DO NOT BE AFRAID
Twelfth Sunday of the Year-June 21, 2020
First Reading: Jer 20: 10-13. Jeremiah had the knowledge that God was with him. This enabled him to remain faithful to his difficult task as a prophet.
Second Reading: Rom 5: 12-15. Saint Paul draws a contrast between Christ and Adam. Sin came into the world through Adam and abundant grace through Jesus Christ.
Gospel: Mt 10: 26-33. Christ exhorts his disciples to be fearless witnesses to the Gospel. He assures them of God’s special care in all their trials.
When Jesus sent his apostles out to proclaim openly and to witness to him before the world, he knew that they were fearful. The apostles had good reason to be fearful, because they knew that they had to face hardship and persecution. So, not once but three times Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”
It is normal and natural that courage will sometimes fail us and that we will be afraid. All those who have accomplished great things in the world, have known fear at one time or another in their life. We think of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading of today, we think of Jesus himself in the garden of Gethsemane.
Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear sometimes, has a protective function, warning us of the presence of danger. Nevertheless, fear can be a handicap. It can paralyse a person. Fear can turn a person into a coward.
Once upon a time there was a mouse that had a crippling fear of cats. God took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of the dogs. So, God turned it into a dog. So, it became afraid of panthers. Then God turned it into a panther. It became afraid of hunters. At this point God gave up. He turned it back into a mouse saying, ‘nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.’
Jesus knew that the apostles were afraid. He understood their fears and took them seriously. When he said to them, ‘do not be afraid’, he was addressing their fears and trying to allay them. He was trying to give them courage. He was trying to move them beyond fear, knowing that fear could make them so timid to the point of being unable to fulfill their mission.
How did he suggest they should overcome their fears? Through trust in God and reliance on God. Jesus urged them to have trust in God. Jesus assured them that God knew every detail of their lives, and would support them in every crisis.
The prophet Jeremiah lived out his vocation during a time of great turmoil, which saw the defeat of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He lived with constant threats to his life. Yet, in spite of everything, he remained faithful to his calling. What was it that enabled him to overcome his fears and remain faithful to his mission? It was the conviction that God was in his side: “The Lord is at my side, a mighty hero.”
God is at our side too. And while at times we grow fearful, we must not allow our fears to cripple us. To live a Christian life requires courage. But then any meaningful living requires courage. What we need in life is not so much heroism but ordinary courage. Courage is the most important virtue in life. Because without courage you can’t practise any other virtue with constancy. And Faith is a great source of courage. As men and women of faith, we believe that God will give us the strength to cope with whatever comes.
The greatest freedom of all is freedom from fear. Unless we overcome our fears, we cannot live a dignified human life. We can have political freedom, economic freedom, emancipation and the many other freedoms, if I am not free from fear, I remain slave of myself. Nevertheless, fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. They can and do coexist. Courage is never being afraid. Courage is being afraid, overcoming it, or carrying on in spite of it.
You want to be a disciple of Jesus? remove the heart of a mouse and have a brave heart. May the Lord give each and every one of us, a brave heart, a heart of Jeremiah and Paul. Amen.