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More than Many Sparrows
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 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.”
Opening Prayer: Today is your day, Lord. I want to live it with you and in a way that will please you. Thank you for giving me the gift of faith, the gift of prayer, the gift of your sacred Scriptures. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for always thinking of me and being with me. I offer you this time together as a sign of my love for you and my desire to give you glory through all that I do and say. Open my mind and heart, Lord, to receive the grace you wish to give me today.
- Dealing with Fear: Jesus is preparing his twelve Apostles for their mission of building his Church and spreading his Gospel. In today’s portion of the Gospel, he is preparing them for the times they will feel inadequate or weak, and the times they will suffer misunderstanding, intimidation, and persecution. We have all experienced fear and uncertainty in situations like that. Jesus knows his twelve Apostles, and all of his disciples throughout history, will experience that same fear and uncertainty at times. And so he instructs us about how to deal with that. He tells us not to give in to that fear, never to give into the temptation of discouragement, for one very simple reason: we are cared for and watched over by our heavenly Father. Nothing in the world happens without his knowledge and permission, not even the apparently insignificant activities of little sparrows. And so, if we are engaged in doing his work, we can rest assured that he will guard and bless us. He wants us to trust in him unflinchingly, unhesitatingly. “Even all the hairs of your head are counted,” he reminds us, as if to say that absolutely nothing about our lives is unimportant to the Lord. How firmly do I believe this truth about God and his interest in my life? What impact does this truth have on how I respond to situations that stir up feelings of fear and uncertainty?
- Partners with Christ: Jesus didn’t have to make us partners in redeeming the world. He could have done it all himself. But he did make us partners. “What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” We receive the truth and wisdom of Christ; it penetrates our hearts; it works on our souls in mysterious ways—and what we receive from him we are called to boldly share with others. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” Jesus is encouraging us to be his witnesses, not to be ashamed of being Christians, of believing in what he revealed to us, of building up his Kingdom rather than just the passing kingdoms of this world. We are his missionaries, his ambassadors. Every Christian, simply by virtue of being a Christian, is called and equipped to bring Christ to others. In spite of insults and intimidations, we are called to continue to proclaim the Gospel, not only in how we live our lives, but also in our words, by telling people about Jesus and inviting them to come and follow him. Whenever we feel inadequate for such a lofty mission, we have a golden opportunity to glorify God by courageously trusting in him regardless of our fears: “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” How courageous a Christian am I? In what ways is Jesus inviting me to proclaim the Gospel from the housetops?
- An Eternal Perspective: Jesus never seems to get tired of reminding us to keep an eternal perspective on things. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Earth is not our final destination. Life in this world is a preparation for eternal life. We have a mission and an adventure to live out for a few years here below, and then, when our mission is done and our souls are ready, Jesus calls us home to the Father’s house in heaven. This truth, repeated over and over again by Jesus in so many ways throughout the Gospels, can be a source of great strength, and joy, and peace for us, if we let it really sink in to our hearts and minds. St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople in the fourth century under very powerful and very corrupt emperors, was exiled multiple times because he refused to compromise his preaching of the Gospel. In a sermon given during times of trouble and persecution, he powerfully expressed this connection between keeping an eternal perspective and having peace and courage in the midst of trials: “The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, when I am able to quiet my thoughts enough to see what is really in my heart, I have to admit that I don’t find as much confidence in you as I would like to have. It is hard for me to believe, fully and deeply, that you really care even about how many hairs are on my head. It is hard for me to accept what you have revealed about how constantly and lovingly you think of me. It is hard for me to hope in the power of your grace working through me when I am so familiar with my own weaknesses and failures. Lord Jesus, I want to be your ambassador, your witness, your soldier—but I need your grace to take even the smallest step forward! Please increase my faith. Please reveal your goodness and your love to my heart in a new and deeper way today.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will visit a cemetery to pray for the dead and also to try and nourish in my own mind and heart the life-giving perspective of eternity that you presented to me in today’s Gospel.
For Further Reflection: Spiritual Smoothie: What’s the Cure for Discouragement?
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.
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