Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Gunther
Did you know that the phrase “Do not be afraid” is found 365 times in the Bible? In today’s Gospel reading we again hear Jesus say 3 different times “Fear no one” … “do not fear” … “do not be afraid”. But isn’t it easier said than done sometimes?
So, what are some of the things you might be afraid of? Perhaps spiders? We don’t like how they scuttle along the floor and build webs in the corners of the garage and furnace room. Are you afraid of lightning and thunder? A sudden flash followed by a loud crash can send children scurrying into their parent’s beds in the middle of the night. Some people have a fear of heights and won’t even climb a ladder. Others may be afraid of the water if they can’t swim. We all fear rejection, don’t we?
Fear can be helpful as a warning to save our lives or it can be a burden when holding us back from our mission in life.
Jesus tells the apostles “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Meaning they should fear God who can relegate them to either eternal hell or eternal heaven.
Today’s Gospel contains the last part of the instructions Jesus gives to the Twelve Apostles before he sends them on their mission. He uses the issue of fear to impress on them the scale of his project and what is at stake for those called to work for it. We hear Jesus sending the disciples on a mission with a rather threatening expectation. “Do not be afraid” implies there is a reason to be fearful. The disciples will be subjected to similar atrocities that Jesus suffered, persecution, rejection, betrayal and worse. The disciples have been asked to share the Good News. But their message will not always be received with open minds. Sometimes they will be hated, threatened, locked up and even killed. But they are told to preach anyway. To not be deterred from proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, since the Gospel messages are meant for all to hear.
In God, there is a purpose for us even if we don’t know yet what it is. We are in effect all called to do as Jesus did. We as disciples are meant to love others and spread the Good News.
How can we use our gifts to share the love of Christ? What roadblocks might we encounter in our pursuit to share the Good News? You may have noticed that it’s human nature to fear the unknown. Like when our faith asks of us to believe in God’s love even when we are suffering or see others suffering. Note that God does not promise anyone a life without difficulties. As a child, it might have been fear of the darkness. As an adult, it may be an unexpected event like a pandemic that disrupts our lives.
Jesus talks to the Twelve as a parent might console a child. He encourages his followers to put their trust in his word and in his friendship with them. He assures them that they are precious in the sight of God. God has perfect knowledge of everything about us. He knows the number of hairs on our head. Some peoples are easier to count than others! 😊
He cares for everything about us. He already knows the secrets in our hearts. Whatever we may be suffering we should not think that God has forsaken us. We should not be afraid. We are of more value than many sparrows.
Notice that in Matthew's Gospel account, Jesus tells the apostles three different times to not be afraid. He is not talking just about fear in general. He is also speaking about that particular kind of fear We Christians feel when called on to say something or do something that shows we are followers of Christ. Jesus did not say there would be no reason to fear. He knew some people would make fun of his followers. There could be danger of losing friends or losing a job or being bypassed for a promotion.
We too sometimes might be afraid to show we are Christ’s followers for example when we are:
· Afraid to change the subject when someone brings up a juicy piece of gossip or
· Afraid to refuse to try a dangerous drug when offered by a peer or
· Afraid to turn down that next drink when we know we have had enough or
· Afraid to give some change to a beggar in case he might use it for other than food
· Or afraid to stop bullying when we see it
Of course, your participation at this Mass is one proof that you are not afraid to acknowledge that you are followers of Christ. So may the celebration of this Mass increase in us the confidence to profess Christ at all times.
We hear right at the end of today’s Gospel that there is good news. Jesus assures everyone that faith in him will lead to life everlasting with the Father in heaven. My friends that is good news indeed. Don’t be afraid to share it.
I’d like to close by sharing with you the words to the Hymn “Be Not Afraid”. “You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way. You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand. You shall see the face of God and live. Be not afraid. I go before you always come follow me and I will give you rest. If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown. If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed. If you stand before the power of hell and death is at your side know that I am with you through it all.”
May God bless you.