Today we resume the more-or-less continuous reading of the Gospel according to Matthew. Three times in today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples—and us—not to be afraid. In the verses omitted by the interruption of the Lent/Easter season and the solemnities of the last two Sundays, Jesus chose the twelve apostles and then sent them out on mission to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Then he warned them of the opposition, betrayal and persecution they might experience in fulfilling their mission. It is on the heels of those warnings that today’s Gospel begins, “Fear no one.” That exhortation is then followed by the assurance of God’s love for each one and his power to save. It is foreshadowed by Jeremiah’s peril and his trust in the God who has become his “mighty champion.” (First Reading) It echoes the beatitude, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12) It anticipates the first words of the Risen Lord to the women who came to the tomb, “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 28:10)
Perhaps there is presented here the heart of the gospel message. There is no easy way to heaven and alone we cannot attain it. Therefore we must not rely on ourselves alone, but have faith in God, who “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14) This, of course, is God’s grace, which overflowed for the many in God’s gracious gift to us of his Son, Jesus Christ. (Cf. today’s Second Reading.) The cost and sacrifices required to be truly Christian are great, but well worth it. The reward is eternal life.
Today we honor the men who are the heads of households and the guardians of their families. They are to reflect to their families the steadfast love of God, “from whom all fatherhood is derived.” “Steadfast” means they can be counted upon, that they will not abandon those entrusted to their care. They are to be virtuous in the fullest sense of that word. The Latin root of the word “virtue” means “strength.” The same root is also apparent in the Latin word for a man, vir. To be a virtuous father is to be truly manly, strong and steadfast. Isn’t that what we count on fathers to be? So let us ask God’s blessing upon fathers and the grace to fulfill the vocation God has entrusted to them. At the same time we are reminded of the honor due to fathers according to the scriptures: “The Lord sets a father in honor over his children. He who honors his father atones for sins. He who reveres his father will live a long life. In word and deed honor your father that his blessing may come upon you, for a father’s blessing gives a family firm roots. Kindness to a father will not be forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering—it will take lasting root.” (Cf. Sirach 3:2a, 3, 6a, 8-9a, 14)
Our parishes’ fiscal year ends on June 30. Neither parish should have any outstanding bills by the end of the fiscal year, thanks to the PPP loans and the many parishioners who continued to support the parishes despite not being able to attend Mass. My main concern now is meeting our targets for the Diocesan Annual Appeal. St. Peter has about $4,000 to go; St. Charles has about $10,000 to go. Pledges to the Diocesan Annual Appeal must be received by June 30 to be credited for this year. Please honor your pledges to the Appeal. Both parishes are behind in the number of donors compared to last year. Please consider a one-time gift to the Diocesan Annual Appeal to help our parishes meet their financial obligations by the end of the fiscal year. Your attention to our parishes’ financial goals is greatly appreciated.
Pray the rosary this week for the safety of children on summer vacation and for families who are traveling. Pray for the four deacons who are to be ordained priests for our diocese this coming Saturday. Pray for the needs of our parish and diocese and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.