Gospel Reflection for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fear not, I am with you! (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)

We have many fears in life. We fear pain. Any bodily injury or terminal illness scares us. We fear loss. Just the thought of losing something or someone precious to us puts us in distress. We fear aging. Some people spend so much money in beauty clinics to look young; a small wrinkle seems to be unacceptable for them. We fear the unexpected. We don‘t want negative surprises that catch us unprepared like a betrayal or rejection in a relationship. And, of course, we fear death. Who wants to die, anyway?

With these fears in mind, we reflect on Jesus‘ powerful words to encourage his disciples: “Do not be afraid!” He knew that His disciples were in a lot of fear as they were sent out on mission. He advised them to boldly proclaim and hold on to the truth. The truth of God will always triumph and set people free from sin. He told them not to fear the loss of body. What matters is the soul and eternal life. He made them consider God‘s care for sparrows. We are worth more than sparrows; God cares for us even more.

In the final analysis, Jesus actually tells us: “Fear not, I am with you!” These words carried the apostles to martyrdom. They also brought a number of people to sainthood. We should not fear because He is with us. All we need is the assurance of His presence when faced with seemingly insurmountable fears. We do not need any security blanket to be courageous. All we need is the Lord. He is our security. He is our shield. He is our strength.

When I was taking up philosophy during my college years, our Jesuit professor taught us two concepts of fear. The first concept, in Latin, is ‘mysterium tremendum.’ This means a mysterious fear that makes one tremble. It is a fear that we experience when we watch a horror movie. It makes us immediately shut our eyes, flee to hide or even retreat in fear and trembling because of something scary. The second concept is ‘mysterium fascinosum.’ It is a mysterious fear before a “holy other” that fascinates and attract us. It is the fear Moses experienced when he was before the burning bush that led him to remove his sandals in reverence because he knew he was on holy ground and in front of the burning presence of God.

Crisis situations make us experience fear and trembling. Initially, we may retreat and hide because we feel incapable of handling our fears. Let not our fears conquer us. Allow God‘s love to dispel all our fears. In the words of St. John: “In love there is no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love…” (1John 4:18) May we discover that we are being led to advance, recognizing that God loves us and is in our midst.

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