June 21, 2020 – Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; and Matthew 10:26-33
You can listen to the homily here:
I will be offering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis today:
I offer this story from a young adoptive mother:
Planning. It is one job we all do best. We like to plan our days and our futures to make life go smoothly and predictably. No surprises, please! Most of our plans come and go without a second thought, but what happens when they go awry? Eight years ago our family felt the Lord leading us to do foster care. Our plan was to foster babies until God’s perfectly chosen child became available for us to adopt. We were very excited! Finally, after about two years, God delivered a beautiful baby girl with huge brown eyes to our front door. Our plans were going great! Nonetheless, one trip to the neurologist brought all our preconceived ideas of our future to a screeching halt. Our beautiful baby girl had serious brain damage from the drugs that her birth mom used while pregnant. The doctor informed us that the child we desired to adopt would forever need to live at home and have continual care. We were stunned and scared. Thankfully, the Lord was not surprised. I can rest knowing that His plan had been determined long ago, and all I need to do is walk with Him into the unknown future. Seven years later, I can say with confidence how thankful I am for God’s plan and for our daughter with those beautiful big brown eyes.
The following is a quote from the late Reverend Billy Graham. He wrote: Historians will likely call our era ‘the age of anxiety.’ Fear and anxiety are the natural results when our hopes are centered on anything other than God and His will for us.
Interestingly enough, Billy Graham wrote those words in 1965. Fifty-five years later, those words still ring true.
Fear and anxiety have been pervasive throughout history. There is an old adage that says only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. I would argue that the two constants are fear and God. Human beings generate the fear; God, if we allow Him, alleviates the fear.
Fear has always been a part of the equation for followers of Jesus. Try to name one saint that had an easy path. It seems that every story of the incredible faith of the saints begins with them first being afraid. The reason we love those stories isn’t because of the fear, it’s because of the faith in God that these holy men and women demonstrated in overcoming their fear.
We too have much to fear – especially in our world today. However, if we really believe what we claim to believe – what we profess in the Creed we will pray together in a few minutes – it changes everything for us. Faith is a choice. It’s a response. So often we simply react when we’re afraid. People of faith respond in a different way. They know who walks with them. They may not know how each chapter will unfold, but they know how the story will end. Faith is the author of their story.
Today’s first reading and the gospel reading from Matthew tell a similar story.
Jeremiah was struggling with what he was already up against, while the apostles were being told by Jesus how to respond to what they will be up against.
Jeremiah faced both internal and external crises – being a prophet of God caused him to be mocked, ridiculed, and even threatened with physical harm. His former friends turned on him. We heard Jeremiah express his concern in the reading: All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
Jeremiah lived in fear. People he once counted as friends were now part of a growing opposition to the work he was called to do.
Where did he turn? Jeremiah said, “But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”
Three important things happened immediately before the Gospel passage we heard this morning. Jesus explained what he had in mind for the apostles, commissioned them to do that work, and them warned them that they will face persecution because of the work.
Jesus apparently sensed fear in the apostles, so he assured them with words such as, “Fear no one” and “So do not be afraid.”
He also told them this: 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; you are worth more than many sparrows.
What does that mean? What consolation was that intended to bring to the apostles?
With those words, Jesus assured the apostles that nothing God has created is insignificant – not the sparrows that appear to us to be of little consequence, and especially not human beings – God’s greatest creation.
God knows each of us intimately. He knows how many hairs are on our head and he knows our deepest and darkest fears. God has our back. He would never ask us to face those fears alone. We should draw strength from that; it should calm our fears.
God wants to be invited to walk with us.
I may have shared this personal prayer with you in the past. I pray these words daily. There is comfort in knowing that I never walk alone.
I pray: My God, walk with me today. When I am on the right path, affirm me. When I come to a fork in the road, guide me. When I am lazy and unmotivated, push me to move forward. When fear stops me in my tracks, assure me of your presence. When I fall, help me up. And when I am so tired I cannot take another step, carry me until I am once again renewed in Your love. Let all things I do today be done to glorify You. Amen.
Human beings are planners. We want ownership because we want credit. Very few of us have the courage to place all of our trust in God’s plan – that would mean relinquishing control. Unfortunately, the very nature of executing our own plan is wrought with anxiety and fear.
That is why we will forever be living in, as Rev Graham described it, an age of anxiety. The two constants in life are fear and God. Human beings generate the fear; God, if we allow him, alleviates the fear.
Navigating life without God? Now that is something to be afraid of.
Source of adoptive mother story: http://www.themominitiative.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Facing-Our-Fears-31-Stories-From-M.O.M..pdf