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No Fear when God is Here

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XII-A, 25 June 2017
Jeremiah 20:10-13//Romans 5:12-15//Matthew 10:26-33

Fear is a main element in our being that a great deal of our lives is spent dealing with it. Experts say most of our fears do not really happen; hence, we should not let these fears paralyze us and prevent us from maturing into better persons. Likewise, they claim that fears can be good for us. In fact, they say that fear plays an important role in our human evolution that has enabled us to progress by overcoming so many problems that have led to the many discoveries in science, medicine, technology and geography. So you see, fear is something like a fabric or framework within us that could either make us or break us. And the good news is that Jesus is teaching us today to make a wise choice in dealing with our fears.

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. 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.”(Mt.10:26,28)

A friend once told me that he did not realize that we priests also go through a lot of trials and difficulties in life.
He explained that he thought that because we have given up everything to God, we would be spared from so many crises in life. I just smiled because it was only after I have been assigned to a parish of my own when I got to experience so many fears borne out of the many trials and difficulties I have experienced myself and seen among my brother priests. It was only recently that I have really felt the “reality bites” of pain and sufferings of priesthood not only when I get sick alone in my parish but especially when I get to visit our sick and elderly priests. Some of them have been forgotten by family and friends while some have debilitating illness with so little money. St. John Paul II suffered so much in his lifetime – orphaned from his mother at a very young age, lost his only brother in his teens, lived through World War II and into the Iron Curtain, and in his old age stricken with Parkinson’s disease. Our own Bishop Jose Oliveros is also sick with cancer, going through series of chemo treatments that often leave him weaker. I just think that if these priests were not spared from such sufferings, who am I to ask God for an exemption?
Like the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, I could “hear the whisperings of many: Terror on every side!”(Jer.20:10) Although my life may not be threatened like Jeremiah or some priests in Marawi and war-torn countries
in the Middle East, there are many dangers against my safety and well-being.

Every day we encounter so many threats against our lives – physically, emotionally, and economically.
These are all from the outside that may disappoint and sadden us, even stress and depress us. These, however, could not stop God from loving and protecting us, with Jesus assuring us that “Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”(Mt.10:30-31) We have seen so many heroes and saints whose physical bodies were destroyed but their ideals still live on to this day. Jesus Christ is the supreme example who was crucified on Good Friday. But when Easter came, He resurrected into a glorious body.
Like Him, we too would resurrect on the last day, body and soul that He makes that bold claim today to
“Fear no one… do not be afraid  of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Nonetheless, Jesus still wants us to take care of ourselves so that we could always be healthy to serve Him in others. Having no fear at all is stupidity.

What the Lord is telling us this Sunday is to take care of our inner selves, of our souls, our spiritual life that matters most in this life. When Jesus said that “rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”, He was teaching us to sort out our fears, to choose which kind of fear to dismiss and which to consider and hurdle.
It is normal to worry about food and money but it should not preoccupy us, even imprison us.
What the Lord is warning us about is the kind of threats that come from within, when we choose to live in sin like selfishness, disregarding God through others. When both body and soul are destroyed, everything is lost in hell which Gehenna symbolizes, the ancient dumpsite outside Jerusalem. This is the kind of death that do not come from outside forces but from inside us, destroying not only our very person but also our body. It is a death of our own doing, a self-destruction when we turn away from the people who truly love and care for us to pursue our selfish interests, refusing to love truly. Such a choice always end up in total misery like hell.

Another good friend sent me this beautiful story recently: “When we die, our money remains in the bank.
Yet, when we are alive, we don’t have enough money to spend. In reality, when we are gone, there is still a lot of money not spent. A business tycoon in China passed away. His widow, left with $1.9-B in the bank, married his chauffer. His chauffer said, ‘All the while, I thought I was working for my boss… it is only now that I realize that my boss was all the time working for me!!!’” Also included in that story are these claims: “In a smartphone, 70% of the functions are useless. For an expensive car, 70% of the speed and gadgets are not needed. If you own a luxurious villa
or mansion, 70% of the space is usually not used or occupied. How about your wardrobes of clothes? 70% of them are not worn! In a whole life of work and earning, 70% is for other people to spend. So, we must protect and make full use of our 30%.”

June is almost over and typically in our country, we call this period until August as “mes de mes” or “tag-hirap”
when money is so difficult due to many expenses like enrollment of children. At the same time even abroad, stocks are always down in August that it is called as the “ghost month.” These are all outside forces that may affect us
but we need not be so afraid of them because first of all, they can only be temporary or temporal in nature. We may get sick, go hungry, be disappointed and saddened with our situations or by our loved ones, even die for sure.
Let us not be overcome by our fears from these outside forces, imitating Prophet Jeremiah’s firm faith within to pray, “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”(Jer.20:13) Prophets and saints are like us with so many weaknesses and yes, fears. But through the overflowing grace of God
in Christ Jesus which St. Paul explains in the second reading, we too shall overcome. Have no fear for God is always here!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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