Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we’re still living in the glow of that glorious moment when the Holy Spirit rushed upon the Apostles, emboldening them to carry the Gospel to all nations. The reality of who Jesus is, of what His death and resurrection mean for the world, hasn’t diminished one bit. The gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to be poured out and inflame our hearts to help us live and spread the message of Christianity.
Religious Freedom Week 2019: Strength in Hope
Religious freedom gives the Church the space to carry out the mission that Jesus has entrusted to the it. Religious freedom means that Catholics and all people of goodwill are free to seek the truth and to live in accordance with that truth, and so to strengthen our common life as a nation.
- June 22 — Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher
- June 23 — Corpus Christi: Middle East Christians
- June 24 — Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Faithful Public Servants
- June 25: Myanmar – End Persecution of the Rohingya
- June 26 — Freedom to Serve in Foster Care and Adoption
- June 27 — Persecution of Christians in Nigeria
- June 28 — The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: Religion — A Public Good
- June 29 — Sts. Peter and Paul: Religious Freedom for Incarcerated Persons
Fourth of July Mass and Rosary
8:30 a.m., July 4
St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, 2312 E. Campbell Ave., Phoenix
The Independence Day Prayer for America with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares will be followed by praying the Rosary for the United States of America.
It really is astonishing to read the book of Acts and watch the utter transformation of the Apostles. Once they receive the Holy Spirit, they boldly venture forth in spite of fierce opposition and persecution. No earthly force can deter them from the mission entrusted to them by the Lord Jesus. They call for repentance and baptize thousands. Imprisonment, beating, rejection, exile, stoning and martyrdom await them, yet their hearts are bursting with joy and a deep desire to share the life-changing love of Christ.
Forceful and often brutal opposition to the message of Christianity has continued ever since. Right now, as you read these words, millions of Christians around the globe are still suffering intense persecution. Their travails capture our attention, but really only momentarily. It’s been a few weeks, but most people scratch their heads if you ask them about the massacre of more than 300 Sri Lankan Catholics during Mass on Easter.
Here in the U.S., opposition to and outright hostility toward the message of Christianity is on the rise. For now, it’s mostly limited to lawsuits, legislation, insults and discrimination. (Check out ADFLegal.org to get the particulars on problematic legislation like the Equality Act.) While you’ll seldom find those who disagree with the general idea of “love your neighbor as yourself,” probe a bit deeper and you’re sure to hit a nerve. The “narrow way” Christ preached is considered narrow-minded by many. Those who oppose gender ideology, so-called “marriage equality” and abortion are demonized as haters and oppressors.
On one level, I’d say that’s OK. Really.
Jesus tells us clearly: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18). In fact, Jesus tells us, there will come a time when “everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God” (Jn 16:2). They’ll do it, Jesus says, because they don’t know Him or His Father.
Remember what He also told them: That after receiving the Holy Spirit, their mission was to go forth and spread His teachings. That’s our mission, too. And here in the U.S. we have a guaranteed First Amendment right to do so. So don’t be shy!
Develop simple ways to share how God has worked in your life. Something like, “I used to let stress run my life. Then I discovered that by staying close to Jesus, I’ve got more peace.” A word of caution though: You can only do this if it’s true for you. So are you just going through the motions in your faith life? Are you on auto-pilot perhaps? Make a sincere Confession and then ask the Lord to renew the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were given to you at Baptism. Ask Him to show you how to stay close to Him and how to share His message.
One way you can stay close to the Lord this month is by participating in Religious Freedom Week that begins June 22 on the feast of the martyrs St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Although the U.S. was founded on the ideals of religious freedom, that freedom is increasingly under attack. Since 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called on the faithful each June to pray particularly for the protection of religious freedom and to take action in that regard.
Now would be a good time to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit that emboldens us to speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular. Even when it costs dearly. Even when it means being labeled a hater. No earthly force should deter us from our mission: proclaiming the love, hope and truth found in our Lord Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit, come!