6-25-2017 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jun 26, 2017
12th Sunday in OT / A / 2017
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
Some of you may have seen a sticker on some cars and trucks that says, "No Fear." Perhaps you have also seen "No Fear" on a T-Shirt. I have since found out that "No Fear" is an edgy brand of sports clothing, drinks, and accessories—it is not for the feint of heart! No Fear. It is a catchy phrase, whatever advertising firm thought it up. All of us would like to live a strong life of "no fear." We want to be free, we want to be safe, we want to overcome our anxieties—no matter what it takes.
I thought of "no fear" as I read our readings today—we move back into our regular cycle of readings today, the 12th Sunday. Start with our first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, from the 7th century before Christ. It’s easy to identify with Jeremiah because he was so human—full of both strengths and weaknesses. No doubt he was a great man, deeply in touch with God. At the same time, he complained to God that he was too young to be a prophet, he suffered from anxieties, and he was more than a little paranoid.
Look at today’s reading. Jeremiah says, "I hear the whisperings of many, ‘Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’" This is what Jeremiah hears after his preaching. Negative reactions. Murderous reactions. "All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine." Those of us who speak publicly can identify with that—there is always someone who will highlight your mistakes!
But midway through our first reading—and midway through Jeremiah’s fears—he senses a power within him that gives him comfort and courage: "But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion!" Jeremiah knows that if he stays with the Lord, preaches the truth, lives a life of integrity, honor, and justice, that the Lord will "save the life of the poor from the power of the wicked."
That theme is picked up by the Gospel, and amplified by Jesus, who says, "Fear no one." No matter what the circumstances, no matter how powerful the oppressor, no matter how
serious the problems, no matter how precarious your life. "Fear no one." And why not? Because when you are connected with Christ, the vine, you are connected to the very power of God.
I once heard a preacher compare life to the "wheel of fortune." If you cling to the edge of the wheel, your life will sometimes be on top or on the bottom, all the ups and downs of life, all of our good choices and bad choices. But if you are in the center, the wheel can spin, and you will remain at the stillpoint. And that stillpoint is Christ. When you are "in Christ," you have found a place of safety and refuge, no matter how much turbulence, and violence, and disarray goes on around you.
Jesus says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; . . . rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." In other words, get your priorities straight—put your trust in the one who will never fail you. If you put your trust in the values of this world, you ride that Wheel of Fortune. But if you put your trust in God, everything else will fall in place. In right relationship. At the center of the wheel.
The greatest exemplars of this principle are the saints. Just look around this church to those who had "no fear." Look at Damien of Molokai. Or the martyrs Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brebeuf. A couple of weeks ago I heard that Fr. Tim mentioned the 20 Coptic Christian martyrs in Libya who endured martyrdom rather than denounce their faith—and the one non-Christian among them who said, "Their God is my God" and was martyred as well. No Fear.
"Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." And where does that strength come from? Jesus Christ.
Remember the words of St. John Paul when he became pope: "Be not afraid." Choose Christ, the stillpoint of a turning world.