Sunday Homily: Do Not Be Afraid!
Many times when people think of God, they think of sin and redemption. So they learn to avoid sin so that they may go into Heaven. Yes that is part of our Christian life.
There are a multitude of teachings on the need to avoid sin and seek to do good. All of which is true, but there is something else that Jesus warned was powerful at leading you away from God that almost no one teaches. I would ask you to find the strongest fire and brimstone preacher and ask him how many times he taught on what Jesus warned would lead us away from Him and I would bet he would rarely preach on it.
We find it in today’s Gospel. It is fear and its companion vice anxiety. These are not sins in themselves. No one needs to confess the sin of fear, it is a powerful emotion as is anxiety, but, they can so paralyze us that they can lead us to despair of God’s love for us, paralyze us in our inability to live the faith and so many other things. In fact, the Bible warns us 365 times not to fear.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has just chosen the twelve disciples and now he is giving them instructions on how to live as his Apostles. Notice his first sentence. “Fear no one.”
One of the most powerful times Jesus scolds the apostles about being afraid is when he is sleeping in the boat, while the apostles are fishing and a great storm comes upon them. They in panic wake Him and Jesus gets up and literally shuts off the storm. Immediately, his first words to them are “Why were you afraid?”
It is fear that leaves the Apostles to abandon Jesus completely and hide as He is being crucified. It is fear that leads Peter to deny Him and it is fear that leads the Jewish leaders to turn Him over to Pilate to be executed. They were afraid that the Romans would see Jesus as a troublemaker and come in and destroy the whole Jewish state.
In fact, the devil’s greatest tool is not temptation it is fear, because fear can paralyze is, leave us to abandon Christ or even just shut us right down.
What is it that you may fear? In a recent study by Chapman University published in October of 2016, the list of fears basically demonstrated that people fear what they cannot control. It is that factor that could change one’s life immediately that leads people to be in fear of their government, world and personal lives.
The fears are legitimate, but what do we do about them.
Remember, Jesus can take the worst that happens to you and change it into a powerful miracle. Ask me about a friend who was diagnosed with cancer or about when my car was stolen, both are powerful stories that do not involve miracles per se, but take a disaster and turn it around.
If you cannot control it, there is no reason to worry about it happening.
It may happen, it may not, but there is nothing you can do to change it.
So what can you do about your fears. Go back to Jesus’ words. Trust in Him.
The Apostles are being sent by Jesus, they are actually going out as revolutionaries to change the society. They are non-violent revolutionaries who will change the whole world. They will challenge the status quo and they will suffer for it. Jesus does not warn them against what may happen, but what will happen. He says, nevertheless. Do not be afraid.
The same can be said to you. We have a call to challenge our culture by doing nothing more than living our faith, will we challenge people? Yes. Will some reject us? Perhaps. Our only response is to stay faithful to God and trust in his providence and mercy.
But that includes also the daily events of life of which we have no control. Job loss, disease, family problems, we have little control over these, but we do have God’s providence through them. Remember, Jesus teaches us that it is easy to live when nothing is going wrong, but only those who put their faith in Christ and trust in his providence will stand when all goes wrong.
St. Pio de Pietraclina, also known as Padre Pio taught: pray hope and never worry. This must always be our role. No matter what happens we must trust in God because it is fear that can drive us away from him. But if you trust in him even in the most difficult of circumstances your fears will lead you closer to Him for he will show you his presence in the most stark of circumstances.
Never, never fear, it is a command from Jesus. It is his first command once he has appointed his disciples, why? Because fear is the one thing that can stop them, but trust in his providence can help even overcome the most painful and difficult of realities until they enter the kingdom of God and all that it promises.