THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Gospel: Luke 21: 5-19
‘Do not be afraid,’ is an oft-repeated phrase in the Bible. If we count different phrasings with similar meanings, it will cross 500 times. It just tells us; God does not want us to miss this little phrase at any cost.
‘Do not be afraid,’ is an assurance, advice, and command all rolled into one. It appears for the first time in the Bible when God appears to Abraham in his dream (Gen 15:1). In today’s gospel, a superlative is used, ‘do not be terrified.’ Jesus was telling it while He was prophesying the disaster awaiting the Jerusalem temple, and the finale awaiting the human race.
‘Do not be afraid,’ is an assurance. The air is going to be filled with devastating news. News about wars on multiple fronts, news about nature unleashing its fury, and so on are going to scare you. Your world may seem to collapse. Jesus tells us to stay cool. He has already assured us not to be afraid; because He will be with us until the end. Remember how Jesus is taming the turbulent sea and assuring the disciples (Lk 8: 22-25). Yes, we have reason to be confident. At times it may appear Jesus is sound asleep but be assured He is still in the boat. What better assurance do we need?
‘Do not be afraid,’ is advice. It is advice to be taken up seriously. When you are afraid you are sure to lose control. You lose control over your emotions. You get angry, you get disappointed, you get jealous, you get vengeful. Fear can destroy you from within. Fear can destroy you to the core. Fear can destroy you beyond recognition. When Jesus is at the command you have no reason to be afraid. You shall be at peace with yourself, and with the world. ‘Do not be afraid,’ is too important advice to neglect.
‘Do not be afraid,’ is a command. If we obey, it is a life-changing command. Someone scared cannot be a true follower of Christ. Don’t be afraid to love, don’t be afraid to forgive, don’t be afraid to be kind, don’t be afraid to be humble, and don’t be afraid to stay with Jesus. We indeed live in a world where many are afraid to love and to be loved. Fear stops many from obeying the fundamental commandments of God. Many have abandoned Jesus for fear of being seen with Him. The world was, is, and shall not be appreciative of those who dare to stand with Jesus.
Do not be afraid to stand up for the rights of the unborn. Do not be afraid to stand with the institution of marriage as a unique and inseparable commitment between man and woman solemnized in the presence of God. Do not be afraid to say no to drugs, abuse of sexuality, and to wealth made using unjust means. ‘Do not be afraid,’ is a command taken to be really serious.
Learn fearlessness from Jesus. He was not afraid to obey his human parents. He was not afraid of the company of the poor and marginalized of society. He was not afraid to be tempted. He was not afraid to take fishermen and other common folks as his most trusted friends. He was not afraid to talk to the infamous Samaritan woman and the crying woman at the table. He was not afraid of the betraying hug of Judas. He was not afraid of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. He was not afraid of Herod, Pilot, or the crucifixion. He was not afraid of death. No one has won fear so comprehensively.
May this celebration of the Eucharist help you conquer all your fears. You are going to be great and blessed as God would want you to be.