Catholic Sunday Mass celebrated by Fr James Ralston O.M.I., recorded at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Durban, South Africa.
ENTRANCE ANTIPHON: The Lord is the strength of his people, a saving refuge for the one he has anointed. Save your people, Lord, and bless your heritage, and govern them forever.
FIRST READING: Jeremiah 20:10-13.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Psalm 69.
RESPONSE: In your great mercy, answer me, O Lord. 1. It is for you that I suffer taunts, that shame has covered my face. To my own kin I have become an outcast, a stranger to the children of my mother. Zeal for your house consumes me, and taunts against you fall on me. ℟ 2. But I pray to you, O Lord, for a time of your favour. In your great mercy, answer me, O God, with your salvation that never fails. Lord, answer, for your mercy is kind; in your great compassion, turn towards me. ℟ 3. The poor when they see it will be glad, and God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy, and does not spurn his own in their chains. Let the heavens and the earth give him praise, the sea and everything that moves in them. ℟
SECOND READING: Romans 5:12-15.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION: Alleluia, alleluia! The Spirit of truth will bear witness to me, says the Lord, and you also are witnesses. Alleluia.
GOSPEL: Matthew 10:26-33.
SERMON: Christ has not promised his followers that they have only to make an appearance to gain a hearing: on the contrary, they will know insecurity and persecution. If the Gospel is really a force which opposes every kind of evil, the Church cannot turn aside from the narrow gateway which is the Easter Mystery, the cross which leads to glory. Secret understandings with political powers and moneyed interests pay off with the blunting, pure and simple, of the Christian witness.
But although his followers must share the sufferings of the Messiah here on earth, they are reassured at the same time by the words: ‘Have no fear of men.’ The apostolate is the work of God and as such carries the guarantee of success. All that needs to be done is to proclaim Christ’s divine nature in the full light of day. Before it was a hidden secret, today it is revealed in his resurrection. Let all fear be put aside. The only thing to be feared is sin. The persecutors can kill the body; the real life is in God’s possession and he watches over the least of his creatures like a father.
Formerly martyrdom was a sacred rite: the martyr mounted the pure as if it were an altar. Interrogation and torture were an opportunity of proclaiming faith in Christ, before the offering was sacrificed. Martyrdom was an excellent way of spreading the Gospel. Today there is the anonymity of an underground cell or a camp from which nobody returns. The techniques which do violence to a person in the very depths of their being allow government propaganda to benefit from ‘spontaneous confessions’. The mighty voice of the martyrs, called to even greater heroism and purity, continues to rise to heaven. On the Last Day Christ himself will present his witnesses to his Father.
The passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the great theological texts pf the New Testament as Paul deals with the issues of sin and death, Law and grace. However he understands the Adam story from Genesis, we acknowledge it as a narrative which addresses the issues of death and disobedience and brokenness of humankind. Paul takes that narrative and juxtaposes a new narrative that had been the experience of the first followers of Jesus, a narrative that addresses the issues of life and forgiveness and new creation. Paul very deliberately takes the first narrative and contrasts it with the new one precisely to reveal the radical overcoming of all that had gone wrong. What is extraordinary about his presentation is the assertion that the Gift itself considerably outweighs the fall.
This is to suggest that what Christ has done not simply puts things back where they were, but actually puts humanity in a new and better relationship with God. The grace that is available through the Paschal Mystery brings humanity into a new and closer bond. That is why there is no need to be afraid and why, like the prophet Jeremiah, one can bear witness to the truth and speak with such confidence in the face of fierce opposition. For those who recognise the reality of what has been done in the New Adam, the burden of sin from the Old Adam is banished and they can share in the very life of God.
The three readings today of today’s Mass broadly allude to bearing witness to what is right and just: from the prophet Jeremiah, St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and the passage from Matthew’s Gospel. As we keep the commercial celebration of “Fathers’ Day” we should be able to look to our fathers with pride and confidence that they have born witness to what is right and just in our religion and in sosiety; giving us all an example of how we should live our lives both as Catholics and proud citizens of the human race. This is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the good values they have instrumental in us learning.
COMMUNION ANTIPHON: The eyes of all look to you, Lord, and you give them their food in due season.