Speak The Truth – Fr. Gary Pennings

Fr. Gary Pennings’ Homily July 10, 2021

“So in the Gospel today Jesus sends out his twelve, the chosen ones, the apostles, he sends them out two by two. The very word apostle means to be sent. They’re sent by the Lord and he tells them, ‘Don’t rely on your own strength. Don’t take all your tools with you. Trust in me. Rely not on my own strength, but let me provide for you. I’ll share my power with you and you’ll do amazing things.’ and they did. Now when you and I think of the twelve we think, ‘Well yeah Father, but they were chosen. They were the first bishops after all. It was their job to teach about Jesus, their job to be those prophetic voices in the world.’

Last week I asked people to raise their hands if they thought they were a prophet if there were any prophets and hardly anybody raised their hands. Are there any prophets out there? C’mon! Yes, more at least this week. We’re all prophets, right? We’re all called to be a prophetic voice. Prophets speak the truth of God and yes the apostles did it in a unique way. They were chosen. They were part of the leaders of the Church, this new community that Jesus established, but they went out to preach the truth of God and all those who claimed the name of Christian, all those who are baptized into Christ Jesus are called to do that.

In the first reading today we hear about a prophet, Amos. He lived about 800 B.C. before Christ. He was from Judah around the southern part of the kingdom so kind of around Jarusalem and God said, ‘Go prophesy. Go speak my truth.’ and so he did. He went to the northern kingdom, the northern part of what we would call Israel and like most prophets he rattled the status quo a little bit because those in power were challenged by his words because he talked about justice and he talked about being kind and he talked about not walking over people even though they had no power and he talked about not abusing power and all those things don’t resonate well with people in power sometimes and it wasn’t what they wanted to hear and so they said, ‘Leave, get out of here! Go back to Judah! Leave us alone.’ He said, ‘I’m not a professional prophet.’ He says, ‘I’m not in a line of prophets.’ He said, ‘I’m a sheepherder. I’m a shepherd. I’m a tree trimmer. I’m just a common person with a secular job, but God has called me to speak His truth.’ He was just a common person. In today’s parlance we may say he was a lay person. He wasn’t a theologian. He wasn’t a cleric. He wasn’t someone in the hierarchy of the Church. He wasn’t one of the twelve. He was just like you. He had a secular job. We might say he was a salesman or a lawyer (well not a lawyer maybe…I’m just kidding!) a pharmacist or whatever! He had a secular job, but he was called by God to speak the truth and he did it. God says also to you my friends, ‘Go prophesy. Go speak my truth.’

St. Paul in the second reading said, ‘In love, God destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ. We’re part of God’s family by baptism and guess what? The family business of God is prophetic. It’s to spread truth because everything about our faith has to do with truth. If people ask me why I’m Catholic (I got a lot of protestant friends when I grew up, young people I grew up with, I’m not young any more) but they ask me why I’m Catholic I would say, ‘For one reason: because it’s true.’ Because it’s true. That’s what God is about. God is love and God is truth and he calls us to live and speak the truth and therefore we’re all called to be prophetic. His family is prophetic. The family business of God is to prophesy, to speak the truth and you and I are part of that family and we’re in that family business. Jesus himself on the first Easter night if you remember said, ‘As the Father sent me so I send you.’ St. Paul said that, ‘We the body of the Church is the body of Christ.’ How is Christ’s work done in the world today? Right there. You and me, all of us. That’s how that work is done. It’s not just for professional church workers or clergy, but for all the baptized. God said to Amos, ‘Go and prophesy.’ and he says the same thing to you and me.

So the question is, ‘Well great Father, how? How do I do that?’ Good question. First pray. Remember I told you I was going to talk a lot about prayer last week. Pray. We gotta pray. ‘Cause pray is how we hear God’s voice. With all due respect, no one is too interested in your opinion or mine. We’re interested in the truth. We’re interested in the truth and you have to listen to God to hear the truth through His sacred Word through the Church that he established to be the proclaimer of truth through the Spirit speaking to your heart, to listen and that’s accomplished mostly in prayer. To study, at least a little- we gotta know what the Church teaches. Sometimes when I work with teenagers I’ll ask them why we do things like we do this little thing here in the United States: we cross our forehead our lips and our heart. There’s many people [who say], ‘Why do you do that?’ ‘Well I don’t know I’ve always done it. I don’t know why I do it.’ Don’t do it because you’ve always done it. Know why you do it! Know why you do it. May your Word Lord be on mind and on my lips and in my heart. Let this Word soak in. Don’t let this be a wasted time. Open my mind and my lips and my heart to your Word. So study at least a little. You don’t have to be a theologian! You don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t, but study a little. It’s so easy to know what the Church teaches now. Go online. The whole catechism is online just type in the topic and say, ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church and whatever the topic is’ and it’s right there in front of you. In the old days people had to go to libraries and dig up books and find all that. It’s so easy today. Know what the Church teaches and why. Many young people today who leave the Church it’s sad that a lot of them say the reason is because no one ever answered their questions. That’s sad. That’s sad because the Church has the truth. So study a little. You don’t have to be an expert, but you can know enough to share a little bit. Sometimes I ask people to be a catechist like for third graders. ‘Oh Father, I don’t know…I’m not trained…’ Well you know enough to teach a third grader don’t ya? I hope so! So share that, share that. God will do the rest. All you’ve got to do is start. God will do the rest.

So pray, study a little and then live your faith openly. Don’t hide it. Faith is not a private affair. That’s the devil’s lie. Faith is to be lived. Now it’s not meant to beat other people up with so don’t use it that way, but it’s meant to be lived. Humbly not haughty or imposing, but living the truth of the faith so pray before meals even in public and not kinda like (under your breath), ‘Father, son Holy Spirit…’ pray. Don’t be haughty or a show off, but don’t be afraid to pray in public. Speak in the ways of a disciple. Say God bless you to someone. Say, I think the Lord might be leading me or urging me to do this or that.’ Talk in those kinds of terms if it’s true if that’s what you’re feeling. When someone struggles or shares, say, ‘Can I pray for you?’ When someone says, ‘Would you pray for my grandma or my mom or my dad.’ ‘Can we do it right now? Let’s pray right now.’ It’s amazing. When you tell someone, ‘I’ll pray for you.’ then follow that up and say, ‘How’s it going? I’ve been praying for you.’ That touches people lives. It really does. Speak in ways of a disciple. Let faith inform your choices and your actions. Don’t be afraid to look different than the world around you. We should! We should look different that non-believers. We should look different than secularists.  We’re disciples of Jesus. Our priorities are different. Run your businesses differently. Use these Christian principles and if someone challenges you about it then be honest. ‘I’m a disciple of the Lord and I’m gonna run my business in accord with Christian principles.’ Make political decisions informed by the teaching of Christ and His church. Run your home and personal lives in ways that reflect the joy of the Gospel. When you fail go to confession and seek the Lord’s help. He’s always waiting for you and be joyful. Pope Francis wrote probably the only time it was ever in a theological document, the word sourpuss. Don’t be a sourpuss! We have the best news ever, the joy of the Gospel. Live it with great joy. Live it with great joy. So, heed those words of St. Peter in his first letter. I love those words. He said, ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for the reason for your hope, but do it with reverence and gentleness.’ he said.

Last week I talked to you about the Church happening out there. I called it the racetrack of life. To be equipped for that work you immerse yourself here. You come here every Saturday night or Sunday, so come here prepared expecting something. Come here humble not prideful. Come here open to receive what the Lord has to give you. It may come through the scriptures. It may come through the prayers of the Mass. It’ll certainly come in the Eucharist. It might come through something you observe from someone sitting in front of you. It might come from something someone says on the way in or on the way out, but open your heart to receive it. Go share the blessings you receive when you leave here. Go share what you’ve heard in prayer. Share what you’ve studied. Go and share your life in a manner that’s always ready to give anyone that asks the reason for your hope. Amos was told by God to go prophesy to go speak the truth of God and my friends I’d say God says the same thing to you and me. Go speak the truth of God.”