Monday, November 15, 2010

33rd Sunday - homily

You're probably aware of what people's greatest fears are. It's always been remarkable to me that public speaking is one of our greatest fears. I remember an incident -this is kind of a sad story - in high school that showed this. It was freshmen English class; we each had to get up in front of the class and deliver a famous or well-known speech. Most of us were terrified to do this in front of our peers. One guy got up to give his speech and then just froze with panic. He said, "I can't do this." We all encouraged him to do it. He said "no, I'll just take an F.". The teacher said, "what?" He said, "I'll take a zero" and ran off the stage, back to his seat.

People have a lot of fear these days. One of the biggest fears drove my classmate to take the F: fear of being rejected or not liked by others. That is a huge fear, especially among young people. But, we see fear on so many levels in the world. People have the global fears like those that Jesus addresses in the Gospel - fears about wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan and natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti. We have national fears, with the economy being probably the biggest. Folks are afraid of what might happen. There is much fear about unemployment with people not knowing if they will have a job. Since 9/11, our national security fears are incredibly heightened. Locally, our students at GW fear what grades they'll get and if they'll get the internships or jobs they want. They are afraid of what might happen in their relationships or with family situations. People are so much more afraid of how they speak; political correctness rules the day in our culture. Finally, there is overwhelming fear of living out our Catholic faith in a world that mocks it.

As believers, we live in faith, not fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. We believe that we will survive. No matter what happens in this life, no matter what danger we face, not a hair on our heads will be destroyed. Jesus goes through many of our greatest fears in today's Gospel - including public speaking! - and tells us that we will survive. We will survive even death! We don't know what will happen in this life - that's why people are so on edge. We don't know what will happen when we die. But, we believe that we will get through it. Not a hair on our heads will be destroyed.

Three examples of people who live by faith and not fear. The first is a friend of mine who had to testify in court in a high-profile case. She was an important witness and so was very nervous. I told her to read this Gospel over and over - the Holy Spirit would give her the words to say. She took this approach and did an excellent job, speaking with eloquence and wisdom on the stand. The second is a man who started a Catholic school around here not too long ago. Even though the school struggles financially, he admits some students who can't afford it. The school's board and his friends think he is crazy for doing this. But, he manages the school with the faith that they will somehow be able to make payroll and pay their bills. They do every time. The third is a man who I knew from my last parish. He was dying of cancer when I went to anoint him in the hospital. I asked him if he was afraid of dying. As soon as I finished my question, he said, "No", very firmly. I will never forget that moment. He was staring death in the face and was not afraid. He was a man of great faith. He lived out what Jesus says so many times in the Gospels: "be not afraid".

Finally, brothers and sisters, we believe that we will survive because Jesus is with us, especially in the Eucharist. If we persevere in our relationship with Him in the Eucharist, then our lives will be secure. If we persevere in our faith in Him, then our lives will be secure, and not a hair on our heads will be destroyed.

No comments: