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June 25, 2017

“Have no fear!   Do not fear!” “Be not afraid.” These expressions appear in the Bible just about 365 times. This weekend Christ reminds us again.

Every Sunday he preached at the cathedral.  His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs suspended when he spoke from the altar.  He pointed out names, dates, places where human rights had been violated during the previous week.  He made public the fact of unspeakable crimes being committed, mostly by agents of the government.

Then he came under constant threat of death.  His best friends were murdered.  And still he would not be silenced.  Nor would he go into hiding or exile.  He said, "My job seems to be going around to pick up insults and corpses.  At the first sight of danger, the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to defend themselves.  I will stay with my people."

That man was shot dead in March 1980 while saying Mass, slain by a single bullet from a professional marksman.  He died because he loved the poor and considered the struggle for justice an integral part of the Gospel.

Probably some of you would guess who I am talking about.  It is Archbishop Oscar Romeo of El Salvador who died because of his witness to Jesus' teachings.  Yet all Romeo wanted was a better life and simple justice for his people, because all of them are children of God, whom God created, and whom Christ has redeemed by his blood.

What is the relevance of this for us who live in more peaceful places?  We are not persecuted here.  But every place needs Christian witnesses.  When the early Christians were no longer required to become martyrs, that is to witness for Christ with their blood, many became "confessors" that is, to be witnesses through their lives of prayer and services.  This opens up enormous possibilities for us all.

Many seem to think that it's enough to confess Christ in church on Sunday, or to stand up in a prayer meeting where it is safe and where we are more likely to be applauded than mocked.  But Christ said it is out there we have to witness to him.  It is in the world we have to stand up and be counted.  Out there in the world that is often cruel, grasping, indifferent, sceptical, and cynical.  We must witness in pubs and in the streets, on trains and buses, on shop floors and factory floors, in schools and offices, in banks and hotels, in our homes and among our neighbours, in a word, everywhere.  It is not enough to be secret Disciples of Christ.  We have to give public witness to Christ's love, truth and justice.

All this calls for great faith and courage.  We have to keep our eyes fixed on Christ who is challenging us to walk without fear along the road of faithfulness.  We have to make a choice, at some stage of our lives, to live in a clear and truthful way, as though the Gospel was serious, as though we are serious about our faith and its consequences.

Loving Father, we know that if we live like your Son, we too will face the indifferences of this world as he did. But let us take courage since he assured us of your care and protection.  "The hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid."