Richard S. Vosko

Musings on religion, art and architecture

Homily – 3 July 2016 – I Pledge to Speak Fearlessly


Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time C – 3 July 2016 – I Pledge to Speak Fearlessly

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Each morning in elementary school, even before prayers, we pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Say it with me now, please. You may recall the words “one nation under God” were added in 1954.

“One nation under God.” Really? What do those words mean for us now? When Jesus claimed the kingdom is at hand he was not referring to a futuristic heavenly place but life on earth free of all injustices and fears.

How does the cry of Isaiah “Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort” ring true with Lady Liberty’s invitation “Give me your tired, your poor … Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”?

The prophet Isaiah was writing about restoration, healing and comfort after a post-exilic period of political turmoil. He described a world renewed (65:17) in which “no longer shall the sound of weeping be heard.” 

Jesus summoned his followers to spread this same message. He reminded them that in some places the door would be open while in others slammed in their faces. When they returned the disciples reported that their mission was successful perhaps because they spoke fearlessly, believing strongly that the the words of Jesus would overcome evil in the world. 

Brendan Byrne adds this comment. They (the 72 disciples) had a “deep sense of relationship with God and a knowledge of the destiny to which that relationship leads.” [1] What is that destiny? Where is it?  Alicia Vargas had this thought. It is an “utterly new way of being for those in Christ, made right with God by faith and thereby set free to be and to live in a new, distinction-free form of life.”

For us, current global conditions are daunting, fraught with doubt, anger and despair. In the Global Trends Report for 2015 just issued by the United Nations a record 65 million people have been displaced by global conflicts. Ban Ki-Moon recently denounced what he called “border closures, barriers and bigotry.” Our own country is slow to welcome 10,000 Syrians. We face criticism from human rights advocates over deportation of Central Americans including women and children. [2] Oh, give me your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free!

The United States Catholic bishops in their statement “Faithful Citizenship” remind us to consider how we are called to help make God’s vision a reality.  “Unlike some places in the world, we have the ability, as Americans, to take an active role in political life without fear of danger or intimidation … we must work together to transform the world around us.”

This Independence Day weekend we celebrate our freedom and abundant harvests with family gatherings, fireworks and patriotic songs. Let us also remember our Christian mission pledging to speak fearlessly, to make real “liberty and justice” for all.


1. Byrne, Brendan. The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke’s Gospel (Collegeville: Liturgical Press) 2000) 95-96

2.  Sengupta, Somini. “Record 65 Million People Displaced, UN Says” in New York Times, June 20, 2016, A3


Author: Richard S. Vosko

Richard S. Vosko, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, is an internationally known sacred space planner. He is a presbyter in the Diocese of Albany who enjoys the classroom as much as the pulpit. On Sundays he presides at worship at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Albany, NY. For more information on Vosko’s background, his projects, publications and speaking engagements please go to his website. For his homilies and occasional musings about religion, art and architecture go to his blog. Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcomed there.

2 thoughts on “Homily – 3 July 2016 – I Pledge to Speak Fearlessly

  1. Compels me to figure out just how to effect “liberty and justice” There you go, moving us out of the comfort zone.


  2. The “already” partial presence of the kingdom seems barely visible in our current divisive climate. While some would be willing to embrace immigrants, others, with a short historical memory would not. Bigotry and falsehood abound. And even bishops, save for a few, who supposedly uphold a higher llaw, hide themselves from action in a rhetorical flourish of generalized statements that do not lead them or us to courageous action. We are too afraid of consequences.
    I sound pessimistic here, and perhaps I am, but I see no real light in the tunnel from politicians or bishops, and local clerics and joint ecumenical groups, very ones who have the power to potentially enact change of heart and lead to people to action.

    Now that it is more or less clarified that the fullness of kingdom of equality, of right relationships is not a place of entry to a great reward, but rather a way of being, should we latch on to the idea, is going to be a major disappointment for those seeking what ‘s in it for me, for the self, rather than being more totally given to right relationships that ought to have had its start right now but for the fullness of its unannounced time Seems we have been asked to move beyond reward and punishment as a level of human and moral growth that far exceeds our abilities to grasp. There is a theological gap here that is mighty wide. And now I have gone off on a whole other thought, if related to the question of “give me your tired, your poor . . . .”

    All this to say, prayer alone will not unite our Divided States of America. Any suggestions, Reverend as one thinks further on this 4 th of July weekend?

    Thanks always though for your homilies that are more provactive than most I have ever heard, save from the late great Bernard Haring and the still living R. Michael Schaab, and Roger Karban.


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