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The Word, The Truth

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 25 June 2023
Jeremiah 20:10-13 ><]]]]'> Romans 5:12-15 ><]]]]'> Matthew 10:26-33
Photo from https://edition.cnn.com/2023/06/19/europe/titanic-shipwreck-vessel-missing-intl/index.html.

The recent news this week of the implosion of the submersible “Titan” with the death of its five passengers trying to reach the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean had elicited a lot of different reactions from various people around the globe.

While I wonder what’s really behind this obsession by some whites with the Titanic, they made me imagine the kind of courage those five men have to dare journey into the bottom of the sea on board their craft despite its highly questionable worth in safety and reliability. At least as I prayed over this Sunday’s gospel, OceanGate’s “Titan” passengers made me examine and contemplate my courage and fears in life both as a person and as a priest.

How much am I willing to risk in pursuing God, in serving his flock? Will I be able to give my life wholly like those five passengers in trying to see the wreckage of the Titanic that sank in 1912?

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. So do not be afraid…

Matthew 10:26-28, 31

James J. Tissot, ‘The Exhortation to the Apostles’ (1886-94) from Getty Images.

Jesus chose his twelve Apostles last Sunday to proclaim his good news of salvation to “the lost house of Israel” after seeing them “tired and troubled, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt.9:36).

As he sent them to their first mission, Jesus gave them some important instructions which the gospel tells us today and next Sunday. And leading the list of those instructions is the need to take courage when he told them to “fear no one” and twice to “do not be afraid”.

But first, let us clarify that courage is not the same with bravery that often refers to being able to do great feats like those extreme sports we see in social media. Most often, bravery is closely associated with skills like bungee jumping, sky diving, and skateboarding. Courage is different. It is from the Latin word cor or corazon in Spanish, the heart. To fear no one and be not afraid are expressions of courage, of drawing strength from one’s inner core – the heart – where God dwells. To draw strength from the heart which is the core of every person means to give one’s total self, more difficult than just risking a part of ourselves like an arm or a leg that is often the case with bravery.

Secondly, when Christ told his Apostles that included us today to fear no one and do not be afraid, he was not only instructing us to have courage but most of all showing us too the contrast of fear of human beings and the world with the fear of God.

Photo by author, Anvaya Cove, 19 May 2023.

What do I mean?

Courage is not everything. True courage is still having fears – of being afraid of God, of not being able to follow him, not being able to stand by him, of turning away from him in sin as St. Paul reminded us in the second reading. There will always be fears within us but with courage, we face all fears because we realize in our own weaknesses and shortcomings, there is the power and love of God who values us so much than sparrows and knows the number of our hair (vv.29-31).

Most beautiful example is the Prophet Jeremiah who revealed in his book his weaknesses like his being inadequate in himself due to his being timid and hypersensitive. Read the preceding verses before our first reading today to see how Jeremiah could not resist God who had duped/seduced him that he chose to remain faithful despite the great pains and sufferings he had to face as God’s prophet (Jer. 20:7ff). More than the fears of men who were actually his compatriots bent on hurting him, there was still that greater fear of turning away from God who gives him so much strength to overcome his trials in life. Here we find true courage in Jeremiah when amid his great fears for his life, his trust in God becomes a song of praise:

“O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”

Jeremiah 20:12-13

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD in San Antonio, Zambales, 05 June 2023.

What matters most in this life above all is God. Every pursuit we make, no matter how great are the dangers may be, may we have the courage to examine ourselves, our motives: is it for God or for myself? This is the essence of discipleship.

If what we pursue is for God, it would surely bring joy and fulfillment to people though it would entail sufferings and hardships, even death for us. By all means, go for it like Jeremiah and St. Paul and all the saints including the men and women of science and letters who toiled so hard amid great dangers and obstacles to serve God and people.

But, if our pursuit is for money or fame or position – for one’s self – it could bring only a little and fleeting joy, perhaps make a noise in the world or social media for a little while but we end up sorely losing everything, feeling disgusted and more fearful than ever in losing God.

May the Lord grant us the courage to be always true to him and his call. Amen. Have blessed week as you welcome July!

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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