Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Tom Brown’s School Days was a famous British novel written by Thomas Hughes. Tom Brown was a popular boy who attended a boarding school in England. He lived with about a dozen other boys in one of the school’s dormitories. Whatever Tom said or did always had a big impact on what the other boys in the school said or did. One day a new boy came to the school. When it came time for bed that night, the new boy innocently knelt down beside his bed to say his prayers. A few of the boys began to snigger. A couple of others began to laugh and joke. One even threw a shoe at the kneeling boy. That night Tom didn’t go to sleep right away. He lay awake, thinking about what had happened to the newcomer. He also began to think about his mother and the prayers she taught him to say each night before bed – prayers he had not said since coming to school. The next night several of the boys in the dormitory were looking forward to poking fun at the new boy again. When bedtime came, however, something totally unexpected happened. When the new boy knelt down to say his night prayers, Tom knelt down also. When the other boys in the dormitory saw Tom kneeling and praying, they did not carry out their plans. That simple little episode from Tom Brown’s School Days illustrates in a dramatic and poignant way what Jesus had in mind when he said in today’s gospel: Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. We’ve all had crosses to carry over these last few months and it has been a struggle to carry these crosses. We often come across people who are so committed to helping others and thinking about others that they forget their own crosses and tribulations. During these past few months we have seen some heroic examples of front-line workers, charitable organizations, parents home schooling their children, bearing witness to their faith in Christ and humanity, carrying their crosses and heling others to carry theirs. The great artist Michelangelo, when at work, would fasten to the cap he wore over his head a lighted candle so that no shadow of himself might fall upon the marble or canvas. We must take care that no shadow of ourselves, personal ambitions, self-seeking, falls upon that which we are doing for Christ. Someone once said that every Christian occupies some kind of pulpit and preaches some kind of sermon every day. St. Francis invited a brother to accompany him to preach to the town. Today’s gospel message is directed at all of us. Christ is asking us to have the courage to be his witnesses in the world, to not be afraid to stand with him whatever it costs. If we do not stand up for Jesus in our world today how can we expect him to stand up for us when we need him? Let us close with a prayer: God our Father, give us the courage to bear witness to you in every area of life. Help us realize that the most important area of witness is in the home. If we bear witness in this area, our witness in the other areas of life will take care of itself.