What Do You Do With Your Fear? (12th Sunday, Year A)
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In our readings today, we hear quite a bit about fear. The prophet Jeremiah, speaks about those around him who are plotting his downfall and looking for ways to kill him. Not even his friends can be trusted any longer. Our psalm speaks of bearing shame and insult for the sake of God. The suffering of the psalmist is more than mere insults. As a result of his witness to God, he has becoming an outcast from his own family. But our Lord tells us to fear no one, except the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.
So what are we supposed to think about all of this talk about fear? Certainly, throughout human history, it is one thing that has never been in short supply. I am sure that we have all experienced fear in our lives. Perhaps when we were young, we found ourselves afraid of the dark, afraidof leaving our parents, or even frightened by clowns, chores, or getting sick. As we grew older, our fears may have changed. As young people, we may be afraid of public speaking, standing out from the crowd, or making our friends angry. Even as adults, we still struggle with fear. Perhaps your fear is related to your job and the economy. Or a rocky marriage or an abusive relationship. Many of us are frightened by health problems, struggles in our society, difficulties in our families, and our own personal shortcomings and insecurities. Even though our specific fears may change,the notion of fear is a constant presence in our life. We never quite grow out of it.
Fear, however, is not always entirely bad. While it can make us helpless and paralyzed; it can also move us to perform great acts of courage. Take Jeremiah in our first reading. He was a man who had a lot to be afraid of. He was called by God to be a prophet at a very young age. His countrymen and king turned against him because his message was unpopular and challenging. He was put into prison for proclaiming the message of God and his life was threatened. This didn’t just happen once but a number of times.
The truth is, Jeremiah was afraid. In chapter 1:6, when God asks him to proclaim his word, Jeremiah says, “Ah, Lord, I know not how to speak; I am too young.” And the Lord simply says, “to whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you.” That is all the Lord promised. He didn’t say it would be easy, glorious, or fun. But he did promise to be with Jeremiah as he proclaimed the message of the Lord. And Jeremiah responded in faith and trust in the power of God to protect him. He didn’t let his fear, as natural and understandable as it was, keep him from becoming an instrument of God’s word to the people of Jerusalem. His fear of being inadequate, persecuted, and too young, ended up deepening Jeremiah’s faith in God and enabled him to do great things in the name of the Lord.
The same is true for us. (I can tell you that the last few months have been full of fears and apprehension as I get ready to say goodbye to all of you and wonder what the next parish will think of me and my corny jokes!) Just as he did with the apostles in the gospel, the Lord sends us out each and every day to proclaim his saving truth to our friends, family, and those we encounter in our daily business. And his advice to us is very, very, simple. So simple in fact, that it is only three words: “fear no one.” But it is often difficult to witness to the teachings of Christ and his Church in our everyday lives. How often we fail because of our fears!! Perhaps it is the fear of speaking up when someone says or does something that is wrong. Maybe we are afraid offending someone with the gospel or we fear what the repercussions might be in our friendships, our careers, or our reputations. These fears are perfectly natural. But if we allow them to keep us from witnessing to the Gospel of Christ, then we will fail to be instruments of God. And we will not play a part in spreading his saving message of joy and peace to a world profoundly affected by fear and suffering.
Our Lord knew the power that fear can hold over us. He knew its ability to overtake and paralyze his followers. He assures us, his disciples, not to be afraid. He makes it clear that we are cared for and protected by our heavenly Father. Our God is mindful of each and every one of his creatures; he even cares for the lives of sparrows. He knows us inside and out; he has counted the hairs of our heads. He is aware of the things that frighten us and he will protect us, but we must have faith.
Categories: ARCHIVE Fr. Kevin Schroeder