A homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is it not amazing how we can have so many experiences of God’s faithful love for us and still succumb to fears in our daily lives? We are afraid of what people will say or think about us. We are afraid of being rejected, criticized, and persecuted, etc. We are afraid of failing and disappointing loved ones. We are afraid that our efforts will not be appreciated by others. These are only some of the fears that linger in our hearts.
But we don’t have to let fear cripple us always. We can actually cripple fear too if we learn the lesson that Jesus offers us in the tenth Chapter of Mathew’s Gospel from which today’s Gospel is taken. Jesus does not just command us to avoid fear: “Have no fear of them.” He also shows us how we can cripple fear itself.
First of all, we must open our hearts and minds to the words that Jesus speaks to us even in the dark and frightening moments of our lives and be ready to echo these words to the world, “What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light.” Even in the darkest moments, Our Lord Jesus continues to communicate words of healing, hope, forgiveness, strength to us and these words are not just for us but are meant to be conveyed to all others by our own words and actions even if they have or may reject us, “As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”
Secondly, we must live with the conviction that God is so one with us that He knows us very well as well as all that we are going through, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered.” By virtue of the Incarnation, the Word of God has united Himself to every one of us and He shares in all our experiences too except sin. We must live with this conviction that God knows us as well as our past failures, current worries, present strengths, and future achievements as well as all that we are going through presently. In Jesus Christ, God has experienced what we experience today and gives us the grace to follow in His footsteps, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master…If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign those of his household.”
Thirdly, we must also live with that conviction that God loves us just as we are and we do not need to pretend to be something or someone else, “Fear not therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” The frightening moments of our lives is the time when the Spirit of love within us will surely speak to give witness to Jesus Christ, “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Lastly, we also live with the conviction that God will surely reward us for whatever good that we do or endure for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus, who assures us that “we will be hated by all for His name’s sake,” also assures us that He will approve us before the face of the Father for what we do for His sake even if the entire world should condemn and criticize us, “So everyone who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”
The young prophet Jeremiah in today’s First Reading is facing the frightening prospect of death at the hands of his people for his prophetic message calling them to submit to the approaching Babylonian force. His friends become his persecutors, “All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.” But he is aware of God’s presence with him, “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” He sees his trial as God “testing him and probing his mind and heart.” He cripples his fear by praising God, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our fears overcome and cripple us despite God’s amazing blessings in our lives when we begin to doubt God’s words and His promises to us. The same words of Jesus that calmed storms and drove out demons are meant to set us free from fear if we listen to them with faith as the words of the Risen Christ and willingly reflect these words to others by our own words and actions. Compromise with the world or seeking to just blend with the crowd only makes our fears increase. Fears cripple us when we see God as distant and uncaring, not knowing us and what we are going through. We are crippled by fears when we doubt God’s unconditional love for us and think that we have to do something good to win His love and show others that we are worthy of love. Lastly, fears overwhelm and stifle us in the midst of God’s gifts when we are not doing things for the sake of Christ and seeking our rewards from Him alone.
I remember lying down prostrate on the floor as the Litany of Saints was being sung at my priestly ordination. My legs were trembling at the thought of being ordained a Catholic priest. I was thinking, “Am I really ready for this? Would I be faithful to the end? What would people say about me?” Listening to the list of saints being chanted, I pondered how all those saints, beginning with Mama Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, dealt with different forms of fears too. They all faced fears that I could not even imagine: fears from the malice of wicked men and temptations from demons, and fears from their own weaknesses. Their fears did not cripple them but they crippled their fears by “the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.”(Rev 12:11) My fears dispelled as I sensed that hope that divine grace offered by the blood of the Lamb was more than enough for me to follow the footsteps of the saints.
Our Eucharist today as always is a participation in the blood of the Lamb who says to us, “Do not be afraid.” The Eucharistic sacrifice is where the God-man, who knows us more than we know ourselves, loves us as we are, shares in our frightening experiences, and assures us that our faithful witness to Him before others will never be in vain.
Let our life of witness be strong by sharing with others His words and fruits of the graces that we receive, by living in that conviction that He knows us perfectly and loves us unconditionally, and that He has assured us of our heavenly reward. This is how we can cripple our fears…for a change.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!