General BlogStuff

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Fall is one of those times when we really notice creation. Leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler, the hours of sunlight are rapidly diminishing. It makes us grateful for the bits of life that we still see, because we know that the winter is coming and we will be groaning in eager anticipation of spring.

So maybe we can resonate with what St. Paul is saying in today’s first reading. His basic message is that nothing is perfect yet; we are not where we should be – perfection is still in the future for all of us. We see that our own lack of perfection has repercussions that touch all of creation. There will come a time when God fully reveals everything and we will see ourselves and the entire world through God’s eyes. That is the reward of the Kingdom that we all eagerly hope for. But we are not there yet. We, along with all of creation, groan in anticipation of what will be revealed in those days.

In Masses for the dead, the Third Eucharistic Prayer says, “On that day, we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.” That’s the promise. It will be like the mustard seed, come to full growth, that becomes a large enough bush to provide shelter for the birds of the sky. It will be like yeast mixed through three measures of flour until it leavens the whole batch of dough.

Put very simply, the best is yet to come for all of us, and for all of creation. In these waning days of the Church year, we continue to long – no, groan – for the day when everything will come to fruition and the Kingdom of God will be revealed in all its glory. We have this as our hope – we don’t see it yet – but as St. Paul says, who hopes for what one sees? We have hope that one day we will enter into the glory of the Kingdom because we will have become holy by being caught up in the One who is holiness itself.

Homilies Ordinary Time Penitence Sacrament of Penance The Church Year

Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The thing is, you know, the Pharisee was quite right. His righteousness was beyond reproach. He has been innocent of greed, dishonesty and adultery. He has been more pious than even the law requires. Fasting was only required once a year, on the Day of Atonement, but he fasts twice a week. Tithes were only required to be paid on one’s earnings, but he pays them not only on his earnings, but also on all of his possessions, basically, he paid the tithe on his total net worth. He was probably quite right about his own righteousness, and he may well have been right about the failures of righteousness in the tax collector as well.

Because tax collectors were despicable human beings. They worked for the Romans, were in league with the foreign occupation. They were not paid by the Romans for their work. They were told what they had to collect, and whatever the collected over and above that was theirs to keep. Now certainly, they were entitled to some income, so a modest markup would have been understandable. But mostly the modest markup was far from modest, and bordered on extortion. Often, the border was crossed. The tax collector in our parable today does not deny that he has participated in those activities. He does not even pray about anything he has done except for one thing: he has sinned. “O God, be merciful to me a sinner,” he says.

Both of these men were right in what they said about themselves. From an objective point of view, they have presented themselves honestly before God and everyone. So what is the problem? Where has the Pharisee gone wrong and how did the tax collector end up justified?

It’s pretty easy to see what went wrong when we step back and look at the nature of their prayers. The Pharisee uses the word “I” four times. It’s all about him. The tax collector does not use the word “I” at all; he uses the word “me.” What’s the difference? Grammar lesson here: “I” is the subject, “me” is the object. So, for the Pharisee, it was all about what he had done through his own righteousness, and not about what God had done or could do. For the tax collector, it wasn’t about him at all. He acknowledges his sinfulness and asked God to have mercy. And that’s the second difference. The tax collector asks for something, namely mercy, and receives it: he goes home justified. The Pharisee asks for nothing, and that’s just what he gets: nothing.

The trouble here is that the Pharisee doesn’t need God; he can do the whole righteousness thing all by himself, thank you very much. This is known in theology as the heresy of Pelagianism: a belief that we are responsible for our own salvation, and that salvation is achievable through our own efforts. The tax collector knows this is false, and is quite convinced that he needs God and needs God’s mercy. He is also quite convinced that God can be trusted to come to his aid. The bottom line on this parable is that we are all sinners, we are all incapable of any kind of real righteousness on our own efforts, and we all need a Savior.

Someone once told me that it must be so hard for me to listen to all those confessions; that it must be discouraging to hear about all that sin. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Because the truth is, I am quite aware of my own sinfulness, and am encouraged by those who come to the Sacrament to receive God’s mercy. I don’t worry so much about those who confess their sins, because I trust in the grace of the Sacrament of Penance and I trust in the God who is mercy itself. I worry more about those who have not confessed or will not confess, or are too embarrassed to confess. I worry about those who think they can fix their problems all by themselves. I worry about those who don’t think they need a Savior.

This week I noticed how beautiful some of the trees are becoming. I felt the nip in the air and have noticed the shortness of the daylight. It all reminded me that our year is coming to a close. And our Church year is coming to a close even sooner than that: in just four weeks we will celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last day of our Church year, and the following week we will begin a new Church year with the season of Advent. Where has the time gone? These are the days that have me thinking about my life this past year. Maybe you are too. How have we grown this year, especially in our faith? Have we made progress in Christian life, attacked sin and vice, and grown in virtue? These are the questions we need to put up at the front of our prayer in these weeks.

The Liturgy today is framing all that around one question: have you been more aware this year of your need for a Savior? Because sin is exhausting. Anyone who has struggled with sin, or a pattern of sin, in their lives can tell you that. Those who have been dragged down by any kind of addiction or who have tried to work on a character flaw or striven to expel any kind of vice from their lives often relate how exhausting the sin can be. Sin saps our spiritual energy, weakens our resolve to do good, and causes us to turn away in shame from family, friends, and all those whose spiritual companionship we need in order to grow as Christian men and women and flourish in the world. That goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, who suddenly became aware of and ashamed of their nakedness in the Garden of Eden, and to St. Paul who prayed over and over to get rid of his “thorn in the flesh.” So when we are exhausted by sin, we should not be surprised. That’s just the way sin works.

But today’s Liturgy gives us very good news indeed. Sirach says in today’s first reading that “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.” We see that very clearly in the parable in today’s Gospel. The lowly tax collector can not even bring himself to raise his eyes to heaven. “O God, be merciful to me a sinner,” he says. It is the perfect Act of Contrition. He acknowledges his sin, he prays for God’s mercy. And God responds. He can go home justified.

Just like the Pharisee and the tax collector, we have come to this temple, this church, to pray today. What is our prayer like? What is it that we have been trying to work on this year? What sins have become a pattern for us? Do we have addictions that need to be worked out? Have we failed in some way in our daily life? What dark corners of our lives desperately need God’s light and God’s mercy? In what ways do we need a Savior? Have we asked for God’s mercy, or have we been like the Pharisee, asking for nothing and receiving exactly that?

Our Psalmist is clear today: The Lord hears the cry of the poor. He’s not talking about simple poverty of riches. He’s talking more about the more complex poverty of spirit that we must all work toward. “God is close to the brokenhearted,” he says, and “those who are crushed in spirit, he saves. The Lord redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.” We don’t have to work hard to achieve our own righteousness. But we may have to work hard to achieve our own poverty of spirit.

God is God, and we are not. Pray it after me: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Care for God's Creation Sacred Music Saints

All Creatures of Our God and King

“All Creatures of Our God and King is one of my very favorite Catholic hymns. The tune is Lasst Uns Erfreuen, and it is also the tune for “Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones” (which is timely, with All Saints Day coming up this week!” The wonderful fall colors got me thinking along these lines today! This is one of many versions of the hymn seen on YouTube.

The text for “All Creatures” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, which of course adds to its belovedness! The text for “Ye Watchers” is from John A.L. Riley.


All Creatures of Our God and King

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Dear mother earth, who day by day
Unfoldest blessings on our way,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
The flowers and fruits that in thee grow,
Let them His glory also show.

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

Ye watchers and ye holy ones,
Bright seraphs, cherubim and thrones,
Raise the glad strain, Alleluia!
Cry out, dominions, princedoms, powers,
Virtues, archangels, angels’ choirs:

Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O higher than the cherubim,
More glorious than the seraphim,
Lead their praises, Alleluia!
Thou bearer of th’eternal Word,
Most gracious, magnify the Lord.

Respond, ye souls in endless rest,
Ye patriarchs and prophets blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Ye holy twelve, ye martyrs strong,
All saints triumphant, raise the song.

O friends, in gladness let us sing,
Supernal anthems echoing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One.

Care for God's Creation Homilies

Autumn in Naperville


Autumn is here in Naperville and I love it. I didn’t think we would get many nice colors this year with the weather we’ve had, but there are some nice oranges and reds in some of the trees around here. These are right at the corner outside the Church and provide a nice backdrop, depending on where you’re sitting in Church!

Homilies Jesus Christ Ordinary Time The Church Year

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Sin is exhausting. Anyone who has struggled with sin, or a pattern of sin, in their lives can tell you that. Those who have been dragged down by any kind of addiction or who have tried to work on a character flaw or striven to expel any kind of vice from their lives often relate how exhausting the sin can be. Sin saps our spiritual energy, weakens our resolve to do good, and causes us to turn away in shame from family, friends, and all those whose spiritual companionship we need in order to grow as Christian men and women and flourish in the world. That goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, who suddenly became aware of and ashamed of their nakedness in the Garden of Eden, and to St. Paul who prayed over and over to get rid of his “thorn in the flesh.” So when we are exhausted by sin, we should not be surprised. That’s just the way sin works.

But we don’t have to be content with that either. The good news that St. Paul brings us in the first reading today from his letter to the Romans is that sin doesn’t get the last word. Those who did not know Christ had to live according to the law, with all of its precepts and principles and technicalities. But the law doesn’t sanctify a person, it only makes them more aware of their guilt and unworthiness. That’s why God sent his only Son into our world. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we can ever be cleansed, only through his sacrifice on the Cross that we can ever be reunited with our God.

As the Psalmist says today, we are the people who long to see God’s face. Because nothing else will heal us. Even if our sin makes us want to turn away and hide, we cannot hide from our God – indeed we dare not hide from our God if we ever want to be unburdened of the exhausting weight of our sinfulness. At this Eucharist, we celebrate our Lord who cares enough about us to bring us back unstained to the banquet of the Kingdom. We open ourselves to his mercy, revealing our brokenness, our sinfulness, our shame and our unworthiness. He opens himself to us in love, binding up that brokenness, erasing the sinfulness, healing our shame and lifting up whatever in us is unworthy. Jesus Christ is our salvation and our redemption. Our sins do not have to weigh us down, and we who receive him in the Eucharist today do not ever have to settle for being exhausted by our sins.

Homilies Ordinary Time The Church Year

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Psalm 1 is one of my very favorite psalms. Listen to it again:

Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.

One interpretation of this Psalm is to look at it as a blueprint for blessedness. In Biblical terms, of course, blessedness equals happiness. So the person who doesn’t follow the counsel of the wicked or walk with sinners but instead meditates on the law of the LORD is happy, or blessed. This person is productive and vibrant, and all of his activities are prosperous. This person is contrasted to the wicked person who is anything but enduring. These are unhappy people who are driven away by the first storm who comes along.

On the other hand, the Church has also looked at the blessed one in this psalm as referring to Christ himself. None of us is able to steer clear of evil all the time, nor meditate on God’s law day and night. But Jesus is the One who is like us in all things but sin and who is the fulfilled promise of God’s law. Jesus definitely is like the tree planted near running water, which takes root strongly and shades us from the burning heat of evil under his never-fading leaves. Jesus is the one who can prosper any work that we do, if we just ask him to do so. If we want to know the person who really embodies the spirit of Psalm 1, then all we have to do is look to our Savior.

But that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to become holy enough to take up the spirit of this Psalm within ourselves. We certainly don’t want to be the chaff which is driven away by the wind. Joining ourselves to our Savior, meditating on him day and night, or at least whenever we can, we can be refreshed by those running waters and become the sturdy trees that shelter the Church in good times and in bad. Blessed indeed are all of us who hope in the Lord.

Homilies Ordinary Time The Church Year

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

There are two things: the promise, and the response.

The promise has echoed down through the ages. God called Abraham and promised descendents as numerous as the sands on the sea shore or the stars in the sky. Through Moses, God made known his intent to bring his people out of slavery and into the promised land. Through Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who speaks in today’s Psalm, God announces that he will make good on his promise to send a Messiah to his people. And through Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all the promises, we have the promise of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. From Abraham to us today, the promises has echoed, and still echoes, in the Church and in the world, down through the ages. There is the promise.

The response has always taken many different forms. One would think the response would be complete adoration, obedience, and devotion to our God who keeps his promise. But sometimes the response has been arrogance, thinking that anything good that happens is the result of our own feeble efforts, like the foolish rich man in today’s Gospel. Sometimes the response has been entitlement, as if we were actually worthy of grace, and due the gifts that come our way. Sometimes the response has been apathy or disinterest, not even taking the time to notice the graces and blessings that come to us. Sometimes the response has been outright rejection – refusing the gift and ignoring the Giver. Sometimes we have been very unworthy and unappreciative of the promise.

But there is still the promise. And there is always time for a different, better, more appropriate response.

Homilies Life and Dignity of the Human Person Ordinary Time Preferential Option for the Poor Pro life Solidarity The Church Year

Twenty-ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Project Gabriel

Today’s readings

Today’s Scriptures show us the importance of persistence in prayer. We all know that sometimes we come across issues in our own lives, or even in society, and when we pray, it takes a long time to see those prayers answered. We may well have experienced the exhaustion of Moses in our praying, and may have needed the help of others to stand next to us and support us in our prayer, praying with us and for us. For many of us, our prayer lists may well have grown exponentially as the years have worn on, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

Even the dishonest judge answers the request of the widow who keeps coming to him. And we know that our God is far greater than the dishonest judge. He doesn’t answer our prayers just to mollify us and send us on our way. He hears our prayers and answers them in his way, in his time, for our benefit and his glory. We know that God often answers our prayers in ways more magnificent than we could have imagined when we offered them. Like the Psalmist today, we know that our help truly comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

Sometimes God uses us to answer the prayers of others. I am preaching at all the Masses this weekend to tell you about a way I think that is happening in our parish. As you know, October is Respect Life Month. Here in Naperville, this has been particularly important this year because of the opening of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Aurora that provides abortions among its other services. It is the largest Planned Parenthood clinic in the nation and one of five abortion clinics in DuPage County. This year more than ever, we Catholics are called upon to witness to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, to protect the lives of all of the most vulnerable members of our society, and particularly to advocate for those whose lives are ended by abortion.

It’s one thing to say you’re pro life, to pray for the protection of life, and to vote only for people who support life. Those are important things to do, but quite frankly, if that’s all we ever do, we aren’t doing even close to enough. Studies have shown that eight out of ten woman who have had an abortion would have chosen not to have the abortion if it had not been for the lack of material resources and pressure from families or fathers. In most cases, the decision to have an abortion isn’t a “pro choice” decision at all: it is rather a decision made because these women feel they have no freedom and no choice. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must make it very clear to all the world that no woman should ever have an abortion simply because she feels that is her only option.

And so today, our parish is launching its participation in Project Gabriel. Project Gabriel is a network of parishes standing together in their commitment to answer the prayers of pregnant mothers in crisis by offering them various forms of assistance. In this area, Project Gabriel is coordinated by Woman’s Choice Services, a pregnancy center network operated in the Catholic Christian tradition, in cooperation with the Respect Life Offices of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Diocese of Joliet and the Diocese of Rockford.

Women hear about Project Gabriel through signs of life in the community, especially bumper magnets which say “Pregnant? Need Help? Please call us.” When she calls, a trained volunteer consultant will help assess her needs. Then she may be referred to a church community, like St. Raphael’s, where trained representatives called “Angels” will meet with her. Angels are friends, whose job it is to walk alongside the mother-to accompany her, pray for her and with her, and encourage her on her journey. They may also help her to meet material needs by identifying resources within the community.

At St. Raphael, Project Gabriel will help mothers to make life-affirming choices for themselves and their babies by:

” Offering friendship, emotional support and prayer.
” Providing babysitting and offering rides to medical appointments.
” Giving pastoral care and counseling.
” Identifying resources for medical and prenatal care.
” Finding resources for financial assistance.
” And by uncovering resources for housing, education, adoption and employment.

But don’t let that task overwhelm you. It is not the task of the Gabriel Project Angel to be a psychiatrist, analyst or social worker. What you will do is much the same as you might do for a niece or a neighbor. Just be there for her: Take her to lunch, pray with her and for her baby, call her each week, drive her to a doctor’s appointment or offer to baby-sit. In short, be a sister, a helper, and a friend.

We need you to get involved to make Project Gabriel a success right out of the box. We need 40-50 volunteers minimally to get started, and you can help either as an angel or in a number of other ways. You can offer as much time as you wish, a little or a lot, depending on your availability and the ways you feel God is calling you. Today, we are asking you to do three things:

First, take a bumper magnet and put it on your car so that women with pregnancies at risk will know there is a life-affirming option. Second, visit the welcome center today for more information and to make a donation to offset the costs of the bumper magnets and provide for the material needs of the mothers and families we will be reaching. And finally, fill out the forms in your pews right now, getting involved as an angel, or on our prayer team, or communications team, or material resources team, or any of several other teams on the list. Your involvement might be as simple as knitting a baby blanket or driving a woman to the doctor or collecting personal care items for expectant mothers. But perhaps you are a good listener and someone who loves companioning others on the journey; then you’d make a great angel. You can leave that filled out form in your pew, drop it in the collection basket, or drop it off in the welcome center today. If you need to pray about your involvement, feel free to take a sheet with you. But please fill one out and get involved – if not today, then soon – so that we can start helping bring life to the culture of death in this particular way.

In his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II said, “Together we all sense our duty to preach the Gospel of life, to celebrate it in the Liturgy and in our whole existence, and to serve it with the various programs and structures which support and promote life.” Project Gabriel is a way for us to do just that. Please be sure to get involved, so that everyone will know that we are a community that supports life at every stage.

Sometimes people’s prayer needs can be overwhelming. But maybe you are being called upon today like Aaron and Hur to support the hands of a pregnant woman as she prays for the opportunity to give life to the baby she is carrying. Please be an angel, and support this parish project today.

Doctrine of God Homilies Ordinary Time The Church Year

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“The Lord remembers his covenant forever.”

That’s what the Psalmist tells us today. And the worst thing that we can do in our service of the Lord is to despair of that promise. Today’s Gospel speaks to us of the unforgivable sin: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,” Jesus tells us, “but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” This sounds a little curious, I think. But the truth is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is probably the root of all sin. When we leave behind the Spirit, we leave behind the possibility of any kind of forgiveness, redemption or salvation. It’s not something we do by accident.

I had a professor in seminary who used to say, “Brothers, you don’t want to tick off the Holy Spirit!” And he is right. We are a people gifted by the Holy Spirit who inspires our relationships with God, breathes the life of God into our relationships and endeavors, and guides us sinful people to salvation through the many gifts and fruits that he brings. The truth is, we can do nothing good, we cannot be holy people, we cannot live decent lives without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was Jesus’ first gift sent to those who believe just after his ascension into heaven. The reason for that gift was that we can’t possibly live without it.

So, if we cannot live without the gift of the Spirit, it makes sense that that sin is unforgivable. Not because God doesn’t want to forgive it, but more because we have cut short the dialogue and have walked away from the very gift that reconciles us sinful people to God in the first place. All of our repentance, penitence, and reconciliation comes by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we deny the Spirit then, we have denied all possibility of forgiveness, and we don’t want to be doing that. It’s not a sin we should worry about if we are faithful. But when we begin to despair or think ourselves unworthy of God, we need to be careful. Got never thinks that way of us, and as the Psalmist says, he remembers his covenant forever.

Homilies Saints

Ss. Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions, Martyrs

Today’s readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 & Luke 12:1-7 | Today’s saints
Mass for the school children (Junior high)

A long time ago now, when I was your age, I used to like watching movies about the wild west, and playing cowboys and Indians. It was fun to think about our history in those days and to re-enact what we thought it must have been like. But the truth is, the history of the frontier that included our nation was pretty dark, and pretty barbaric, and quite often very sad. Just like in lots of times and places in the world and in history, men and women who were people of faith gave their lives for the faith. Life was brutal, but courageous people brought faith to this land.

St. Paul says to the Corinthians in today’s first reading, “We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again. We face death every day because of Jesus.”

namartyrsSaints Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf knew what St. Paul was talking about. They were Jesuits from France. They lived in the seventeenth century and worked among the various Indian tribes, bringing them the Christian faith. Father Isaac worked among the Huron Indians. The Hurons were constantly being attacked by the Iroquois. Father Isaac was captured and tortured for thirteen months. When he finally managed to escape back to France, he returned with many fingers missing from his torture. Priests aren’t allowed to say Mass if they don’t have all of their hands, but Father Isaac received special permission to say Mass from Pope Urban VIII who said, “It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ.” Now you’d think that having escaped to safety, Father Isaac would have stayed put, but he didn’t. He still had a deep concern and love for his friends the Huron Indians and so he returned to the New World. But on the way, he was captured by a Mohawk Indian party who tomahawked and beheaded him on October 18, 1646.

Father John de Brébeuf lived and worked in Canada for 24 years until the English expelled the Jesuits from the land. He returned four years later, also to work among the Hurons. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture.

Father Isaac and Father John were two of eight Jesuits who gave their lives for the faith in North America. They were canonized – made saints – in 1930. They knew what Jesus meant in today’s Gospel when he said, “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Those eight men lived during very dangerous times. They had seen a lot of violence in the New World, but they were not afraid. They gave their lives willingly so that people would come to know the Lord Jesus who gave his own life for all of us.

You probably won’t ever have to decide whether to keep believing in Jesus and die or renounce him and live. But you absolutely will have to decide to keep believing in Jesus even when it’s unpopular. Even when your friends want to do something wrong. Even when you are tempted to cheat in school, make fun of someone because everyone else is doing it, or try drugs, or look at things on the Internet you’re not supposed to, or hang out with the wrong crowd. It’s going to be hard and maybe even a little scary to say no to those things and yes to your faith in God. But that’s what Jesus is asking you to do today. And he is telling you not to be afraid to do that, not to be afraid to stand up for your faith. Because he will help you do the right thing. And saints like Isaac Jogues and John de Brébeuf will intercede for you and will be your guides. All you have to do is to decide to do the right thing. Remember, Jesus tells you today, God takes care of even the little sparrows. And you are worth more than many, many sparrows.