Neither be afraid, nor inspire fear!
That’s what Jeremiah faced because he chose to be faithful to God and the mission he had been given. The people, influenced by sinful desire and aroused to irrational emotionally driven reaction, eagerly waited for him to slip up, to make a mistake. Even today, lay and clerical leaders encounter this kind of opposition from both the secular world and their brothers and sisters in Christ. For pastors especially, the challenge of preaching the truth to others, can be very daunting.
We, in the Church of Christ, are not immune to this temptation. We witness this work of the enemy who inspires fear and opposition when there is a new Pope, Bishop, Pastor, Ministry leader, diocesan policy or parish initiative. The crowd, who previously seemed to be so genuinely loving, gathers and waits to rabidly cry ‘crucify him’. But we can avoid becoming guilty of this, if we all keep our focus on the Lord, as Jeremiah did. Healthy relationships with God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit will overcome that fear and stir up the courage to follow as God leads.
Jeremiah lived in desperate times, yet he believed in God’s abiding presence. He shares with us his experience of being rejected because of the message, and allows us to recognize in him a kindred spirit when the task of faithful commitment seems overwhelming. He also offers us an example of how to deal with the opposition. He did not turn away from his ministry, but rather, obediently offered himself as a guide to the broken, fearful people who persecuted him and, trusted firmly, that God “rescue(s) the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!". Jeremiah was full of hope and trust in God. His confidence, even in the face of seeming failure should bolster all who, in whatever capacity, serve as ministers of God’s word.
There is a spiritual battle going on in this world, but, Jesus tells the apostles 3 times, not to be afraid. Today’s Gospel reading gives us insight into how Jesus wants us to engage in the battle which rages inside and outside of us. As the apostles are preparing for their first missionary journey, Jesus counsels them about the interior battle that Paul, in his preaching, will go on to frequently describe and focus on teaching others how to overcome. Paul, in the second reading, describes that interior battle which we all must come to terms with, as persecuted and persecutor. He celebrates salvation in Christ as a gift which forever liberates us from the influences of the enemy, death and separation from God, and points us to be open to the grace we need which comes through Christ. That grace not only sustains us in communion with him but with the Father as well
Jesus also assures the apostles and all who walk the way of Christ, in the truth of Christ toward the fullness of life in Christ. He assures us of the Father’s constant and careful attention and that Jesus will acknowledge, before his Father, all those who remain fearless and faithful. Jesus tells all of us to place our trust in God who cares for us, and to ‘fear’ only the one who tries to destroy our souls. The only fear we should have is of spiritual death: a life separated from God. Trusting God should embolden us, more than evil and disbelief in the world should intimidate us.
It’s true that in our weakness we have moments where we question whether the Lord really knows what He’s doing, understands what’s going on, realizes that we might be the wrong choice, or if he truly cares about us. But it’s also true that healthy relationship with God, hunger for righteousness, thirst for justice and desire for holiness… through Jesus Christ, is the remedy against such doubts arising. We are strengthened in the certain knowledge that ‘God so loved the world that he sent Jesus, his only son, to save us’ and that Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age and send us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our lifeline and the Eucharist is our nourishment of grace for the strength to cling to that lifeline.
At the heart of this message, is God’s infinite love for us and our call to love as God loves. Our love is founded upon the God who cares for us and never betrays us. If we vigilantly put on the armor of God and remain in God’s love, nothing will separate us from his love. Great indeed is the confidence our Savior wants us to have in His care.
If we love as God loves, we will show our love in the way in which we affirm the value and dignity of all human beings, through our words and actions. No one is lost to God’s saving grace until death claims their body. No one is beyond God’s love. Neither the President nor Hillary, not the leaders or workers of Planned Parenthood, not a Pope you fear, a Bishop you distrust, a Pastor don’t want or family, friends, co-workers you don’t like. As the Catechism tells us in its very first paragraph, "For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. "He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. "He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church." Nothing escapes God's all-loving, all-powerful providence. God’s love is never guilty of devaluing human life or acting against the dignity of human beings, just as ours ought not to be.
In those times when we are the persecuted, and when you and I fall prey to feeling that we make little difference in our world; when we are the ones on the receiving end of the attitudes and actions inspired by the one enemy and manifested in the culture of death; when we are the ones who feel helpless and insignificant; and when we like sparrows seem to have little or no value at all… Jesus tells us the same thing He told His apostles: “Do not let men intimidate you… Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
Jesus wants to us understand that with God there is no such thing as a nameless, faceless individual human life; not you, not me, not anyone. We all matter. No matter how dark the tunnel of life gets, as Christians, we are always able to see a light ahead: our resurrected Lord. God knows in detail each and every aspect of our lives. Even though at times others make us feel small, worthless and of no significance whatsoever, that is not how God our Father feels about us.
Living free. Living in union with God. Living a life of love that leads others to learn of the God who loves and wants to free them; this is the greatness that is ours, if we have no fear and never inspire fear in others. Embrace God's grace given as a gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the supernatural courage that gives us strength to resist the enemy and overcome all of his works.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.