Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
(II Kings 17:5-8.13-15a.18; Matthew 7:1-5)
This week the first reading of the daily mass narrates the fall of Israel. Today, it recounts the fall of the northern kingdom, called Israel or Samaria, to the Assyrian army. Toward the end of the week it will tell of a similar fate for the southern kingdom of Judah. In both cases the Scriptures fault Israel’s own infidelity to God as the reason for its downfall.
It is not that Israel and Judah necessarily became weak with overindulgence that caused their downfall. Nor is it the case that they fell because their enemies were stronger than they. No, their undoing was that God “put them out of his sight.” Because of their infidelity, God did not care for them as he did for their ancestors emerging from Egypt.
It is sometimes said that the Church more than any nation on earth will continue to exist. This is true because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Still the Church cannot take the Spirit’s presence for granted. We must pray for its guidance and follow its promptings if we are to live in its glory.
Memorial of Saint John Fisher, bishop and martyr, and Saint Thomas More, martyr
(I Peter 4:12-19; Matthew 10:34-39)
Today’s gospel reminds us of the necessity to love Jesus more than family. It spurs us to follow his directives rather than our parents’ when the two sets diverge. The gospel implies as well that we are to love Jesus more than our country. It may hurt to think of having to choose between God and country, but at times in our lives there may be reason to do so. Thomas More was forced to choose God as He is interpreted in the Church over his king. His stand costed him his life.
We wonder if there are laws that we should not obey for love of God. In some areas doctors are being subject to legal censure if they do not participate in physician-assisted suicide. Some may have to resign from their practice rather than submit to a law demanding that they do so. For a long time legislators similarly have faced a moral dilemma akin to disobeying an unjust law. They have had to choose between voting in favor of abortion-friendly bills and losing popular support.
One element of Thomas More’s story should give us consolation. He did not seek martyrdom. He refused to say anything about the defining question of his day – the Act of Supremacy declaring the English monarch as head of the Church in England. For people of lesser stature and perhaps with a more tolerant king, his life would have been spared. In any case, we pray in the Our Father, “deliver us from evil” that we will be spared such ruinous choices. But let us also pray that when we cannot avoid making a costly decision, we will like Tomas More do so in favor of the Lord.