12th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
“Fear no one,” Jesus says. Fear is an enemy of faith, a first-cousin to anxiety and one step away from despair. He's not talking about the sort of fear we experience when the movie-monster jumps out from behind the cellar door. Or when we're startled by a loud noise. He's talking about that sort of fear that paralyzes, the sort of fear that prevents us from doing what is true, good, and beautiful b/c we cannot see beyond our words or actions. We don't know what's going to happen to us if we speak up or take action in our pursuit of the truth. We know we should speak the truth, but speaking the truth might get us fired, or unfriended, or cause a stink. Acting to bring about the good might stir up trouble or offend someone. Jesus is reminding his disciples and us that we are obligated to speak the truth and work diligently to bring about the good. It's not enough to think true thoughts and imagine good works. As followers of Christ we are heralds – like John the Baptist – heralds of the Good News in this world. When the truth must be spoken and the good done, “fear no one. . .What [Christ says] to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Fear is a paralyzing silence that no follower of Christ can tolerate.
As I've said, fear is an enemy of faith, a first-cousin to anxiety and one step away from despair. Those who lie for power, do evil for their own good, and destroy what is beautiful depend on the paralyzing silence of those who have seen and heard the truth. What better way for evil to flourish than for Christians to stand silent, surrendering their faith to fear and giving their persecutors the satisfaction of seeing the Good News of Jesus Christ die on our lips? Our Lord tells us to fear no one NOT b/c he's going to strike them down for opposing us. Not b/c he's going to deny them the occasional victory. But b/c – in the end – the Father's will rules all. In the end, and the beginning and the middle, the cross wins. Divine love, Christ's sacrifice wins. We do not need to fear those who oppose the Gospel b/c the Gospel has already won. We do need to bear constant and consistent witness to the Gospel b/c its good news is fresh daily, and not everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear has seen and heard it. And not only that – but the principal beneficiary of bearing witness to the Good News is the witness him or herself. What better conditions the muscles of faith than lifting the Gospel up for all to see and hear?
Look for a moment at Jeremiah. When his friends betray him and seek to destroy him, he bears witness to the Lord's help, “. . .the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” Now, Jeremiah may be boasting a bit here, but we cannot accuse him of faithlessness or fearfulness. He trusts the Lord absolutely and is unashamed to proclaim it! Can you and I say the same? When presented with an opportunity – public or private – to speak the truth of the faith to others, do we fulfill our baptismal vows, or do we sit in paralyzed silence, afraid that we might offend or cause trouble? If we choose silence, why? In that moment, who or what causes our silence? Whoever or whatever causes us to fail is more important to us than our faith in Christ Jesus. Here we listen again to our Lord say, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Fear no one, and speak the truth. Without squeamishness, without waffling or equivocation, speak the truth. In-fashion, out-of-fashion, trendy or not, speak the truth. Whatever the consequences, when called upon to do so, regardless of the circumstances, speak the truth of the Good News. There is nothing and no one – in this world – to fear. The Enemy thrives on our silence and inactivity. When we are complacent, he is working hardest. When we have given up, he is just getting started. If you think your words and deeds are useless against the world, remember for whom you speak – the one whose victory on the cross brought eternal life from death by the forgiveness of sin. “What [Christ says] to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
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