12th SUNDAY A: HOMILY (Gosp. Mt 10:26-33; Jer 20:10-13; Rm 5:12-15) by Fr. M. Lusembo
Objective: That we do not be afraid to preach the Gospel to anyone.
In the short Gospel we have just heard, Jesus mentions the word “afraid” 4 times. He says “do not be afraid of them” (meaning the persecutors). “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”; “do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Fear often leads capable people to failure. One who holds a cup with fear is likely to break it. Many people fail examinations just because of fear. Numerous persons cause accidents simply due to fear. Some judges mishandle cases out of fear. Pilate sentenced Jesus to crucifixion because Pilate feared the Jews who wanted Jesus to be crucified; yet Pilate knew that Jesus had no case to answer.
Fear corrupts judgment, for it weakens the mind. A parent, who raises his/her children in a state of fear, ruins their lives. Many people fear to volunteer to serve the community even when they are able to. Young men fear to become priests because they fear celibacy, or missing big money or high reputation. Others fear to marry and one wonders why.
Even Prophet Jeremiah had feared to contradict the political and religious leaders, who were deceiving people that the king of Babylon would not destroy their cities, when he was already doing so. God told Jeremiah not to fear; and when he took courage, he announced the truth to the people. He was persecuted for saying the truth but he remained firm.
Also Jesus was persecuted for preaching the truth; but he remained steadfast. Now his preaching has liberated numerous people.
When Jesus was arrested and crucified most of his Apostles hid themselves, fearing that they too would be crucified. Jesus told them: “do not be afraid”(Mt28:10). He gave them the Holy Spirit that gave them courage. Suppose they had remained fearful, probably we would not be Christians now.
Jesus is now saying to us: “Do not be afraid to preach and witness to my Gospel, hard as it may be. Do not be afraid of those who might persecute or despise you.” This reminder of Jesus comes at the right time, when many preachers are afraid of the reactions of people. Many decide to preach not what God really wants, but what people want to hear. Such preachers fear to lose popularity or to miss money. So, they fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul; instead of fearing God who can destroy both the body and soul in Gehenna.
We need to have courage and trust in God in order to preach and witness to the truth of the Gospel. When Moses trusted God he led God’s people out of Egypt, although at first he had feared to do so. John the Baptist cast off fear and told off King Herod that he had done wrong to take his brother’s wife. (Lk 3:19).
We are Christians because Apostles and missionaries took courage to preach, despite persecutions. People like Martin Luther King shed blood to bring about relative freedom and respect of human rights. We admire martyrs, because they took courage and opposed the breaking of God’s commandments. Cf. Nelson Mandela. In order to be effective Catholics we must eliminate fear from ourselves and spread God’s word where it is needed. We might know non-believers or people who do not go to Church, have we helped them to have practical faith in God? These people may be in our families or neighborhood. We should not fear to volunteer and do any service which God wants us to do.
St. Paul, in the reading we have just heard, assures us that evil does not triumph over good. It is the good that wins. People, like King Herod and Emperor Nero persecuted Christianity since it was born. The persecutors died, but Christianity is still thriving. So, do not be afraid. Christ will welcome into his kingdom all those who will have proclaimed his Gospel fearlessly. If your peers or other people persecute or despise you because you abide by the Christian principles, remain firm; do not be afraid.
Let us have courage! God has big plans for us. The most powerful God is on our side. We should never despise ourselves like Gideon was doing (Judges 6). God proved to him that with God victory is assured. Your past shall not determine your future. Your happy destiny is determined by God, not by your enemies or failures. Keep doing your best, like David and Joseph son of Jacob. They went through many trials but they emerged great. Not even the Corona virus is able to stop God’s plans for us. So, let us not fear to make adventures.
In the Holy Mass we celebrate the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He defeated the devil and death through suffering. Because he did not fear, we are able to receive him in the Holy Eucharist.