Jeremiah 20: 10-13 Romans 5: 12-15 Matthew 10: 26-33
Telling us not to fear, encouraging us not to be afraid, is a consistent theme found in the words of Jesus that he addressed to his followers and, thus, he has addressed to us, So, what are some of the things that we might fear, that might cause us anxiety in our lives? The future: what do the weeks or months or even the years ahead hold out for us, whether we are old or young. In many respects, we just do not know. Change: often this is a big cause of fear. We like being comfortable, the way things are. Either experiencing or being made to experience something new or different is stressful. Rejection: this can be hard to face especially from someone who has been a part of our lives but, for whatever reason, decides that we are no longer important to them. Being alone: this is particularly true when it is the result of someone who has long been a part of our lives is no longer physically present. It is a difficult transition to make. Death: none of us can escape this experience, but both the “how” and the “when” are unknown through most of our lives and can cause us to be anxious and, indeed, afraid.
These are all part of being human. They are all part of our lives. They are a part of the life God chose to share with us in assuming humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.
What is it, then, in the message of God conveyed to us in the ministry of Jesus Christ we are called upon to continue that encourages us not to fear, not to be afraid? We need to recognize that the various examples mentioned are a part of the creative act of God in giving us life. This creative act of life is a dynamic gift of love in which we are free to choose and to act. It is the freedom of will, in us and around us, that is the key to understanding. We, or others around us, choose to act and are not, in some way, controlled by God. Life, in us and around us, has been freely given to all by a loving God. Rather than be feared, it is to be embraced as part of a gift oflove.
It is with this perspective that we can look to the future and realize that there are decisions which we might make that can affect our future, but there are also other aspects in the future that will occur as part of life. Change: this often happens despite us. The greatest strength comes in recognizing what in change might enhance us and in ignoring those things that do not really affect us. Rejection: if we are true to ourselves – and here Jesus himself is an outstanding example – what might be unacceptable to others, as was his ministry to many, ought not to hinder us from being true to the best we can be. Being alone: this can often be an opportunity to realize a certain comfort with ourselves. Being alone is not the same as some self-pitying loneliness but can be a challenge to better ourselves. Death: is a genuine reality. In the context of faith it is a transition to an experience beyond what we know or imagine now, a complete union with our loving God.
Even more, what gives us strength and encourages us not to be afraid is the conviction that, in addition to all else that is a part of the creative dynamic of life, we possess true value and dignity in life and in our relationship to a loving God. This is the importance of the example that Jesus uses in singling out the sparrow. As small and as insignificant as the sparrow is, this creature adds to the life and the beauty of all that is. How much more can each of us enhance life and creation around us. We need not be afraid of anyone or anything because our greatest value and worth comes from what we are and what we do in reflecting and revealing the goodness of God.
We can derive additional insight from what else we heard today in the Scriptures. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, was convinced that despite the opposition and ridicule he experienced, and despite even the doubts he had about himself, he must continue on in fearlessly trusting God. In the end he knew that he would be vindicated by God. Saint Paul, too, despite all that he would confront, all that he would go through, remained positive in his commitment to proclaim the love of God found in the Good News of Jesus.
Do not be afraid, fear not. Many things happen in different ways, in different circumstances in life. If we are convinced within ourselves of all the opportunities offered to us to recognize what a gift we have received in the life that is given to us, then each circumstance offers the potential to experience and to reveal the truth of our good and gracious God.