Father David's Reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do not live in fear. But be dressed for action
What are you most concerned about in life? What do you consider your greatest responsibility? Your main job? What motivates you? What intimidates you?
In the Entrance Antiphon we ask God, “Be true to your covenant” — which really means to his own nature, to what he chooses to be for us. It is a cry for protection and security.
In the Opening Prayer(s) we “remind” God, “Your Spirit made us your children, confident to call you Father.” This is the way God chooses to relate to us and invites us to relate to him: as our Father. If we are “reborn in the Spirit” we will celebrate, rejoice in, our family relationship with him.
What we ask God for as our Father is to “touch our hearts” to make them grow toward the fullness of life he promises, and “touch our lives” to make them signs of his love toward all people. Does that tell us something about what we should be most concerned about in life? What our main job is? “Father” for us means life and love. We are on earth to grow in his love and give his love to others. Period.
In the Responsorial Psalm (33) we rejoice precisely because of the relationship God has chosen to have with us: “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”
Courage through faith:
Wisdom 18:6-9 refers to the Egyptians’ decree that all newborn males among the Jews should be killed at birth. But on the night of “Passover” when the angel killed the firstborn of the Egyptians, he “passed over” the homes the Jews had marked with the blood of the lamb. And when the Jews passed safely through the Red Sea, their enemies were drowned in its waters.
The Scripture scholars tell us that the intention and real message of this and other Bible passages is never to say that God takes vengeance by killing his enemies. In a story told by the rabbis, when the Egyptians were drowning in the sea, the angels broke out in songs of joy and triumph. Then they looked over and saw that God was weeping. When they asked him why, he simply said, “The Egyptians are my children too.”
The point of the Scripture is that God loves and protects us as a father does his children. If sometimes we cannot see this, we simply need to believe it. God is what he is, and what he is determines what he does. Always. No matter what we see.
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
“Do not live in fear”
In Luke 12:32-48 Jesus tells us very simply, “Do not live in fear.” Are there some fearful things and people out there? Yes. Do we need to be afraid? No. Why? Because our Father is stronger than they are, and he will not let anything harm us if we stay close to him. Even death cannot harm us.
We don’t need to worry about the currency recognized on this earth; we have a treasure in our own country, our homeland, that is theft proof, recession proof, inflation proof and tax exempt! The stock market has no effect on it at all. It simply keeps its value forever.
The only thing we have to worry about is worrying. We have “nothing to fear but fear itself.” Fear can distract us. So can desires for things that are not our real treasure. If we forget where our treasure really is, we can set a false course. “Wherever your treasure lies, there your heart will be.”
So Jesus says, “Look ahead. Keep thinking about me. I am coming back, and when I do I will settle everything. So don’t worry; just take care of my business and I will take care of yours.”
To strengthen us, God has given us two gifts of the Holy Spirit: “Fortitude” and “Fear of the Lord.” The first one, Courage, is to strengthen us to do things that are hard or that we are afraid to do because of danger. This is our defense against anyone who takes a stick to us.
And if anyone tempts us with a “carrot,” our defense is the “braking” gift, Fear of the Lord, which we understand best by asking ourselves what fear would be without the emotion of fright. The answer is “perspective.” “Fear of the Lord” is the gift of seeing everything in perspective. Then God stands out in relation to everything else as so good, so wise, so powerful, that we recognize it as pure insanity to go against him in any way.
This same sense of perspective makes all work, all other tasks and responsibilities insignificant compared to the one work we were made for: to let Jesus Christ live in us and continue to fulfill his mission on earth through all that we do and say. We were not just created to “know, love and serve God,” as we were taught from infancy. We were re-created to know the Father as only the Son knows the Father (Matthew 11:27), and to experience “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). We gave our bodies to Christ at Baptism so that in us Jesus himself might continue to serve and glorify the Father. For we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10).
Serving God is not just one of our duties; it is our way of life. It is all we live for. Everything else we do, at home and at work, in our families and in the world, we do with eyes enlightened by faith, hearts inflamed with love, and wills empowered by the hope that “Christ will be exalted” in our bodies, by all we say and do, “now as always, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).
Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” And “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these (John 6:29, 14:12). Now each one of us says with Saint Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
We look forward to the coming of Christ, not with fear but with joyful hope, “waiting for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
This is a hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
For us the “judgment” is the final revelation of the triumph and glory of Christ. We want his victory to be made manifest in the way we have lived our lives. “Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that… they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge” (1Peter 2:12).
For us the return of Jesus and the “day of judgment” are expectations that fill us with joy and peace: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Be What You See
Our mission on earth is to make visible the invisible. At Baptism we “offered our bodies” to God to be “priests in the Priest” in Christ: to give physical expression to the invisible mystery of God’s life in us, our faith, hope and love.
Hebrews 11:1-19 tells us, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Our ministry is to live and speak in a way that “makes it clear” we are “strangers and foreigners on the earth” who are seeking a homeland.” We “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” God our Father has “prepared a city” for us. In our “Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” and Jesus told us before his death, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Our work is to live in a way that makes our belief in that evident. “This is the work of God, that you believe.” And express it.
To “be Christ’ is to make visible the Good News.
Express to others what Jesus has expressed.