Be not Afraid
Once upon a time … not too long ago … it took courage of a sort not to go to church in holy Ireland. People who did not go to church were regarded as odd, or maybe worse. They swam against the social tide which equated church attendance with respectability. How things have changed! Now it takes courage to witness to Christian beliefs and ideals. One has to swim against the current of popular opinion stirred up by social media brain-washing and cynical agnosticism. We are given to understand that normal people have nothing to do with religion. And there are prophets of doom who spread anxiety like a virus. Three times in today’s gospel Jesus repeats “Do not be afraid.” This is the phrase most often repeated in the bible. God knows how fear can paralyze us so he continually exhorts us to have courage, to have confidence. If people opposed Jesus and called him diabolical names, why should we be surprised if we have to put up with a little mockery? We are in good company when we are with Jesus.
Pope Francis, speaking to a group of newly ordained, compared priests to aeroplanes: they make news only when they crash! The News never reports that nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine planes landed safely today. The wonderful contribution of the Church to education, culture, medical care, feeding the hungry, working for justice and peace, etc. is being airbrushed out of history. But Jesus tells us not to be afraid because the time will come when the full truth will be recognised. “Everything now covered will be uncovered and everything now hidden will be made clear”. Be not afraid: God sees the full picture. “So, if anyone declares for me in the presence of others, I will declare myself for them in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of others, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.” Be not afraid: God is with us. “Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Extract from Silvester O’Flynn: Gospel Reflections and Prayers (Columba Press).