FEARING NO ONE (Mt 10:26-33): 22 June 2008 (Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

FEARING NO ONE (Mt 10:26-33):  22 June 2008 (Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

The first line our Lord speaks to his disciples struck me:  “Fear no one.”

“Sure,” I catch myself in mid-thought. “Easy for you to say.”

Not so easy for the rest of us.  We are no strangers to fear.  We know what it’s like to be scared.  It’s not a pleasant experience—unless you’re one of those people who get their kick out of screaming their lungs out during horror and slasher movies. 

Since the Lord tells us not to be afraid three times in today’s Gospel reading, I thought I’d spend some time asking myself about my greatest fears.  What am I most afraid of anyway?  And who am I most afraid of?  Let me come up with my “I’m Afraid Of” list.  It’s not an easy list to make because the items can be quite revealing and embarrassing.  Here they are (in no particular order):

1.    I’m afraid of suffering, in general.  Nobody wants to get sick, and nobody likes pain.  I hate to admit it, but the thought of a painful and enduring illness scares the hell out of me.

2.    I guess I’m really still afraid of death, especially a violent and painful death.  Sometimes I catch myself wishing for a quick and painless death more than a Christian death!  And whatever else we say we believe about salvation and eternal life, death still means the end of life as we know it, and I’m afraid of what may or may not come next.

3.  I’m afraid of losing the people I love.  The very idea breaks my heart.  I dread the prospect of it, even if I know that loss is very much part of being human.

4.    I’m afraid of what I don’t know, of the unfamiliar.  Even the most adventurous and reckless among us still feel some hesitation about–or resistance to–things beyond our understanding and especially those beyond our control.

5.    I’m afraid of failure, of trying my best and working hard, only to realize that nothing I’ve done really amounts to anything.  I worry about waking up one day finding my life in ruins.

6.    I’ve always been–and still am–afraid of rejection, of feeling unloved, of ending up friendless, especially those moments when I need friends the most. I’m also afraid of unpopularity, of a ruined reputation, of negative things that may haunt me for the rest of my life, especially because of how they can hurt the people who love me and care for me.

7.    I’m afraid of bad luck, karma, misfortune.  I’m not supposed to believe in feng shui and superstition–and in my best moments, I really don’t, but when people whisper in hushed tones convinced that fate will turn against us if we don’t do this or if we do that, I can’t help but feel some kind of fear.  I don’t agree with them, but a part of me also understands why they feel the need to consult the so-called experts on almost every single thing that they do, like the way they marry off their children, the way they build their houses and arrange their furniture, even the way they bury their dead.

8.  I’m afraid of people who seem evil and malicious.  They have a logic I don’t understand–this desire to hurt others just because!  I’m not referring to people who are misled, driven by past hurts to lash back at others.  These people need our compassion and help.  No, I’m referring to people who seem to want to hurt people just because! I just don’t get that–and I’m afraid of whatever it is that drives them to do the things they do.

9.    Finally, I’m afraid of God even if I know he loves me.  Blame it on Catholic guilt, but a part of me will always fear going to hell, and the heart of me is deathly afraid of being separated from God–forever!

Identifying our worst fears can be a valuable exercise because it can tell us about the things and the people that we value most.  Our fears can teach us about what we hold most dear, the things and people hat we don’t want to lose.

Some say that to be afraid is to betray a lack of faith.  If you’re scared, that means you don’t believe enough.  I don’t agree with that.  Fear in itself is neither good nor bad.  It’s not a sin to be afraid; we are told that even our Lord, on the eve of his death, was afraid.

There’s really nothing wrong with fear.  In fact, fear is necessary for human survival.  We need fear to help us escape some dangers.  Fear can be a kind of deterrent to doing what is wrong, and a kind of incentive to doing what is right.  In other words, our fears can pull us away from danger and push us to what is right.   So when you think about it, our fears can actually be a very good thing.

What makes fear good or bad is what we do with it.  For example, we cannot help but be afraid when confronted with danger.  If our fear drives us to save ourselves—or as it has happened on many occasions, to save others as well, then thank God for fear because it is indeed a very good thing.  But if on a similar occasion, our fear paralyzes us and keeps us from doing what is correct, and we end up hurting ourselves and others, then fear must be overcome at all costs.  We must not be a slave to fear.

This is true even when applied to our daily choices:  If our different fears become an obstacle to doing what is good and what is right, to helping others, then we must try our best to overcome them.  For example, our fear of failure may paralyze us and keep us from doing our best.

It is also possible that our fear of being rejected may make us pretend to be somebody we’re not so we end up being inauthentic in our relationship.

Finally, our fears may also keep us away from God—as in the case of the sinner whose fear of God makes him feel so unworthy that he decides to keep his distance and not return to the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Or,  a person’s fear of bad luck may become a block in her relationship with God—as in the case of a feng shui believer who gets carried away and begins to rely more heavily on so-called experts rather than God.

If this is what’s happening to us because of our fears, then we should exert every effort to free ourselves from them and to end our slavery to fear.

At the end of the day, our fears are an invitation for us to trust the Lord. Whether we like it or not, some things simply lie beyond our control, and no amount of worrying will guarantee us protection from the things we fear most.  But today the Lord says, “Fear no one”–or “Fear nothing,” for that matter–not because he wants us to pretend that we will never be afraid, but that he wants us to trust him, livingwith our fears rather than living in fear.

Here’s a Quick Question for you: “What are some of your worst fears?  And what does your list tell you about yourself and about God?”  Think about it, and if you feel up to it, share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

If you wish, you may want to watch Leona Lewis’s music video of “Footprints in the Sand.”  We all know that famous story about the Lord always walking with us both in good times and bad, but the song provides us an opportunity to think–and pray–about it in a different way.  Click here to play the video.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

You walked with me
Footprints in the sand
And helped me understand
Where I’m going
You walked with me
When I was all alone
With so much I no along the way
Then I heard you say

I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is filled with sorrow and despair
I’ll carry you
When you need a friend
You’ll find my footprints in the sand

I see my life
Flash across the sky
So many times have I
Been so afraid ooh
And just when I
Have thought I’ve lost my way
[ Footprints In The Sand lyrics found on http://www.completealbumlyrics.com ]
You give me strength to carry on
That’s when I heard you say

I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is filled with sorrow and despair
I’ll carry you
When you need a friend
You’ll find my footprints in the sand

When I’m weary
Well I no you’ll be there
And I can feel you
When you say

I promise you
I’m always there
When your heart is full of sadness and despair
I’ll carry you
When you need a friend
You’ll find my footprints in the sand

(image: persistentillusion.wordpress.com)

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