23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Be Strong, Fear Not)
Last week in my homily, I spoke about how wounding from the past tends to remain within us, even if dormant, and further, that the effects of those wounds become manifest in our living. Old wounds become manifest in the here and now. But it’s also our experience that something in the here and now awakens those old wounds, whether we thought we had dealt with them or not, whether we were even conscious of the wounds at all. For example, the news of these abuses, horrible as it is. Maybe it stirs up something from one’s own experience. Maybe it shakes our faith in the Church and disrupts the feeling of being grounded in that important dimension of our faith.
But regardless of the nature of the wound or what the experience is that serves as a trigger, one of the things it commonly triggers is fear. We all have fears, whether we’re truly conscious of them or not, and they govern us in certain ways. They hold us back from fully living.
I think at the root of our fears is that our Father won’t really take care of us or ensure our happiness; that maybe we’re not really beloved sons and daughters, and that God’s not really enough. And from that root fear, comes every other fear we grapple with: fear that my children won’t keep up with their peers; fear that my spouse doesn’t really love me; fear of an environmental crisis; fear that moral values are withering; fear of commitment; fear that the things bring me comfort and the way I like things will be taken away; fear of not being accepted; fear of not being relevant, and so on. Do you understand your own fears, and how they govern you?
As God told Isaiah to declare the people of Israel a millennium and a half ago, he says to us today in this living proclamation:”….to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God…” We’re told again and again, Be not afraid!—and yet we can’t seem to find our way out of it.
I remind us that Jesus, truly took on our human condition. It was not a costume. He knew fear. Consider his agony in the garden, the night before he was to suffer and die. He had a sense of what awaited him and he surely feared it.
When we experience fear, it implies that we have a sense of something is not in our control. Well, this is true. The problem is that our fears tell us that God is not in control. Isaiah wanted us to know that God is real, and is with us, and is in control.
Our faith does not deny fear as a reality any more than Jesus denied his fear in the garden of Gethsemane. Tragedy and pain are part of our human condition, just like fear. But we must bear in mind, that in his free and complete surrender to God’s will, Jesus took all the world’s fear with him onto the cross and offered that fear, along with himself, to the Father. And while fear wants us to believe that the chaotic forces are in control, our faith reminds us that God is. And therefore, somehow, all will be well. Isaiah says to us today: “Thus says the LORD: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God”.