
Romero was under the constant threat of death. Some of his closest friends were murdered and still he could not be silenced. He also chose not to go into exile or hiding, as he said, “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. I will stay with my people." Archbishop Romero was shot to death in March 1980 while celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As Jesus sacrificed his life for his sheep, so did St. Oscar Romeo for his flock.
Archbishop Romero said that it didn’t take courage but the understanding that his enemies lived in fear. If he showed them that he was not afraid of them, they would have no power over him. They might be able to kill his body, but they could not kill is soul.
Our society today suffers greatly from indifference. Gospel values have been replaced by the secular “it’s all about me” attitude. Maybe one of the good things that will come out of the pandemic, as well as the tensions and tragedies of recent weeks, is that people will once again see the importance of witnessing to Jesus by truly loving one another as he commands. In reality, it is so simple if we willing to trust God, who lovingly watches over the life and death of even the smallest of his creatures, the sparrow. Next time you see a sparrow may it remind you of your mission to be a faithful witness.
– Fr. Dennis, June 21, 2020