12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
Jeremiah 20:10-13 – Romans 5:12-15 – Matthew 10:26-33.
My dear friends in Christ, when I was a little boy I was always afraid of the dark. I would do my best not to wake up at night, because the darkness terrified me. Having a light on in the room would have comforted me, but that wasn’t possible because it would have kept my siblings awake. Sometimes my fear of the dark was so great that it caused me to have nightmares. This fear of the dark began to dissipate when my father started taking me with him to Holy Mass at 5:30 a.m. That was the normal Mass time in our parish. Though it was still dark at that hour of the morning, I wasn’t afraid because my father was with me, and we walked along hand in hand. He would always tell me: “Do not be afraid. Nothing bad is going to happen to you because God is with us.” Having my father with me on my way to church was a great source of strength to me. With the passage of time I developed the confidence to go to church by myself, knowing that I was not alone on the journey.
I mention this story because I know that, in one way or another, we are all victims of fear when we are faced with the hard experiences and challenges of life. Today the Lord lovingly advises us: “Do not be afraid”.
In the first reading, Jeremiah made mention of the challenges he faced, including the attacks he was under and the terror that surrounded him. However, he went on to say, “but the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero”, and because of Him “my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.”
In the gospel reading, Jesus told the Twelve “Do not be afraid” not once but twice in order to drive His point home. The first time, He was referring to things and events, and the second time He was referring to people. Jesus wanted the Twelve to understand that when it came to preaching the Gospel and living out the lifestyle He required of them, only fear stood in their way. Jesus instructed them that – rather than being afraid of things or events or of people – they should fear God Who is more powerful than anything or anyone and Who is above all. “What” you may ask, “do you mean by ‘the fear of God’?” The answer is that ‘fearing God’ is simply a matter of ‘preferring God above all else’. ‘Fearing God’ means accepting the supremacy of God Who is first in every way.
“Do not be afraid!” The Lord is speaking these same words of comfort to us as we in our own time face many things and events that terrify us – sickness, pain, disease, discrimination in its many forms and the human agents who perpetrate it, brutality, injustice, terrorism, and so on. The list is endless. There are so many frightening things that can leave us cowering in the corner … but when we remember God the Father Who is on our side, Jesus Who laid down His life that we might live, Who promised to be with us till the end of time, God Who can make possible everything that seems to us to be impossible, God in Whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), and Who lives in us through the working of the Holy Spirit (1Jn 2:27), then we can take courage that we shall be victorious. We are children of the invincible God (Josh 23:10), so “Do not be afraid” for God is with us (Is 41:10).
Stanley Coopersmith of the University of California carried out an academic study into why some people succeed, while others with equal talents and opportunities fail. Coopersmith studied 1700 students over a period of six years. The study revealed that the governing factor regarding the outcome of success or failure is a person’s self-image. When a person has a positive self-image of himself or herself, they are more likely to do themselves justice and meet with success; and when a person has a negative self-image of himself or herself, they are less likely to do themselves justice and therefore to fail. Borrowing from this study, let us take a look at the result in spiritual terms. What is the image you have of yourself personally? Is it positive or negative?
Let’s go on to ask: ‘What does Scripture tell us about our image?” Right from the beginning, the Scriptures tell us that we are created in the image of God (Gen 1:26). If we see ourselves in the light of this image, then we have the confidence to do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil.4:13). Why is that? Because God can do everything (Mt 19:26) and we are his adopted children through our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5), and as children of God the Father we possess His Spirit (Eph 3:20), which is not a Spirit of slavery to fear, but of sonship which make us to call on God: “Abba Father” (Rom 8:14-15).
Being a child of God reminds me of my father in that story I told you, my daddy who took me physically by the hand and comforted me with his presence, telling me “do not be afraid”. God is our heavenly Father, and He is with us in all things, no matter what, and with him all things are possible (Mt 19:26). Why, then, should we be afraid?
There is no need for us to be afraid. If God can take care of the birds of the air (which He does), and if He knows everything about the sparrows and their needs (which He does), how much more will He take care of you and me who are His beloved children, and how much more will He know everything about us and our needs! He says, “you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”. It was for you, for me, and for all humanity past, present and future that Jesus Christ offered Himself in our place and died on the Cross of Calvary to make us right with God so that we have no need to be afraid. “If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, please help me by removing any fear that has held me back from acknowledging that You are there for me through each and every event and experience of my life. Help me to take on board that I have been wonderfully made in the image of God, the God from Whose image I derive my personal self-image. Confident that You are always with me till heaven is gained at last, please grant me the grace to keep on fighting all the battles of life.
Amen. God bless you.