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Be Not Afraid – America’s Bishop Leads the Charge

Articles, The Good News, Video | June 21, 2023 | by Catholics for Catholics

Catholics for Catholics is excited to announce the beginning of a new interview series, Be Not Afraid.

Join us as we sit down with heroic, culture warriors to reflect on the anti-Christian condition of America as well as the action steps we must dare to embrace if we hope to establish the social kingship of Christ. We are blessed to have Bishop Strickland join us for the first Be Not Afraid on-set interview.

Thank you, your Excellency.

Bishop Joseph Strickland joined Catholic for Catholic’s prayer rally in Los Angeles. In the interview, he explains why he believes that the truth of the Christian faith is beautiful and needs to be spoken about.

Bishop Strickland urges Catholics to be first-century Christians in the 21st century, like the ones who brought the message of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to the world. 

He thinks that the confusion of the past decade is sweeping the world, and people are forgetting that Christ died for us all. Bishop Strickland also emphasizes that Jesus Christ is the face of truth and needs to be reemphasized as fully God and fully man. The church should joyfully and clearly wake people up to this truth that has not changed.

Bishop Strickland believes that the church needs to embrace what it means to be human and the image and likeness of God, emphasizing the need for humility and following the example of Jesus Christ.

Transcript

John Yep:

Bishop, it is a pleasure to be here. I just picked you up from the airport and we’re on the march as Catholics should be in their own way, right?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Absolutely.

John Yep:

So maybe just lead right into that. What inspired you to join some of these Catholic lay people and Christians at this prayer rally today here in Los Angeles?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Well, John, when you called me, I just said if I can, I’ll be there because we do need to speak up. We need to speak the truth. The truth of our faith is beautiful. It’s a glorious message for 2000 years and we can’t be shy about it. We can’t be less than on fire with, it’s the truth for humanity. And I think we’ve kind of lost that edge in recent years and we need to have the faith, as I say so often, we need to be first century Christians in the 21st century.

So what did the first century Christians do? They brought the message of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to the world. The message is out there, but too many people are not paying attention to it. And this thing going on at Dodger Stadium, it’s just one more episode. It’s not about attacking anyone, it’s not about being against anything. It’s being about for the truth of Jesus Christ. And just joyfully, vigorously sharing that truth and helping people to wake up to this is truth for every person.

I mean, John, I know I just talked, but I was in the airport walking around, praying the rosary and just praying for everybody there. And there are a lot of people in Orlando Airport, even as early as it was this morning and just reminding myself, Jesus Christ died for every one of these people. The vast variety of people you see in an international airport like that in the world these days saying it’s a reminder that Christ died for us all. And that’s been forgotten.

And so, what’s going on at Dodger Stadium, I definitely don’t want to give it any more press really, but to just say it’s an opportunity for us to say, “Here’s the truth. Here’s who we are, created in the image and likeness of God, men and women as it says in Book of Genesis.” And people have known for millennia. It’s just the confusion now of really the past decade I guess is really just sort of sweeping the world. But all of this going on, it’s the blasphemy and the disrespect of the beautiful women that have consecrated themselves to Jesus Christ. It’s all about Jesus Christ.

John Yep:

It is about Jesus Christ. And when I picked you up at the airport, audience know this, but I picked up my spiritual father and my earthly father, and it just hit me as you guys were coming there, I had my two dads, right? And we’re about to celebrate Father’s Day and fatherhood, you give us an example that fathers they smell like the sheep and they come there and they’re standing with us, because Bishop, we’re facing backlash for what we’re doing. But to have there is that you must see, in certain times, all these people as your spiritual children-

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Absolutely. All of the people. Everyone that will be at the prayer rally and everyone in the stadium, everyone, everywhere. That’s what we just got to remember and not apologize for it. I mean your dad, we had the chance to talk a little bit when we, because we met waiting for the baggage there in the airport and he said you’re one of eight, I guess, and large family. I came from a family, seven kids, two are deceased. But that’s how God made us.

I mean I would mention that my mother used to tell us, just be human. And sadly, we’re losing our grip on that in the world today. And the church is too shy about saying this is what it is to be human and the image and likeness of God. We need to joyfully and clearly wake people up to this truth that hasn’t changed. The truth doesn’t change. People can pretend it changes or say, “Oh, well, we need to change this.”

Truth doesn’t change and Jesus Christ is the face of truth. He’s truth incarnate. He was a young man that lived for 33 years. I mean in his culture that was probably about middle age or beyond. But so, he grew to be a mature man and gave his life on the cross for us. But every young man in his 20s, Jesus was their age. And I think we need to remember that reality. The church teaches very clearly, fully God and fully man.

I think we need to really embrace what does that mean in this 21st century if Jesus were walking around as a 25-year-old. And it was a very different culture, but he walked around as a 25-year-old in Nazareth there as he grew and prepared for his public ministry.

John Yep:

It’s funny that you bring up the point that you think that Jesus needs to be reemphasized as fully God and fully man. And many of us feel that the church can be so up here that it never incarnates, which is the precise thing. We never see Christ in the thing, but people could criticize as political. Is this a political move? Does the church need to be, has the church gotten too political or not political enough or how do you see the whole political question?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Well, everything’s political these days, but if you look back to Christ when he goes through his passion there in this backwater of Jerusalem, in the Roman Empire, it was a backwater place, Pontius Pilate. That wasn’t the best place to be for somebody that the Roman Empire was the center of the universe. Rome was where you wanted to be. But I think that what we need to realize is it’s really not that different. Humanity hasn’t changed drastically.

It was a bunch of corrupt sinners that tried to get rid of this Jesus problem, they thought they had, but he rose from the dead. And his disciples were audacious enough and strong enough and knew him, and we were talking about that. If you know Jesus Christ, how can you be quiet when your Lord and your dear friend, I mean I can call… I mean what a friend do we have in Jesus. It’s not just a song, it should be a reality.

And he died so that he could be Lord and Savior in that intimate way for each of us. So I think you’re exactly right. The tendency is after two millennia that it’s all just sort of concepts. And a lot of people reject Christianity and reject the Catholic faith. Just saying, “Oh, it’s a bunch of fairytales.” It’s not. It’s speaking of reality. And the fairytales are what’s taking over the world.

And it’s just like, I mean people are identifying as whatever they want to be. That’s ridiculous. But nobody’s willing to say, that’s ridiculous. I said, “Oh, we have to be politically correct and pat somebody in the head that decides they’re a basketball, whatever.” I mean it becomes insane.

John Yep:

So people will critique maybe some of the actions you’ve done and just a healthy banter back and forth and say, “Well, if I’m a bishop or if I’m part of this thing, I’m a pastor of these souls, or I’m running this apostolate, I can’t be so strong. I believe that, but I can’t be that strong because I don’t want to lose some of those people that are kind of in the middle of the road.” What would you say to that?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Well, John, I think we always, I mean every day when I wake up and begin and pray and start another day, I need to look to Jesus Christ. What did he say? What did he do? What sort of example did he leave us? And for one thing, tremendous humility. I mean the humility of the Lord of the universe being conceived in the womb of a woman just like we were, just like every man and woman on earth is the humility of God’s own son with the love of the Father saying, “God so loved the world, he gave us his son.”

He started like we start. He could have come in many different ways, but he wanted to really be one of us. And so, we have to look to Jesus for our operating model. How do we do this? How do we live as his mystical body in the world? If we look to Jesus, he didn’t say, “Oh, I might lose people so I need to water this down or I won’t say these hard things because some might leave.”

Some did leave. The gospel to make it very clear, especially, I mean it’s we’re about this eucharistic revival in the church, which we absolutely need in every dimension of our faith. Eucharistic revival is revival in Jesus Christ, because he’s the Eucharist. But I think to answer your question, how do we navigate all of this? We look to him and he was willing to say, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” Knowing, he knew the culture he was in, he knew what the buttons that pushed and the concerns that that brought about, but he was bringing them the truth and he didn’t back down.

The gospel say, “Many walked away from him.” But he drills down harder and says, “You will not have life in you unless you eat my body and drink my blood.” And yet it’s still a mystery for us. What is that? How does that really work? But we know that it’s really him. The real presence is the very heart of our faith. And that’s why we have to work hard to help Catholics to really believe that and to know that truth and to take his model to absolutely, he’s love incarnate. He’s truth incarnate.

Of course, none of us can live up to the model he gives us, but we’ve got to keep returning to it. And as I’ve said to people, I want to be challenged to be more Christ-like and more true to his teachings, because all of us can waiver or get a little off track or just be mistaken. We look to Christ and the model he gives us, he did not water it down. He didn’t compromise in order to have a bigger following. He told the truth and he ended up with 12 apostles, lost one of them, because he wouldn’t compromise with the truth.

John Yep:

There’s a term that’s been popular recently, deplorables. In reference just how President Trump garnered a bunch of people that felt like their voice was not heard and he took them and resulted in an election. There is that almost a term in the Catholic world, and in my work I deal with Catholics for Catholics, we deal with a lot of these either follow with Catholics or Catholics who are not really that much engaged in their faith, but could be.

And when they see people speaking out, church leaders who are there with us, they feel connected and that brings them closer to Christ. Catholics for Catholics trying to capitalize that on that, and we believe there’s a Catholic moment in this country. Would you agree that this is a big Catholic moment and opportunity in our country for evangelization?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Oh, I would agree. Because the things… I was born in 1958, I’m 64 years old. I was ordained to it as a priest in 1985. For a lot of my life things were sort of gray. There was a lot of gray, there was a lot of compromise. We’re getting black and white. It’s either you believe this or you don’t. And I think that clarity, it’s challenging, but I think it is a moment to bring the truth audaciously, to bring the truth of Christ.

And really, if you look at a lot of what’s going on, there are a lot of ways that we’re very similar to the Roman Empire world that Jesus encountered, especially with Rome considered to be the center of the universe at that time. I was just reflecting just recently that it’s very interesting that Christ came to the Roman Empire when that was the center of everything, to be Roman and to be in Rome that meant you were prince of the world. And he came to challenge that.

I think we are living in a time when the message of Jesus Christ is needed more desperately. I mean young people are lost, depressed, taking their own lives. They need to know how valuable they are. And I’ve thought, I think it was the summer of 2020 with all the COVID reaction and all this stuff going on and the crazy election, and frankly, the government on all sides, there’s corruption, there’s confusion.

The press is not giving us the truth. It’s a mess. But young people that I saw in that summer of 2020 protesting, all the violence, what really struck me is how many of them don’t know God and don’t know and believe that God loves them. And when you don’t have… You were talking about your spiritual father, your biological father, the father that raised you, our heavenly Father, when we don’t have those connections, when we don’t know we’re loved by God, by our fathers, by our community, by our family and our friends, when we don’t know love, things get dark, because we’re not, we’re getting disconnected from who we are.

We come from love. We are created in the image and likeness of God who John’s gospel says very clearly, “God is love.” And so, when we don’t know love, when we don’t know how deeply God loves us, no matter what our inclinations, no matter what we’re doing, no matter what sinful life we’re living, we can always do what Jesus said when he came. Repent and believe in the good news. It’s still the same basic message, but we’re forgetting the repent part. And it’s just like, “Oh, well, God loves you.” Yes, absolutely. But because he loves us, he calls us to the truth because God is truth and his son is truth incarnate.

John Yep:

One final question, and we were kind of alluded to it, you’re talking about this is a moment where it’s becoming black and white. There’s no more gray area. The thoughts of many hearts are being revealed. That was said about our blessed mother, your relationship with Mary. You mentioned something in the car. You said when you were deciding whether to come here, you were praying your rosary. You said, “Really praying my rosary.” And she told you nothing mysterious, we’re not saying that, but to go talk to Jesus.

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Yes.

John Yep:

Tell me about your relationship with Mary,

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Halfway into my episcopacy, I’ve been a bishop, it’ll be 11 years in November-

John Yep:

And I was at your Bishop’s conference in Rome. I was at the bishops course. I was there at the [inaudible 00:16:51]-

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

2013.

John Yep:

… where you got hepatitis, but I was not there part of it [inaudible 00:16:54]

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Yeah. Mary, I mean, I’ve said this to many people. My devotion to… I always pray the rosary some, but it’s just become part of the fabric of my prayer, of my reflection. I mean, in a sense, all of my reflections are mysteries of the rosary in one way or another, because they really take us through the life of Christ if we look at them that way. Mary really pulled me closer to her immaculate heart and said, “Come closer to the heart of her son, his sacred heart that we celebrate this day.” And so, Mary is-

John Yep:

Just recently that happened? Recently you felt that-

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Five years ago. But it’s just continued. And that’s, as I said, I think probably what you heard me say was I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have been in that car, I wouldn’t be sitting here now if that hadn’t happened. I mean it happened several years back now, about 2018 or even earlier. It’s not overnight. I mean, and I always believed, but the belief getting stronger and being bold enough to say things that I knew some people are going to say, “Oh, you’re saying too much. You’re being too controversial.”

But again, we look to Christ. He was very controversial for his time. And I’m certainly, I’m just a sinful disciple, but we’ve got to keep looking to him. And that’s what the saints model for us. We were talking about that and that we covered a lot in the car ride, LA traffic, it happens. But we were talking about the martyrs and the saints that died for him, it’s because they know him, that personal relationship.

I’m in a very non-Catholic part of the world. We’re less than 10% Catholic. Our evangelical brothers and sisters use that language. And we, as Catholics should say, “That’s our language as well.” Jesus Christ is our personal Lord and Savior. He feeds us with his body and blood. We should know him more intimately than anyone who is exclusively has that relationship through his word, which he’s present there as well. He’s word incarnate.

John Yep:

I’m going to add one encore. It’s about affirmation. I’ve had bishops and priests who’ve been amazingly, to call me on the phone recently in the weeks and say, “Good job. You’re doing an amazing job. You have my blessing.” Super grateful for that. But as a son, the importance of public affirmation, right? The father publicly affirmed his son three times in the gospel. This is my beloved son, everybody, I love this guy. Right? He’s doing a great job.

How important that is, would you concur? Because it’s like if I’m a dad and I hear from my dad that I’m doing a great job, but he’s afraid to say it in public. I’m like, “Come on, Dad. What’s up?” What do you say about affirmation, the importance of affirmation for fatherhood?

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean that’s very important and that’s how… I mean we both were little boys and now men, you’re a lot younger than I am, but you grow up to be a man. You need that fatherly affirmation from God, the father, and from your spiritual fathers and from your, as they say, biological father, the father that you grew up with.

And to have that affirmation, it makes his son sit up taller and be more of a man. And that’s I’m sure. It’s interesting to think about Christ and how that must have touched him. And the Father, God the Father, all knowing, of course, but even as he knew his son was living a human journey, that human part of Christ, which is always there and the great mystery of the incarnation, fully God and fully man. But the man, Jesus, needed to hear that in those key moments. If you think about when he heard, it was very critical moments. And what does he do in the Garden of Gethsemane? He says, “Father, if I can get out of this, let me, but thy will be done.” And that’s what we’re all called to.

John Yep:

By your presence here, you are affirming us and you’re confirming us. And probably there is a reason that bishops do confirmations. They confirm us. And I just want you to know a close to this, here you here, and in general, your [inaudible 00:21:29], your ministry, which you’re going to pray for our Catholics for Catholics, you are confirming. It’s like a second confirmation to seal the Holy Spirit, that what we’re doing is guided by the Spirit. We believe it. And like you always say, “If we’re not, correct us. We stand humble ready to serve.”

So Bishop, thank you for your time. You have our prayers, and let’s go to the battlefield. Spiritual warfare together today.

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Thanks, John.

John Yep:

Thank you, Bishop. I’m going to get your blessing.

Bishop Joseph Strickland:

Yes. Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing for John, of his wife and all of his family. Guide them always in your love and grace with the intercession of the saints and especially the queen of saints, the immaculate Virgin Mary. We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

John Yep:

Amen.

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