Do not be afraid

This week we reflect on the Gospel for this Sunday. Three times Jesus says, ‘do not be afraid.’ He gives us three different reasons for not being afraid, so we will look at each of these, in turn, this week and reflect on their meaning for us in our own particular situations.

Sunday / Monday / Tuesday / Wednesday / Thursday / Friday / Saturday

Sunday

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid’.

Fear is something which, to a greater or lesser extent, we have all experienced, perhaps especially in the last three months. It might be a fear that our family or friends will not be able to cope physically, financially or mentally during this pandemic or that our children are missing out on their education. Now that the lockdown is easing many are fearful of going out after such a long time. Others are afraid of contacting their GPs for fear of going to the surgery or to hospital for routine check-ups. Being afraid is part of being human, even Jesus experienced it in Gethsemane. His words ‘Do not be afraid’ are not given as a command to do the impossible but to reassure us about how to cope when we are afraid. 

Ponder and pray: what are you worried about or fearful of at this time? (take your time to consider this and be honest with yourself)

Take this to the Lord and be honest with him too.

Pray: for all those whose fear is paralysing them.

Prayer for the week:
You may like to use the following prayer every day this week:

Calm me, Lord, as you calmed the storm;
still me, Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease,
enfold me, Lord, in your peace. 

Monday

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear’.

The meaning of this saying of Jesus is that we are not to be afraid because, in the end, all things will be seen as they really are. God sees exactly what is going on. One of our problems is that we don’t see things as they really are. We see them from a limited perspective. Sometimes that skewed perspective leads us to give more attention than we should to some things and less attention than we should to others. In other words, we get things out of balance and when this happens we can easily become a prey to fear. So, one way of dealing with fear is to pray that God will help us to see everything for what it is and to know that in the end all is in the control of God.

Ponder and pray: How do you cope when you know that you’ve got things out of perspective? Think of your life as a pair of scales. What is out of balance and what would help you correct anything that is? (take your time over this). Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you.

Pray: for those who are hungry today both at home and overseas, that the Holy Spirit will guide us to achieve a better balance between those who have and those who don’t.

You may like to say the prayer for the week

Tuesday

(Jesus said) ‘What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.’

If we, the followers of Jesus, are not to be afraid because all will be seen as it really is, we are also not to be afraid to let others know about this. Notice that Jesus first says that we are to tell ‘what we hear whispered in the ear’. We are to listen first; to listen to the Lord and to other people. If we have an open heart and ears and eyes, we discover that the Lord is to be found both in our own relationship with him in prayer and in the lives of others around us. If he is before us this command to speak fearlessly doesn’t mean recklessly or without sensitivity. In a way we should speak to everyone as if we were speaking to Christ.

Ponder and pray: look back over the last few days. Where have you known (or missed knowing) the presence of God in others?

How have you expressed your faith to others?

Pray: in your own words about what you have discovered.

Pray: for those you have remembered.

You may like to say the prayer for the week

Wednesday

(Jesus said), ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.’

The next reference to not being afraid fear is to do with priorities. On first reading it is easy to think that Jesus is saying not to bother about the physical body. This would not be true. Our bodies do matter and it is our Christian duty to look after them as well as we can. Our bodies are sacred, not least because Jesus himself came in a human, bodily way. What Jesus is urging us to do is to refuse to get hung up on our bodily needs and forget what makes us tick. He wants us look at what we truly are at our deepest level. He warns that we must be wary of anything that threatens the centrality of that inner self. The great Trappist monk Thomas Merton once wrote ‘At the centre of my being is a point of pure truth, a point that belongs to God alone, the glory of God in me’. That is true for all of us. We are truly to be afraid of anything that would kill who we really are at our deepest level. To lose that would indeed be far worse than our physical death.

Ponder and pray: What is your attitude to your own body? How good are you at caring for it? How do you respond to the words of Merton above? In a few quiet moments try to access a little more of your deepest self?

Pray: for all who are tortured or persecuted for their faith and for their torturers.

You may like to say the prayer for the week

Thursday

(Jesus said), ‘Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing’.

We are reading from St Matthew’s Gospel, but St Luke also has this passage about sparrows. In Matthew it’s two sparrows costing one penny. In Luke it’s five costing two pennies. So, if the buyer was prepared to spend twice as much there was a bargain to be had. Buy four get one free! The extra one is thrown in as if of no worth except to make sure a purchase is made. But God knows about even the sparrow, which is thrown, as if of no worth, into the bargain. God knows us intimately, and, however unimportant we may think we are, we are important to God.

Ponder and pray: Take a while to imagine God looking at you. He knows you better than you know yourself so what does he say to you as he looks at you? Thank God for all the love given to you.

Pray: for all those who are on the margins of society, the ones whom society sees of no use.

Pray: for environmentalists and all those seeking to protect even the smallest of God’s creatures.

You may like to say the prayer for the week

Friday

(Jesus said), ‘And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid…’

When we read about the sparrow that falls suddenly to the ground, we naturally think about it falling to its death. Now this word ‘fall’ is interesting. Our New Testament is written in Greek but Jesus spoke Aramaic. It is quite likely that the Greek word ‘fall’ is a translation of an Aramaic word which means to ‘light upon’ or to ‘touch lightly’. So, the image is not so much of God remembering the sparrow as it drops down dead, but God caring for every sparrow each time it touches or lights upon the ground: every time it hops, jumps or flies. This verse is not primarily about God looking after us at the moment of death (which of course is true) but God caring for us as we hop, struggle or wing our way through the whole of life.

Ponder and pray: Look at the picture and allow it to spark of thoughts and prayers.

Pray: for all carers in whatever capacity they work. For our local care homes and those who work in them.

You may like to say the prayer for the week

Saturday

(Jesus said), ‘you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’

Jesus assures us of our standing in the eyes of God. We are worth more than hundreds of sparrows. If each single sparrow is cared for by its creator how much more will we be cared for? We, the children of God. Of course, this does not mean immunity from pain or suffering or, indeed, from fear. But it does mean having a deep-down awareness that, whatever is going on for us, good or bad, sad or joyous, God believes we are worth caring about, worth loving. If that is true then we can take Jesus at his word, ‘Do not be afraid’ because we are held securely by that love.

Ponder and pray: use the following words from Isaiah as a prayer of trust. You might like to quietly repeat them several times and let them sink into you. God says to you today, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are mine.’ (Isaiah 43, verse 1)

Pray: turn your reflection into prayer.

You may like to say the prayer for the week
 
 
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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