Be Not Afraid
(12th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Life is filled with many difficulties and challenges that cause us to be fearful. Each day we are confronted with many events that may cause us to become apprehensive. This Sunday’s Gospel narrative gives us a clear teaching on how we are to handle fear. “Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 10: 26).
What is fear? Fear is defined as “an unsettledness of soul consequent upon the apprehension of some present or future danger.” However, while a normal type of fear prevents us from doing dangerous things; abnormal fear paralyzes the human soul.
Many doctors and psychologists can tell us that abnormal fear is a disintegrating adversary of the human personality. People controlled by their fears are disturbed during the day and haunted at night. Abnormal fear tangles the mind with terrible obsessions. It saps vital energy from the body and the soul, and it destroys the presence of inner peace.
A Gallup poll lists what most people are afraid of. Here is the list:
Suppose this Sunday we had a special second collection. This special collection would be a collection of everyone’s fears. Parishioners would then drop what they feared most into the collection basket. I wonder if the second collection would be larger than the first collection.
The remedy for fear is faith. Faith is nurtured by our daily encounter with God. “Answer me, O Lord, for bounteous in your kindness; in your great mercy turn toward me” (Psalm 69: 16).
In the silence of our hearts, filled with faith, we experience the presence of God. We contemplate him in the beauty of the sunrise, the power of the wind, the majesty of the ocean, the voice of the Scriptures, the presence of the Eucharist and each encounter with our neighbor. St. Augustine once said that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
We experience God through our life of prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. Prayer is a continual being in love because God is real. God is personal. No matter what might be going on in our lives, we must always pray, and pray daily. Prayer is the air that we breathe.
One of the greatest challenges that we encounter is our inability to see and to listen to God. We can be caught up in the distractions of daily life that prevent us from really encountering God. Our busy lives require refreshing times of prayer throughout the day.
A serious life of prayer is particularly important for the times in which we live. The traditional structures of support that have made our lives comfortable and easy are presently engulfed in confusion, but transformation is slowly taking place. God is moving us away from clinging to things, people, and institutions. He is calling us to detachment, to the desert, to the journey into the night of naked faith. He is calling us to cling to him, and only him. This journey is difficult, frightening at times, and even risky. But those who embark upon the journey will be transformed into living witnesses of the God of love.
However, without daily contemplative prayer and daily Mass, or at least a prolonged visit before the Blessed Sacrament, anxiety and fear may overwhelm us. If we are a people who live truly spiritual lives, we will be filled with peace and joy no matter what may be going on around us. And this is so, because we will always be able to trust God.
St. Teresa of Avila, the famous Spanish mystic, once wrote: “Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God, wants for nothing. God alone is enough” (Poesías 30).
St. Teresa provides us profound words of wisdom for our present times. The staggering number of prescription drugs available for the many forms of uneasiness and tension illustrates that many of our contemporaries suffer deep inner turmoil.
It is true that we are experiencing profound challenges: wars, continual threats of terrorism, problems unfolding within our Catholic Church, the rapidly accelerating unraveling of moral decency in our society, and the terrible wounds caused by the dismantling of family life. In the past few months, we have been dealing with an unprecedented crisis caused by the Coronavirus. We have also seen our country come apart through terrible acts of racism and violence.
Nevertheless, challenges such as these should remind us that we must always trust in God who is all-powerful.
Prayer cannot be simply based upon need. God is not a soft drink machine. Nor is God a candy store. Someday suffering will knock on our door and we may not be spiritually equipped to handle the difficulties of life. But why do we have to come to God through suffering? Is not that the hard way to learn how to love and to trust?
Our lack of dependence upon God is rooted in a lack of faith. Faith is a gift. If your faith is weak, ask God to give you more faith. “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10: 29 – 31)
Again, allow me to underscore the fact that prayer is essentially a continual state of being in love. God is love. Prayer is simply a continual relationship with the God of unconditional love. Christianity is about a whom not a what. God is real. God is personal. He is so personal that he is three persons in one God. What a mystery!
Without a doubt prayer is a gift. The Apostles turned to Jesus and asked him to teach them how to pray. We in turn should turn to the Lord and ask him to teach us how to pray. A Serious prayer life is not easy because it requires personal discipline, order, perseverance, and patience. We must become a prayerful people. Prayer is essential if we really want to live happy lives filled with peace.