Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Season Of Faith

In today’s gospel, Jesus reiterates words that He spoke so often to His disciples during His After every great Church celebration, a season of prayer and celebration follows. The birth of Jesus is followed by the Christmas Season. We extend the feast of Jesus’ resurrection over the following fifty days with the Easter Season. However, after Pentecost, there is nothing - no Pentecost Season, not even a Pentecost octave. We are dumped unceremoniously into Ordinary Time with a few feasts - The Blessed Trinity, The Body and Blood of Christ and the Sacred Heart of Jesus - to console us. To my mind, there should be at least a week of festivities during which we can wear the red and celebrate the marvels the Holy Spirit works in us, the Church.

However, maybe there is another way to look at it. Perhaps Ordinary Time, despite its uninspiring title, could be considered the Pentecost Season. It is during this Ordinary Time that we live as a Church, moving in the Spirit Who was poured out on us, preaching the good news and practicing works of mercy.

So let’s not fret that the feast of Pentecost lasts but a day and is gone. Let us live this Ordinary Time as a Pentecost Season bearing the fruits of the Spirit to the glory of God!

And what happened on that first Pentecost Sunday? The Holy Spirit empowered those who were living in fear to come out of hiding and spread the good news throughout the world. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to step out of the shadows and begin living in the light. Pentecost, if anything, signifies conquering fear to witness to Jesus Christ.
earthly life: “Fear no one.” He understands that His followers will face much opposition and that the good news will not always be welcome. There will be those who try to silence His disciples with threats of violence. However, Jesus wants them to not allow fear to overcome them but to conquer fear through faith.

Fear is an emotion that all of us experience. Many times, it can be a healthy reaction to situations in which we could be harmed. When our fears are rational, they can motivate us to avoid people or places that could threaten our health or safety.

However, when our fears hold us back from experiencing the abundant life God has planned for us, then they no longer are protecting us but imprisoning us. Those irrational fears could be concerns about what other people think and the fear of being criticized, judged and ostracized. While it is natural that we want to be loved and accepted by others, we should not be making our decisions based on what we think other people expect.

And so, Jesus tells us that we should not be afraid to speak the truth. Why? Because even though the truth is so often rejected, even though people who speak the truth are so often bullied, that truth cannot be concealed for ever. No matter how many lies are told, no matter how much effort is put into covering it up, the truth always prevails. As Jesus says in today’s gospel, “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.” The confidence that we are speaking the truth in the power of the Holy Spirit and the assurance that it will ultimately prevail, inspire us to overcome our fears.

The other way that we overcome our fears is by keeping our focus on our Heavenly Father’s love for us. As Jesus tells us today, “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.” All of us are known and loved by God. There is nothing we can do to lose that love. Like our earthly fathers, we can turn to our Heavenly Father whenever we are in need and rely on His unfailing help. Even when others attack us and even when we suffer physical harm, He is always by our side holding us up through it all. Knowing He is by our side and that His help is always close at hand will strengthen us whenever we find ourselves being criticized or attacked because of our faith.

Finally, Jesus teaches us to overcome fear by focusing on the inheritance that is waiting for us in heaven - the promise of everlasting life. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” Our time on this earth is very short compared with the everlasting life that is awaiting us in heaven. In fact, our lives are too short to allow ourselves to be imprisoned by our fears. When we consider the glory awaiting us, why would we ever give any consideration to what others think? What can those people whose opinion means so much to us actually do for us besides pat our backs and make us feel good about ourselves for a few minutes? Is having their approval more important than having God’s approval? When we look at it that way, we see how foolish it is for us to change ourselves to please others.

Fear can be a helpful and healthy emotion. However, when we allow it to imprison us and limit our potential, then it is unhelpful and unhealthy. Jesus helps us to overcome our fear by reminding us that the truth will always prevail, that we are unconditionally loved by our Heavenly Father and that we have the inheritance of eternal life waiting for us in Paradise. Even when we are focused on these truths, we will still experience fear from time to time, especially as the world becomes increasingly hostile to the gospel message. However, faith in Jesus will help us to overcome those fears and stand up to the bullies who try to silence us.

And so, we can make this Ordinary Time extraordinary by abandoning ourselves to the Spirit of Pentecost, stepping out of the shadow of fear and living the abundant life God has called us to. 

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