TEXT: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 3, 2016

July 7, 2016 Father De Celles Homily

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 3, 2016

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


It was the 23rd of March, in the year 1775.

Delegates from all over Virginia, including men like

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason,

had gathered at St. John’s Church in Richmond

to debate Virginia’s response

to the oppression of the English King and parliament.

After 3 days of debating and indecision, a 39 year-old devout Christian,

a husband and the father of 6–and eventually 17–children,

stood to address the assembly.

His name was Patrick Henry,

and the words he spoke that day changed the course of History,

stirring Virginians to take leadership in the struggle

that a little over a year later would soon lead to

the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America

on July 4th, 1776.


He spoke that day of oppression and freedom.

Of respecting the different opinions of others,

but the necessity of boldly defending our own.

He spoke of the great responsibility to express our opinions, lest we be,

“guilty of treason towards my country,

and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven.”

He spoke of making whatever great sacrifices were necessary,

to defend liberty and to oppose despotism.

He spoke of false hope in the goodwill of tyrants,

and the illusory peace of ignoring the truth we see around us.

He spoke of our reliance on God,

and God’s active role in our lives and the lives of nations.


And he concluded with words that swell the hearts of all Americans

with both pride and determination, saying:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take;

but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”


241 years later we face new threats to our liberties,

as ideological oppressors in government and politics

try not only to impose a new morality and social structure on our nation,

but even try to force us to think as they think,

or to suffer the consequences.


And to do that they must coerce, subjugate or destroy anyone

who has a different opinion than they do.

And to do that, they must deny us our most basic liberties,

especially the freedom of religion.


And they do.

They tell our children in government controlled schools they must not

pray in public, or talk about their faith,

or defend the dignity of marriage and babies,

or even acknowledge the simple differences between males and females.

And they fine and force Christian bakers and florists

to participate in same-sex weddings.

They tell good, kind nuns like the Little Sisters of the Poor,

and other Christian charities,

that they are unjust and must cease their good works

if they don’t give contraception insurance to their employees.

And they call faithful Christians, both laity and clergy alike,

haters and bigots if we don’t say what our oppressors want us to say.


When Patrick Henry encountered tyranny like this,

he responded, “give me liberty or give me death.”

How do we respond?


In today’s 2nd reading, St. Paul says

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,

through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

The world has died to him, and he suffers for the world.

Do we respond to a world that opposes Christ and simple natural truth

by submitting to the yolk of our oppressors

or by being crucified for our opposition?

Do we boast in our slavery to the values of an immoral and unnatural world,

or do we embrace the freedom won by the Cross of Christ?

Do we rejoice in our suffering for Christ,

or do we rejoice in the false peace

won by compromising with those who would nail Christ to the Cross

all over again today?


Will we meekly shackle ourselves with the chains of our oppressors,

or will we cast them off and boldly shout:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!”



Now, Patrick Henry’s speech was a call to arms, literally.

He was calling for a militia to fight a bloody battle for independence.

Sometimes the fight for liberty requires that,

and thank God for the men and women who have and do

take up arms and physically do violence to protect liberty.

Like George Washington and his soldiers who fought for our liberty

in the War of Independence.

Or those who fought the war to free the slaves,

or to free Europe from the Nazis,

or who still fight to keep us free from the tyranny of terrorism and Islamism.


This sermon is also a call to arms—but not with the violence of guns and bombs.

In Patrick Henry’s speech

he explained how the Colonists had done everything they could

to peacefully resolve their differences with England—all to no avail.

They had debated, pleaded, appealed, and been loyal subjects of the King

for over a decade.

But in the end, the King just sent more and more soldiers and battleships.

And so they rightly resorted to violent revolution.


But I do not call you to violence, far from it.

Because we have barely begun to fight for our rights

with all the peaceful means at our disposal.

We vote—but not all of us vote,

and those who do often vote for the very people who then oppress us.

We speak out—but not very loudly,

and most of the time not in public situations

in front of anyone who would actually disagree with us.

We take action—but usually only when it’s convenient,

and not too often, because we’re just too busy living daily life,

too busy to go to school board meetings,

or to help organize others to make a stand.

We proclaim our faith, but not so that it would offend anyone,

or so that it might cause us any embarrassment, much less real suffering.


And yet, in today’s gospel, Jesus sends 72 disciples to go into the world

and proclaim the truth of the Gospel.

And he doesn’t say,

“if they don’t like what you have to say, apologize and shut up.”

Rather he says:

“Whatever town …[that] do[es] not receive you,

go out into the streets, shake the dust off your feet, and say,

‘The dust of your town …we shake off against you.’

In other words, boldly and publicly proclaim the truth,

and if people reject it, move on and leave them in their sins.


We also have to go out and boldly proclaim the truth of Christ in public

—“in the streets”—

but first we have to defend our freedom to do that!

Because if we don’t what will happen to us, and to our nation?

What does Jesus say about the towns that reject the gospel and its messengers?

He says:

“I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day

than for that town.”

Sodom was the city of rampant immorality, especially sexual sins,

that God destroyed with fire from the sky in the Old Testament.


Now, I am not saying that God is preparing to destroy America

by showering it with fire from the sky.

But will he continue to shower it with His blessings as he’s done for 240 years,

if we fail to proclaim his gospel?


So, we must stand up for Christ and the Truth,

and the liberty to proclaim and live in both.

And we must be willing to make real sacrifices along the way.

As Patrick Henry said, “give me liberty or give me death.”

And as St. Paul said,

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,

through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”


Are you willing to be crucified, to die, to the world for Christ?

I hope you are willing,

but I also hope that you won’t be crucified or die for him.


But what are you willing to risk, to sacrifice?

Popularity among your peers?

The affection of your friends or family?

Maybe even your particular job or career?

Maybe the money you spend or lose

by taking your kids out of government run schools

and sending them to Catholic schools, or to homeschool?

Or the time you might spend going to school board meetings,

or parents’ meetings?

Or how about even sacrificing a little time to vote?


When Patrick Henry gave that speech 241 years ago

he put everything on the line:

he became a wanted man,

who would be executed for treason upon capture by the British

—who had thousands of soldiers

camped only miles from his home.

And he was not alone:

think of all the patriots during the American revolution

and over the last 2 centuries since who have risked so much,

and lost so much.


All to defend liberty

—but not the false liberty of immorality espoused by secularists today,

but the true liberty of being free to live according to the truth

—the truth about what is good and bad,

what is noble and what is degrading;

the freedom to strive to be the best we can be,

not simply whatever we want to be.



During these last 2 weeks

we’ve remembered others who have done something very similar,

as we’ve celebrated the feasts of great martyrs

who were denied their liberty and finally executed by governments

for trying to defend and proclaim the truth.

We think of St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher, imprisoned and executed

for proclaiming the truth about marriage and the role of government,

in relationship to the Church and religion, to King Henry VIII.

And St. John the Baptist, also imprisoned and executed

for proclaiming the truth about marriage to King Herod.

And of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the first martyrs of Rome,

executed by the Emperor Nero,

for proclaiming the Gospel and its moral teachings to a pagan culture.


Think of what all these saints and patriots suffered for the truth,

and for the liberty to proclaim and to live according to the truth.


And think about what you will do, what you must do, today.

What sacrifices you must make.


They say, that when Patrick Henry finished his speech,

the entire assembly was silent for several minutes afterwards,

and then, in spite of the great personal sacrifices it meant,

voted to lead the fight for liberty.


I know that I have not been nearly as eloquent or persuasive,

but I pray that, by the grace of Christ crucified,

you may also be moved to accept the sacrifices necessary

to become leaders in today’s fight for liberty

—especially religious liberty.


For the sake of our families.

For the sake of our children.

For the sake of our nation.

For the sake of our Church.

For the sake of “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet,

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take;

but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”