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Thou shall not be afraid ...
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
It is interesting to note that, we Filipinos, are fond of referring to inanimate objects as if they are persons. For example, I took UberPool yesterday to go to the gym and the GPS seemed to give wrong directions to the driver and so, apologetically, he said to me, “Sir, Sorry po, nag-iinarte na naman po kasi SI WAZE!” (Sorry Sir, Waze is acting like crazy today!) Or, when one is asked about a company or property or a landmark, he/she addresses the question by saying, “Yan ang patakaran ni DMCI, SMDC o ni AyalaMall! (That is the policy of DMCI, SMDC or Ayala Mall) But why so? For one, referring to them as such could give us some sort of confidence as if we know what were talking about or that as in a sort of defense mechanism, we could free ourselves from being blame even if we speak wrongly about those things concerned.
Jesus said in today’s Gospel: “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.” I believe that these very words are so much relevant even today as fear is felt in every corner of the world even here in the Philippines.
Are we afraid? If we are afraid, what are we afraid of? Let me point out three major “fears” in the world today that’s very existential:
First, is fear to take responsibility and act on it “Takot sa responsibilidad.” When one is contented with what he is doing, be it for himself or for others in the community and settles with such contentment not minding the needs of those people around him/her, one has such fear. What does that person fear? He/she fears being entrusted with greater responsibility. He/she fears that one day he will lose sight of his/her comfort zone. They are afraid simply because they doubt their gifts and worse settle with mediocrity. We doubt our own God-given talents and potentialities and thus fear losing them in return for a productive act. But, why must we settle or resort for less? If we believe in God's unceasing providence, why are we afraid to embrace it?
Last Sunday, during the Solemnity of the Corpus Christi, I’ve made mention about the Eucharistic Word, “Taken” which essentially means responsibly taking on a given task. Just as Jesus took on the responsibility as Savior of the world to free man from sin and death, we too, are called to take that same bread and responsibly fulfill our mission. How do we give our “YES” to a particular calling? With openness or with fear?
Second, is the fear to tell the truth “Takot sa paghayag ng katotohanan.” As it is said in Scriptures, “The truth will set you free!” But what is the truth? For us Catholics, it is Christian truth – a truth which sees reality as it happens and responds to it as the Christian sees fit. Related to the first type of fear, one does not just see things at the periphery, but analyzes things as they happen through the lens of God’s word. And so, when we hear that there’s war in Marawi, we hear a reality but not Christian truth for the latter does not only hear it but responds to it in charity and justice.
Adolfo Perez Esquivel writes some about his thirty-two days in a narrow L-shaped cell in his native Argentina. For two days he was kept in total darkness. On the third day, a guard opened the door and Esquivel could see what he had not seen before. The walls of the confining room were covered with all sorts of scribblings. There were some names, some insults, some prayers. What affected him most, however, was a huge bloodstain. Below the stain, sketched by someone’s finger dipped in blood, were the words: “God doesn’t kill.” Esquivel later writes about Hope and about grace. In that cell he felt the strong and abiding presence of Christ’s spirit. Surrounded by brothers and sisters in the Faith behind the walls were people with acts of faith and hope. Reality? Being locked up in a cell. But what is Christian truth? It is the proclamation of Faith in the midst of a difficult and hopeless environment/situation.
Third, is the fear of being hurt again, “Takot na masaktang muli.” There is that Filipino song by Roel Cortez entitled, “Napakasakit Kuya Eddie” – a song about an OFW who worked so hard abroad in order to give a better life for his family only to be left by his wife for another man. As the pain surges, so is the fear of loving unselfishly again. But, we may get hurt because we are overlooked, unappreciated or misunderstood and so we close our doors to a possibility of being hurt again. Unfortunately, most often, we become depressed and indifferent because of it.
From last Sunday’s theme, Jesus also “broke” the bread. In relationships, “breaking up” is such a hurtful and painful experience. But when Jesus broke the bread, he assures us of His company. As we suffer in this world, He walks alongside us in our suffering. He is like telling us that our heart that is broken could become big enough to allow us to reach out to people who may be worse off and hurting more that we do.
It is said that one method of conquering fear is by giving our fears a name just like we do when we name inanimate objects. Before September 11th, when asked to name their fears, Americans responded this way: 51% of us are afraid of snakes, 40% of us are afraid of public speaking, 36% of us are afraid of heights, 34% of us are afraid of being closed in a small space, 21% of us are afraid of needles and shots, 18% of us are afraid of flying in an airplane. But no matter what our fears may be, it would be wise to bring our fears to the surface so we can name them and face them with FAITH!
Fear is designed by God to give our bodies the sudden burst of strength and speed we need in an emergency. It is a natural, normal defense mechanism from danger. Great Saints and most especially the Blessed Mother Mary are our models of TRUE COURAGE. We, too could do the same by transcending our fears by first, believing in ourselves through our talents and potentialities and putting them into activity and recognizing each one’s capabilities as unique and thus worthy of respect.
Simply put, let our motto be like that of St. John Paul II said during his Pontificate: Be not afraid!