Do Not be Afraid

Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) – Sunday, June 25, 2017 – Deacon Jim Hackett

Jeremiah 20:10-13; 2 Romans 12:5-5; Matthew 10:26-33

Do not be afraid”.

Once again in today’s Gospel Jesus tell us what He has told us so MANY times –

“Do not be afraid.”

There are over 80 instances in the Bible that we hear the words “fear not” in that same context – and over 30 times with Jesus using those exact words –

“Do not be afraid”.

The chapter from which comes today’s Gospel from Matthew is referred to as “The Mission of the Twelve”. Jesus has assembled His “DREAM team” – including Matthew, the last to be chosen. And even though Jesus has JUST gathered these men over those past few days – he ALREADY knows them – and He knows them even BETTER than they know themselves.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that before he knew us in the womb God knew us! And SO, he knows these apostles – EVERY hair on their head – this rag tag band of men – including fishermen and a NOT very popular tax collector – Matthew!

And therefore, He KNEW that they were afraid! They had literally dropped EVERYTHING – the fishermen leaving their nets behind, Matthew the tax collector walking away from his work table – and followed this STRANGERthis REBEL – this accused heretic to their own Jewish faith and tradition. Of COURSE, they were afraid! Who among us TODAY would do the same thing???

It’s interesting to note that in the original translations of today’s Gospel that the three times that we hear “do not be afraid” – the grammatical forms are just a LITTLE bit different than the one before.  The first time Jesus tells them He is preparing the apostles for something to COME.  The second time – He knows that they are ALREADY afraid. And the third might be translated as “STOP being afraid” – reassuring them – and telling them how much God values EACH of them!

And like ALL the words in scripture, God’s words are meant for US to hear as well – words to hearlisten to – and base our very lives on!

“Do not be afraid!”

Like the sparrows we hear about in our Gospel, we may feel helpless and insignificant in the strong winds of life and in this world’s ever quickening passage of time. And, like sparrows, we appear to be so common as to have little or no value at all. We feel that we will make little – or NO – difference in our world.

We Catholics have our faith challenged ALL the time! – ESPECIALLY when it comes to our concern as Roman Catholics for the sanctity of human life – from the moment of conception …until natural death. Many people in this world intensely dislike us for our Pro-Life stance. We are told to keep quiet and to stop “imposing our religious beliefs and moral values upon others.” We’re lectured about the mythical wall of Separation of Church and State – and told that we’re being un-American with our convictions about the sanctity of human life – both in its beginnings and in its endings.

And so Jesus tells us, here and now …the same thing He told His apostles:

“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.…”

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

Jesus wants to us understand that with God there is NO such thing as a nameless, faceless individual human life. EVERY person lives in God’s family and in His house. God knows – in DETAIL- each and every aspect of our lives. And He cares – He profoundly cares – about what happens to each of us. Black, white, yellow, brown and EVERY color in between. Immigrants and refugees, straight, gay and LBGTQ – the poor, the incarcerated, the elderly and the homeless – the Jews, the Muslims – people of ALL faith – and people of NO faith. The good, the bad, the sinners.

Even though at times we may feel small, worthless and of no significance whatsoever, that is NOT how God our Father feels about us. We are not mere sparrows. And if we SAY that we accept God as our FATHER – then we must ALSO accept that EVERYONE else – God’s OTHER perfect creations – are ALSO OUR Brothers and Sisters.

We are ALL ones that God loves SO much that He allowed His ONLY Son to die for us. This is why we have crucifixes in our churches. For the crucifix reminds us how MUCH God cares for each and every one of us – and likewise shows us the length, the breadth, the height and depth He has gone to demonstrate His love for us. It is in that crucifix that you and I can recognize not only OUR true worth – but also the VALUE that we ALL have in the eyes of God.

“Are not two sparrows sold for next to nothing?

Yet not a single sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent.

As for you, every hair of your head has been counted; so, do not be afraid of anything. You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.”