As we continue through the month of June, the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us ask of our good Lord to share His Divine Mercy with us! This Sunday we celebrate the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I share with you a meditation on this great mystery of our Faith. I encourage you to reflect on this message a few times this week:
Do Not Be Afraid - Courage in ordinary life.
In the Gospel of the Holy Mass (Mt 10:26-33) Our Lord tells us not to be afraid, but to live as children of God. At times we come across people who are tormented and overwhelmed by the hardships that life brings with it. The adverse circumstances and the obstacles seem only to grow when one relies on human resources alone in order to overcome them. We also frequently meet Christians who seem to be ashamed of speaking clearly about God, of saying no to falsehood and, whenever necessary, of showing themselves to be faithful disciples of Christ. They are afraid of what people will say, of a critical remark, of going against the current or of drawing attention to themselves. Is it possible for a Christian not to draw attention to himself in a pagan environment, where so often economic values are the supreme values?
Jesus tells us not to be concerned about possible slander or criticism. Do not be afraid of men, for everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What a shame if it were to be discovered that we were afraid of proclaiming to the four corners of the world the Truth that God has entrusted to us! What I say to you in the dark, tell it in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops. At times we will keep silent because that is the best thing to do, for reasons of supernatural Prudence, or Charity, but never out of fear or cowardice. We Christians are not friends of darkness and hidden corners; we are friends of Light, of openness in our lives and in our words. The times we live in are such that we need to proclaim the truth clearly. Falsehood and confusion are leading many souls astray. It seems absurd, but at times even good doctrine, the moral norms of behavior, following one’s conscience in our work and in the demands of married life, common sense itself, are held in less esteem than some scandalous erroneous doctrine which is held to be ‘advanced’ or tinged with a progressive hue.
We shouldn’t be afraid of losing the gloss of a superficial prestige, or of being criticized or even slandered because we go against the current or what happens to be fashionable. If anyone declares himself for Me in the presence of men, I will declare Myself for him in the presence of my Father in Heaven, Our Lord says. He rewards us fully for all those times when people do not understand us because we try to live bravely, with holy daring, in a world which is frequently unable to understand anything except purely material values.
I consider, says Saint Paul, that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom. 8:18) Therefore, Saint Cyprian comments, who would not make the effort to achieve such great glory, to become a friend of God, to possess Christ immediately, to receive the divine rewards after the anguish and torments of the earth? If for the soldiers of this world it is glorious to return home after humbling the enemy, how much more glorious and praiseworthy will it be to return in triumph to Heaven once the devil is overcome; to bear aloft the signs of victory; to be seated at God’s side when He comes in judgment, be co-heir with Christ, to rank with the Angels, and with the Patriarchs, the Apostles and the Prophets; to rejoice in the possession of the Kingdom of Heaven? (St. Cyprian, Letter to Fortunatus, 13)
Our strength is based on an awareness of our Divine Filiation.
Fearing neither life nor death, (cf. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 132) facing even serious difficulties joyfully, steadfastly confronting obstacles that demand effort and sacrifice, serenely enduring illness, remaining always calm in the face of an uncertain future, that is how God wants us to live. It is possible if we remember frequently each day that we are children of God, particularly when we are assailed by worry, anxiety or darkness. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s Will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Mt 10:29-31)
God makes clear the great affection He has for us and the great value He places on mankind. Saint Jerome commenting on this passage from the Gospel of the Holy Mass writes, If the sparrows are so cheap and yet fall under the providence and care of God, how can you who are eternal by the nature of your souls be afraid that He whom you venerate as your Father will not take special care of you? (St. Jerome, Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 10:29-31)
Divine filiation strengthens us when we are surrounded by personal weaknesses and the obstacles that we come up against; by the difficulties we encounter in an environment that is so often hostile to God and at times violently opposed to Christian ideals. But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior, the prophet Jeremiah tells us in the First Reading of the Holy Mass. (cf. Jer. 20:10-13) This is the Prophets cry of hope and confidence when he is alone, beset on all sides by his enemies. God my Father is with me as a dread warrior, we can repeat when we see danger close at hand and the storm clouds looming.
Dominus, illuminatio mea et salus mea, quem timebo? The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. 27:1)
This is the victory that overcomes the world, our Faith, (1 John 5:4) proclaimed the apostle Saint John in the midst of the great difficulties proceeding from the pagan world in which Christians, as ordinary citizens, worked in the most diverse trades and professions and carried out an effective apostolate. And the sure foundation of an unshakeable Faith gives rise to a confidence that is not vanity or ingenuousness, but the joyful firmness of the Christian who in spite of his personal wretchedness and limitations knows that Christ has won the victory by His death on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection. God is my Light and my Salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. 27:1) Nobody and nothing, Lord. You are the safeguard of my life!
Courage and trust in God in the great trials and in the little things of ordinary life.
Jesus encourages us to be afraid of nothing, except sin, which destroys our friendship with God and leads to eternal damnation. When faced by difficulties we must be strong and brave, like true sons of God. Our Lord tells us Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot destroy the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:28) This Fear of God is a Gift of the Holy Spirit. It helps us to struggle with greater determination against sin, against everything that separates us from God. It prompts us to avoid the occasions of sin, not to trust ourselves, remembering always that we have ‘feet of clay’, that we are fragile and brittle. Bodily evils, even death itself, are as nothing compared to the evils of the soul, to sin.
We should be worried by nothing except the Fear of losing God. This Fear is a filial concern, a care not to offend Him. At certain times in our life we may well undergo great trials. God will give us the grace necessary to endure them and to grow in interior life. My grace is sufficient for you, (2 Cor. 12:9) Jesus will tell us.
He who helped Saint Paul will take care of us. At such times we will call upon God, humbly and with Faith: ‘Lord, put not your trust in me. But I, I put my trust in you.’ Then as we sense in our hearts the love, the compassion, the tenderness of Christ’s gaze upon us - for He never abandons us - we shall come to understand the full meaning of those words of Saint Paul, ‘virtus in infirmitate perficitur’ (2 Cor. 12:9). If we have Faith in Our Lord, in spite of our failings - or, rather, even with our failings - we shall be faithful to Our Father, God: His Divine Power will shine forth in us, sustaining us in our weakness. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 194)
Normally, however, we shall have to be strong and brave in little things: when we politely but firmly turn down an invitation to a place or a show where a good Christian would feel ill at ease, when we have to give our opinion on the direction their teachers are giving to the education of our children; when we have to break off that conversation which is taking a dubious turn, or see an opportunity to invite a friend to some talks on the Faith, or lead up to the chat which results in that tactful, opportune advice about going to Confession. An ambitious apostolate is often held back or stopped by diffidence or cowardice in little things. And it is also courage in little things that make our life fruitful.
In the hour of rejection at the Cross, the Virgin Mary is there by her Son, willing to go through the same fate. Let us lose our fear of behaving like responsible Christians when the environment in which we move is not easy. She will help us. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 977) (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God grant us the grace of greater courage and love for Jesus when sharing Him with others! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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