In the First reading, God delivered the innocent prophet Jeremiah from the plots and terrors of his enemies. In the Second Reading, Paul recounts that while Adam’s disobedience and sin brought us death, Christ’s obedience brought us life. Jesus during his ministry was constantly opposed, persecuted and ultimately killed. In today’s gospel Jesus lets his disciples know that they should expect the same treatment when they assist him in his ministry, but he also reassures them to not be afraid.
You might say that “not being afraid” as a disciple of Christ is hard to embrace since Jesus’ teachings and way of life lead to his death. But that is the point, his actions lead only to physical death. Sin entered the world through Adam. Jeremiah felt the effects of it, Jesus felt the effects of it, and all of us will experience the effects of sin. The message here is that God has our back even if it leads to death.
Jesus tells them and us not to be afraid of those that are able to kill the body but cannot destroy the soul. He is saying not to be afraid of the physical things you can lose in this earthly plane including even your life, but to focus on eternal life in the heavenly plane. How do we attain eternal life? The question comes down to what motivates the decisions we make in life.
What is one of the most motivating forces in our lives? Unfortunately it is one that we will most likely want to deny. Our actions are many times in response to fear. Many will probably agree that in general that applies to most people but of course it does not apply to them. Giving in to fear implies cowardice or weakness of character. No one wants to admit to that.
But let’s be honest with ourselves, are we really any different than St. Peter when he denied Christ the night that Christ was arrested? Being truly honest with ourselves is probably one of the most difficult things to do. We don’t want to admit we are flawed. So let’s be real with ourselves, we are human, we are not God, therefore, we are flawed. Many of our actions are influenced by our fears which lead us to sin.
So here is a soul searching question. What are you truly and most deeply afraid of? Would it terrify you to lose your home, your job, all your money, your status, your friends, your family, your health, your reputation, your independence, or to be controlled or manipulated by someone?
Once we admit to ourselves what we are most deeply afraid of, then we can move forward to actually hear the message of Jesus today and take action. Jesus said in the Gospel today; “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
So here is a test. Answer honestly to yourself. Have you ever denied Christ? Wait, don’t say “no” too quickly. We have all fallen into sin similar to Peter. We may have been too afraid to admit that something is sinful even though Christ taught us that it is sinful. This is denial of his teachings. You might say, I have never denied his teachings!
Well, have you ever been reluctant to admit you are Catholic? That is being reluctant to admit you know Christ. Doesn’t that sound similar to St. Peter? Did you ever avoid standing up for the teachings of Christ? We say a lot sometimes through our silence or being non-committal. We are supposed to be the light of Christ in the world. People who are not Catholic observe what we say and what we do. They look to us as living examples of the teachings of Christ. Let’s put it this way, if you deny any of Christ’s teachings, you are denying the Word of God. Jesus is the Word of God, therefore by denying his Word, you are denying him.
I am not trying to trick anyone or make you feel as though our salvation is hopeless. That is the farthest from the truth. The point is only to be honest with ourselves. We must start there. Remember Jesus also said in the Gospel today; “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” God knows us better than we know ourselves. Jesus tells us to fear no one, to fear nothing but the loss of friendship with God.
Jesus wants to heal us as he did Peter. In John 21, 15-17 Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Peter says yes and Jesus tells him to feed his lambs and tend his sheep. The three affirmations counters the three denials Peter made of Jesus. Jesus is telling Peter to bring his Word to all the lost sheep, to all people. There is to be no hesitation in proclaiming his message, not for Peter and not for us.
Jesus’ prominent message is, do not be afraid to follow in his footsteps. Our bodies are expendable, our souls are not, so do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul. God will make His final judgement on us based on the choices we make in life to either turn away from God or not. It is ultimately up to us.
Don’t let your fear of what you are most terrified of losing in this world take the place of God in your lives. We should fear the loss of our friendship with God over everything and anything else. There are those that make choices in life to satisfy their physical and emotional desires at the expense of their souls. We need to change that mindset. As scary as that might seem, Christ assures us that he will be with us every step of the way, we will not be alone in living our lives as Christ taught us, so do not be afraid, stand up for our Catholic Christian values, be the light of Christ in the world. Make a real difference in this crazy mixed-up world of ours and let your life be a true beacon of the light of Christ. Choose everlasting life, choose the way of Christ.