AD SENSE

12th Sunday A - Don't be Afraid - Just Trust

In today’s first reading Jeremiah initially gives vent to his despair, he makes a desperate statement of how he is being persecuted with terrors all around. But immediately he also makes a confident statement of his trust in the Lord to deliver him. Perhaps many people could identify with Jeremiah’s situation. In their despair they are overwhelmed by those seeking to destroy them, yet they also trust in God as their caring deliverer. Jeremiah refused to be intimidated by attacks upon his character, and so he was unafraid to speak out in the name of the Lord. Jeremiah accused the people of sin and warned of God’s judgement upon them. He condemned reliance on military pacts rather than on God. Jeremiah was forced into exile but refused to be silenced.
Others after Jeremiah have also reached great heights of heroic action born of deep convictions. In the twentieth century alone there are many examples. During the Second World War Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest who refused to be intimidated by the Nazis, offered his life in exchange for a prisoner, a husband and father, whom the commandant of the concentration camp had singled out for execution. A young girl in Italy refused to be intimidated by a man who threatened to kill her because she refused his sexual advances. And kill her he did on July 6th, 1902. Maria Goretti was declared a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Her mother and Alexander Serenelli, the man who killed her, were present at her canonization.
Charles Miller in ‘Sunday Preaching’


In the Gospel Matthew exhorts his disciples to be fearless witnesses of the Gospel. Jesus, when he sent his disciples out into the world to be his witnesses, knew that they would be fearful. They had good reason to be fearful, knowing the hardships and persecution it would entail. So, not once but three times Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.” It is normal and natural that courage will sometimes fail us and that we will be afraid. All those who have accomplished great things have some time or another been afraid. Martin Luther King was afraid, and Jesus himself experienced fear in the garden of Gethsemane. It is not experiencing fear that matters but how we react to fear and whether it controls our life. Basically Jesus suggested that his disciples could move from fear to courage through trust and reliance in God. Jesus urged them to have complete confidence in God who lovingly watches over the life and death of even the smallest and least valuable of his creatures –the sparrows. God knows every detail of our life –even the very hairs on our head are counted, so we can count on his support in every crisis. To live the Christian life requires courage and we can become courageous not by relying on our own strength but on the support of God. As people of faith, we believe that God will give us the strength to cope with every difficulty that comes our way.


Film: A Cry in the Dark (Evil Angels)
In 1980, the Chamberlains, a devout Seventh Day Advent family are camping at Uluru in Central Australia. When the family is eating supper, Azaria, the baby daughter disappears from the tent. Lindy, the mother hears a cry and rushes to check on the baby. Lindy sees a dingo (wild dog) running away but no trace of the child is ever found. Lindy is charged with the murder of her child, and the father, Michael, a pastor as accessory to the murder. The couple pleads innocent and profess their faith in God. In the trial Lindy is found guilty and sentenced to life in prison at hard labour. The Chamberlains, supported by friends, lose appeal after appeal. Finally new evidence is discovered, the Chamberlains win the fight to prove their innocence. A panel of three judges exonerates Lindy and Michael in 1988. -Lindy and Michael were people of faith who were forced to go through public trial and punishment, and who suffered hostility and calumny. In today’s gospel, Jesus instructs the twelve, telling them how to deal with injustice, false accusations, and calumny. He assures his followers that their faith in God will be justified.
Peter Malone in ‘Lights Camera….Faith!’
It takes courage and love...
Anonymous


Archbishop Oscar Romero
Oscar Romero is an outstanding example of being a true witness of Christ. When he was made Archbishop of El Salvador in 1997 he was a conservative. But he soon changed when he saw what was happening. Every Sunday he preached at the Cathedral. His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs halted when he spoke from the altar. He made public the unspeakable crimes being committed by many agents of the government. He was under constant threat of death. Some of his best friends were murdered. And still he would not be silenced. Nor would he go into hiding or exile. “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. I will stay with my people.” He said. According to Romero it didn’t take courage. All it took was the understanding that his enemies dwelt in fear, and that he was not afraid of them, they would have no power over him. They might be able to kill his body, but they would not and could not kill his soul. There is also a story of a priest, who during the genocide in Rwanda (1994) sheltered Tutsis in his house. When a mob arrived at his door and ordered him to release them, he refused to do so. They shot him and took the people away. Even though we may not aspire such heights of heroism people like these are an inspiration to us.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'


 Praying for courage
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’



Modern-day Martyrs

One day an eagle swooped down from the sky and carried away a tiny baby who was sleeping on the front porch of his mother’s cottage. Nearly everyone in the village ran after it, but the eagle soon placed the baby high on a cliff near its nest. It quickly became evident that the baby might not be recovered. A sailor tried to climb the cliff, but his limbs began to tremble and he had to give up the attempt. Then a shepherd accustomed to climbing tried, but after a short distance he lost his footing and fell to the bottom of the cliff. At last a peasant woman tried. She put her feet on one shelf of the rock, and then on another, and then on a third. Slowly she climbed higher and higher until she reached the eagle’s nest on the top of the cliff. She took the baby in her arms, and then step by step, she began her dangerous descent. She moved slowly and carefully. Finally she stood at the bottom of the cliff with the baby in her arms. She was the baby’s mother.

Here is a story of a sea captain who on his retirement skippered a boat taking day trippers to the Shetland Islands. On one trip the boat was full of young people. These young ones laughed at the old captain when they saw him saying a prayer before setting out, because the day was fine. However, they were not long out at sea when a storm suddenly blew up, and the boat began to pitch violently. The terrified passengers came to the captain and asked him to join them in prayer. But he replied, “I say my prayers when it is calm. When it is rough, I attend to my ship.” The lesson is that if we cannot or will not seek God in quiet moments of our lives, we are not likely to find him when trouble strikes. -One of the shortest prayers ever composed was written by a French sailor. It goes like this: “Lord, my boat is small and the ocean is great. Come quickly.”
***
Counting the hairs on your head
It was just a few weeks after her surgery; the chemotherapy treatments had begun.  Every morning, she would comb her hair — and every morning she would pull out anther clump of her beautiful hair from the brush.  This side effect was hitting her harder and harder.
One morning, she felt the top of her head and, for the first time, she could count the strands.  But she felt strangely at peace.  She held each strand — just as God, in his providence, could count them from the moment God breathed his life into her.  She became aware of God present in the love of her family and friends who were supporting and suffering with her. 
****
She remembers:

“I felt comfort knowing that God knew how many strands were in my brush, on my pillow, in my hat, and in my hand.  God had counted them all.  With or without my hair, God knew me and what my future held.  I was still afraid — of the cancer, of the chemo, the upcoming brain scan, and its results — but I knew that God would be with me through it all.”

[Adapted from “I lost my hair but not my faith” by Kathryn Lay, Catholic Digest, May 2008.]

In the Gospels, Christ reveals a God who loves us and cares for us and every “strand” of creation.  Sometimes we are called to be the vehicles of God’s love for those desperate to realize that presence in their lives; sometimes we are the recipients of such blessings of forgiveness and compassion.  May we find peace and reason to hope in the providence of God who has “counted . . . all the hairs of your head,” a providence that manifests itself in the love of family, the comfort of friends, the support of church and community. 

****
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:


1.              Fearless St. John Chrysostom: Fidelity to God under persecution can manifest itself in many forms. A story told of St. John Chrysostom alleges that when the Emperor threatened banishment, Chrysostom responded to the threat by saying that the emperor could not do so, “because the whole world is my Father’s Kingdom.” “Then,” replied the emperor, “I will take away your life.” To which Chrysostom said, “You cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” Next threatened with the loss of his treasure, this saint replied, “You cannot, for my treasure is in Heaven where my heart is.” The emperor made one last effort: “Then I will drive you away from here and you shall have no friend left.” But again, St. John Chrysostom responded, “You cannot, for I have one Friend from whom you can never separate me. I defy you, for you can do me no harm.” — You can do me no harm! (Additional notes on St. Chrysostom: St. John Chrysostom (ca AD 347- September 14, 407), a trained orator and a presbyter in Antioch of Pisidia for 12 years, preached and wrote against the “judaizers” who were seducing Christians from the Faith, drawing them into adopting Jewish laws, festivals, and decadent lives of pleasure and wealth. Appointed Archbishop of Antioch, he refused to live the lavish social life expected of him, reformed the clergy, and made powerful enemies by his plain-speaking about the neglect of Christ in the poor by the rich, their pagan tendencies, and the misuse of authority in both civil and religious spheres. Chrysostom suffered exile three times. The first was when the Eastern Roman emperor Arcadius prompted by his wife Eudoxia and the Patriarch of Alexandria banished him from the kingdom; he was recalled immediately, but described the ceremonies of dedication for the statue of Eudoxia, as pagan and described the Empress in terms of Herodias: “Again Herodias raves; again she is troubled; she dances again; and again desires to receive John’ head in a charger!” Deposed and banished again, this time to Cuscus in Cappadocia, St. John Chrysostom continued to write letters of great influence in Constantinople, resulting in a further banishment, moving him from Cuscus in Cappadocia to Pitiunt (Pityus). He never reached that city, dying in Comana Pontica September 14, 407. His last words, reportedly, were “Glory be to God for all things.” In 141 Pope Innocent 1 (Wikipedia). In 414 Pope Innocent 1 recognized him as a Saint, and his feast has been celebrated since 438 AD. (Richard P McBrien, Lives of the Saints, from Mary and St. Francis of Asissi to John XXIII and Mother Theresa, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 37—73).

2.              Tom Brown’s School Days: This story of an English boys’ school, written in 1857 as a novel by Thomas Hughes, was based on his own experiences as a student of Rugby Boys School. A new boy joined the school. As he got ready for bed the first night, he knelt to say his prayers in a dormitory with twelve other lads. Tom Brown was among them and he was the most popular boy. The other boys were looking forward to making fun of the newcomer. Tom noticed a heavy shoe flying in the air to hit the praying boy. But it missed his head. Laughter and ridicule followed. The incident shook Tom and he could not sleep for some time. He kept thinking of his mother and the prayers she had taught him, prayers he had not said since coming to the school. So, encouraged by the example of the fearless newcomer, the following night Tom also knelt down to pray. The other boys who planned to bully the new boy the second night, immediately noticed what their leader and hero was doing, and they withdrew with respectful silence. Soon, the courage of two boys won the respect and admiration of the entire class. Here is an example of what Jesus taught his apostles in today’s gospel to preach the good news without fear. (Mgr. Arthur Tonne). Watch the Movie: https://youtu.be/s1MK7YEP-kY & https://youtu.be/nefs_66p6bI

3.              “Don’t be afraid! We have four bishops to pray for us.” An elderly woman named Maude had a window seat on a big 747 jetliner that had just taken off for Rome from New York. She had been saving for years to fulfill her dream to visit the Eternal City. But it was her first flight, and she was terrified. Even the stately presence of four bishops seated behind her didn’t help. With fear and trembling she finally opened her eyes and peered out the window, just in time to see one of the plane’s four engines break loose from the wing and disappear into the clouds. “We’re going to die!” she cried out. “We’re going to die!” The stewardess consulted with the pilot who announced to the passengers that everything was under control that they could fly back to New York and land safely with three engines. But Maude continued to cry out, “We’re going to die!” The stewardess went to her and said, “Don’t worry, my dear, God is with us. We have only three engines, but look, we have four bishops to pray for us.” To which Maude replied, “I’d rather have four engines and three bishops!” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us three reasons why we should not be afraid and why we should have the courage of our Christian convictions. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

4.              Fear of monster under the bed: A man visited a therapist because he had a fear of monsters living under his cot. The man had been seeing this doctor for months. Every time he would come in, the doctor would ask, “Have you made any progress?” Every time the man would say “No”. The man decided to go and see another doctor. When he went back to his first doctor, the doctor asked, “Have you made any progress?” he said “Yes! I am feeling all better now!” The doctor asked, “What happened?” The man said, “I went to another doctor and he cured me in one session!” The doctor asked, “What did he tell you?” The man said “He just told me to cut off all four legs of my cot and leave no space for the monster!”
5.              No Fear: The devil entered the house of an alcoholic. But the drunkard just ignored him. The surprised devil asked him “Do you know who I am?”
“Why of course I know who you are,” the man calmly replied. “You’re Satan.”
“And you’re not afraid of me like the others?” the devil asked somewhat puzzled. To which the drunkard replied, “No. Why should I be? I’ve been married to your sister for the last 25 years.
6.              Fear of Sunday (Author Unknown) Fwd by Rev. Deacon Gary Thibodeau)
To make it possible for everyone to attend Church next Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday”:
a) Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.”
b) There will be a special section with lounge chairs who feel that our pews are too hard.
c) Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching T.V. late Saturday night.
d) We will have steel helmets for those who say ” The roof would cave in if I ever came to Church.”
e) Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold and fans for those who say it is too hot.
f) Score cards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present.
g) Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to Church and cook dinner, too.
h) We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those who feel that Church is always asking for money.
i) One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature.
k) Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday.
l) The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the Church without them.
m) We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton for those who say he is to loud.

16- Additional anecdotes:

1) Counting the hairs on your head: (“Even all the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10: 26-33): It was just a few weeks after her surgery; the chemotherapy treatments had begun.  Every morning, she would comb her hair — and every morning she would pull out anther clump of her beautiful hair from the brush.  This side effect was hitting her harder and harder. One morning, she felt the top of her head and, for the first time, she could count the strands.  But she felt strangely at peace.  She held each strand — just as God, in his providence, could count them from the moment God breathed his life into her.  She became aware of God present in the love of her family and friends who were supporting and suffering with her.  She remembers: “I felt comfort knowing that God knew how many strands were in my brush, on my pillow, in my hat, and in my hand.  God had counted them all.  With or without my hair, God knew me and what my future held.  I was still afraid — of the cancer, of the chemo, the upcoming brain scan, and its results — but I knew that God would be with me through it all.” May we find peace and reason to hope in the providence of God who has “counted . . . all the hairs of your head,” a providence that manifests itself in the love of family, the comfort of friends, the support of church and community.  [Adapted from “I lost my hair but not my Faith” by Kathryn Lay, Catholic Digest, May 2008.] (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

2) “Latimer, Latimer, be careful what you say!”: During the turbulent reign of Henry VIII (AD 1491-1547) Hugh Latimer (AD 1485-1555) a preacher, bishop of Worcester, reformer and eventually a Protestant martyr, was preaching in the presence of King Henry in Westminster Abbey. Hugh Latimer was the Archbishop of Canterbury.  As such, in his time, he was viewed as the highest Church official of England.  It was a time when Archbishops were appointed by the King, and the King expected loyalty. Latimer knew that he was about to say something that would incur the royal wrath so he began this soliloquy from the pulpit: “Latimer, Latimer, be careful what you say, the king is here!” He paused, and then as if in response to himself, he continued. “Latimer, Latimer, be careful what you say, the King of kings is here.” Eventually Latimer’s fearless preaching cost him his life. For such unflinching faithfulness, Latimer was eventually burned at the stake. But Latimer feared failing God more than he feared offending men. Jesus counseled his apostles not to fear those who could deprive them of physical life (kings, rulers, enemies). but only those who could destroy the soul. Since the sole prerogative of judgment concerning the human soul rested with their loving Father (the King of kings) they should be fearless. (S├ínchez Files). (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

3)Fearless St. Teresa. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) is famous as a theologian, reformer of the Carmelite Order, and spiritual advisor to the great Spanish mystic, St. John of the Cross (1542-1591). But Teresa’s ministry was not well received in her community.  Her sisters had grown lax in Faith and practice, and when she called for reform their response was to throw her out of convents that she herself had established. On one occasion, she was turned out at night in the middle of a rainstorm. Dressed only in her coarse wool habit, she climbed into a donkey cart and was riding along when the wheel of the cart hit a ditch and the cart turned over, dumping Teresa into the mud. She sat there, in mud-soaked wool, looked up to Heaven, and said, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder that you don’t have many!” But frustrated as she was, Teresa clung to God. In one of her meditations on the Disciplines of the Holy Spirit, Teresa talks about how we must not be deceived by the appearance that evil triumphs over good. She wrote, “God uses the Devil as a sharpening-stone for Christians.” Teresa not only taught this lesson, she lived by it. She never gave up on God, even when her sisters opposed her by going to priests and bishops to make trouble for her. She kept right on teaching what she knew to be the truth. And eventually, she won out. Her desire was to be faithful, and God prospered her efforts. Today, she is known as a Doctor of the Church — an exemplary teacher and thinker — while the nuns who treated her so badly remain dead and unknown. And the Carmelite convents of Teresa’s reform continue to this very day.  Teresa understood what the prophet Jeremiah was talking about in the first reading and what Jesus was teaching in today’s Gospel lesson. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

4) “I’m holding this plane up by sheer will power!” TIME magazine reported sometime back on the many famous people who have a phobia about planes and are, nevertheless, constantly flying. Among them are Andre Previn, Joanne Woodward, Bob Newhart, Jackie Gleason, even former president Ronald Reagan. In an interview done aboard Air Force I, the president was asked if he had overcome the fear of flying. “Overcome it!” he retorted. “I’m holding this plane up by sheer will power!” [Bruce Larson, The Presence, (HarperCollins Publishers, 1988), pp. 10-11.] Some of you can relate to that. Everyone’s afraid of something. Some people have fears that are almost pathological. It has been more than 35 years since Janet Leigh saw herself on the screen in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film Psycho. After viewing the famous shower scene, in which she was repeatedly stabbed, Leigh was seized with an overwhelming and lasting terror. “I stopped taking showers, and even now I take only baths,” she says. In fact, when the actress stays in a hotel or at a friend’s home where only a shower is available, she panics. “I make sure the doors and windows of the house are locked,” she says, “and I leave the bathroom door and shower curtain open. I’m always facing the door, watching, no matter where the shower head is.” [Elaine M. Ward, Once Upon a Parable…(Educational Ministries, Inc., 1994), p. 38.] Predicting future opposition and persecution, Jesus encourages his disciples to stand firm. Three times He urges them, and us, “Do not fear!” “Do not be afraid!” Thus, we know we, too, will be successful despite the opposition we encounter. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

5) President Jimmy Carter with miles of smiles and Jesus with a fiery sword: During the presidential campaign of 1976, Jimmy Carter became famous for his teeth. Cartoonists had a holiday, exaggerating the size of his teeth. His teeth were prominent because he went across the country constantly smiling which certainly was an important factor in his winning the presidency. Does life always let us smile? Are Christians supposed to wear a constant smile? Are there not times when a frown is more appropriate, times when we should be upset, angry, and ready to fight? In today’s Gospel lesson, we see a side of Jesus seldom shown. The Prince of Peace declares that he has come “not to bring peace but the sword” (Matthew 10:34, ff; this passage directly follows the end of today’s reading). He is a disturber of the peace. He comes holding not an olive branch, the symbol of peace, but a sword which means fighting. Wherever Jesus goes, he stirs up controversy. He turns values upside down. He challenges sinful ways. His word pits members of a family one against the other as they face the challenge of discipleship. How does one account for this? It is the result of Jesus’ taking the “cross” road of life. If we follow him on this road, we can expect the same. This leads us to the cost of discipleship. Can we afford to be a true Christian? Do we want to pay the price of walking on the “cross” road of life? In our text, Jesus calls us to follow him on this “cross” road. What is this road, and what does it take to travel on this road through life? The “cross” road of life is the Road of Discipline. In our text Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me …” (Mt 10:37-39; not in today’s reading). This call for self-discipline says that we must put Christ first in our way of life, hold all other persons secondary to Him, and consider ourselves as coming last. 

6) Giraffes afraid of crossing a waterless two feet deep moat: Among the many wonders at the world-famous San Diego Zoo is the giraffe compound. Enclosed in a natural habitat are several of these magnificent animals. They are every bit as tall and graceful as one might imagine. But they are far more massive and muscular than expected. Tall somehow seems to imply thin. However, these great beasts are anything but skinny. Their necks are thicker and their legs shorter and more powerful than one anticipates. It is not difficult to see why one kick could send an ambitious lion packing. Yet these massive, stately animals are enclosed in a small compound that seems far too restricting for their size and power. But no cage contains them. There are no bars or walls. There is but a simple, waterless moat, no deeper than the beast’s knee, that circles the compound. Freedom is but a mere two steps away. But they are trapped. All of them are. For not one of them will take the risk of stepping down and across for fear of breaking its neck. [Don Martin, Team Think (New York: Penguin Books Ltd: 1993), p. 76.] I wonder how many of us are limited like that by our fears. Fear of rejection… fear of failure…fear of looking foolish…fear of being hurt…fear of being alone… fear of intimacy…fear of being taken advantage of …fear of change…fear of being criticized. “Do not fear!” “Do not be afraid!” It is the urgent advice of Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

7) Out of proportion fears: In his book, Scared to Life (Victor), Douglas Rumford cites a study that explains why we shouldn’t allow fear to rule our lives: 60% of our fears are totally unfounded; 20% are already behind us; 10% are so petty they don’t make any difference; 4-5% of the remaining 10% are real, but we can’t do anything about them. That means only 5% are real fears that we can do something about. [Marriage Partnership (Summer 1995), p. 59.] I don’t know how accurate those figures are but my guess is that for some of us, they understate the problem. We have a tendency to blow our fears out of proportion to our real-life situation. Listen to Jesus: “Do not fear!” “Do not be afraid!” 

8) “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In March 1933, the newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” (Rev. Edward Chinn, D.Min., Religion in Daily Life, www.allsaintstorresdale.org). — Fear can paralyze–whether that fear is based in reality or whether it exists only in our own mind. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

9) “The Funniest Man In The World” was afraid of audience. Did you ever hear the name Joe Ancis? The reason you haven’t is due to fear. In the late forties, Buddy Hackett, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny Bruce, and other young hopeful comics in New York all hung out at Hansons, a luncheonette on Broadway. Joe Ancis, the original sick comic, cracked everybody up at the time. Some people claim that Lenny Bruce learned what he knew from Ancis. He was dubbed “The Funniest Man in the World” by the other comedians. But Ancis was terrified of audiences. He could rap with the pros at Hansons, but he performed publicly only once when he was still a teenager. That appearance confirmed his fears. He never got up in front of an audience again. He went into selling aluminum siding. Some say he’s “The Best Salesman in the World.” But he couldn’t handle the fear of getting up in front of groups, only the people he knew. [Bernard Weinraub in The New York Times; quoted in “Personal Glimpses,” Reader’s Digest (November 1995), p. 7.]. Can anyone relate to that? One survey indicates that some people fear speaking in front of a group more than they fear death. It seems absurd, of course, but it’s true. In today’s Gospel, Jesus urges his disciples not to be afraid of any opposition: “Do not fear!” “Do not be afraid!”

10) Overcome doubts about ourselves to overcome fear: First of all, we have doubts about ourselves. Some of us are ruled by our fears because we lack confidence in ourselves. That lack of confidence is a tremendous barrier to our achieving what God has called us to achieve. We have doubts about ourselves. In Robert Schuller’s book, Power Thoughts, he tells of a woman called Sweet Alice. At the age of twelve, Sweet Alice was in jail. She was pregnant at thirteen, homeless by the time she was fifteen and had attempted suicide. Sweet Alice was convinced that she had ruined all her chances in life, and that she would never make anything good out of her life. It would have been easy for Alice to give into her fears and settle for a life of quiet failure. But then one day, Sweet Alice ran into a Jewish woman named Anne Cohn. Anne Cohn told Sweet Alice that she had a million-dollar smile and that people needed to see that smile. Anne assured Alice that she had great potential. No one had ever spoken to Sweet Alice like this before, and she desperately needed to hear it. Sweet Alice began to take action in her life. In 1965, the Watts riots flamed up in Los Angeles. Sweet Alice formed a group called POW — Parents of Watts. These parents worked together to improve their community. Recently, they shut down the business of a vendor in the Watts neighborhood who was selling t-shirts with objectionable, inflammatory messages. Sweet Alice also gave away her own house to start a program for the homeless. Since then, she’s added nine more houses to the program. She’s convinced that God rewarded her giving by giving her more to do. In 1993, Sweet Alice received a “Hero Award” and Essence magazine’s “Essence Award” for her work with POW and with the homeless. She was recognized alongside Senators, artists, and Olympic athletes for her contributions to American society. And all because one person noticed her million-dollar smile. (New York: Harper Collins, 1993). You are a child of God. You have all kinds of potential. All you have to do is release it. Fear not. Believe in yourself. And believe in God. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

11) “Yes, Daddy really is a sissy, isn’t he?” One method of conquering fear is to give your fears a name. Before September 11th, when asked to name their fears, Americans responded this way: 51% of us are afraid of snakes, 40% of us are afraid of public speaking, 36% of us are afraid of heights, 34% of us are afraid of being closed in a small space, 21% of us are afraid of needles and shots, 18% of us are afraid of flying in an airplane. I expect that number is much higher now. Except for those suffering from some phobia, I suspect our real fears are much deeper than that survey. We would be wise today to bring our fears to the surface, so we can name them and face them with Faith. Some of our fears are Simple Fright. Fear is an alarm system. It is like our home security system. It sounds at the appropriate time for our good and is valuable. Fear was designed by God to give our bodies the sudden burst of strength and speed we need in an emergency. Fear is a natural, normal reaction to danger. A mother was tucking her small son to bed during a thunderstorm. She was about to turn off the lights and leave the room when the toddler looked up to her and said, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?” The comforting mother gave her little guy another hug and said, “I can’t dear. You know Mommy has to sleep with Daddy.” After a long silence, the child said in a shaky voice, “Yes, Daddy really is a sissy, isn’t he?” (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

12) “God doesn’t kill.” Adolfo Perez Esquivel writes some about his thirty-two days in a narrow, L-shaped cell in his native Argentina. For two days he was kept in total darkness. On the third day a guard opened the door and Esquivel could see what he had not seen before. The walls of the confining room were covered with all sorts of scribblings. There were some names, some insults, some prayers. What affected him most, however, was a huge bloodstain. Below the stain, sketched by someone’s finger dipped in blood, were the words: “God doesn’t kill.” Esquivel later writes about Hope and about grace. In that cell he felt the strong and abiding presence of Christ’s Spirit. He also felt surrounded by brothers and sisters in the Faith, surrounded by walls alive with acts of Faith and Hope. “Bars can’t lock up the Spirit, Infinite Presence, in every one of us.” — Surely this also is to find life: to live with an overwhelming sense of the presence of the living Christ; to live in communion with a new and enlarged family; to know that Christ has created an unbreakable bond with and among those who serve him; to know that one is part of a vast circle of prayer and concern and care. (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

13) Modern-day Martyrs: Others after Jeremiah have also reached great heights of heroic action born of deep convictions. In the twentieth century alone, there are many examples. During the Second World War Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest who refused to be intimidated by the Nazis, offered his life in exchange for a prisoner, a husband and father, one of the ten whom the commandant of the concentration camp had singled out for execution. A young girl in Italy refused to be intimidated by a man who threatened to kill her because she refused his sexual advances. And kill her he did on July 6th, 1902. Maria Goretti was declared a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Her mother and Alexander Serenelli, the man who killed her, reconciled, were present together at her canonization. (Charles Miller in Sunday Preaching).

14) Archbishop St. Oscar Romero: Canonized October 14, 2018 by Pope Francis, Archbishop StOscar Romero is an outstanding example of being a true witness of Christ. When he was made Archbishop of El Salvador in 1997 he was a conservative. But he soon changed when he saw what was happening. Every Sunday he preached at the Cathedral. His homilies so electrified the country that national affairs halted when he spoke from the altar. He made public the unspeakable crimes being committed by many agents of the government. He was under constant threat of death. Some of his best friends were murdered. And still he would not be silenced. Nor would he go into hiding or exile. “At the first sight of danger the shepherd cannot run and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. I will stay with my people,” he said. According to Romero, it didn’t take courage. All it took was the understanding that his enemies dwelt in fear, and that as he was not afraid of them, they would have no power over him. They might be able to kill his body, but they would not and could not kill his soul. There is also a story of a priest, who during the genocide in Rwanda (1994) sheltered Tutsis in his house. When a mob arrived at his door and ordered him to release them, he refused to do so. They shot him and took the people away. Even though we may not aspire such heights of heroism people like these are an inspiration to us. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies). 

15) With or Without People? A second grader once asked his teacher how much the earth weighed. The teacher looked up the answer in an Encyclopedia. “Six thousand million, million tons,” she answered. The little boy thought for a minute and then asked, “Is that with or without people?” Viewed from one perspective, it might very well seem that people don’t really matter very much. After all, we are but microscopic inhabitants of a tiny planet orbiting a relatively obscure star in a small galaxy among the billions and billions of stars and galaxies that make up creation. Yet the God of creation has counted the very hairs of our heads. Wow! What a magnificent picture of God! (King Duncan, “The Love of a Father,”
www.Sermons.com) (Fr. Tony) http://frtonyshomilies.com/

16) “Keep them worried and anxious:” C. S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, l “Screwtape” is a devil, a very accomplished devil. Using any trickery, he can, Screwtape turns people away from God. By his letters, Screwtape gives advice to Wormwood, his young nephew and apprentice who is just learning the deceptive ways of devils. In one letter, Screwtape writes to Wormwood, “Keep them anxious, make certain they are worried about something.” Remind people about their fears. Why this advice? Being a devil, Screwtape wants to get people so focused on their fears that they forget God. 



***
From Sermons.com:


Jesus' instructions to his disciples prior to their first mission continue in today's gospel reading. He has been telling them about all the dangers and hardships they may have to put up with and ends by saying (in effect), "What do you expect? A disciple is not greater than his teacher. If the world gives me a bad time, it will give you one too" (Matthew 10:24-25).

So what does Jesus do? Sell them life insurance? Give them bullet-proof vests? Teach them how to diffuse conflict? Hardly. Instead he says, "Don't ever be afraid of your enemies and critics. Even though it's not obvious now, the truth will come out finally. So, speak up; shout it out; stand and deliver" (10:26-27). Oh, my. We don't want to be heroes, especially not religious ones. It's all we can do to get to church on Sundays and we're supposed to be shouting the word of God from the housetops? No way. We're afraid.

But Jesus doesn't quit. "Stop being afraid" (that's the force of the verb); "stop being afraid" -- not just once but always. "Stop being afraid of people who can kill the body but not the soul." The point is that people can hurt us only temporarily because life comes from God. Even if they kill us, God the author of life will raise us. "Don't fear people; fear God" (the one who can kill both body and soul) (10:28).

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is saying that the voice of the people is not the voice of God. We worry way too much about what other people say or think of us and far too little about what God thinks of us. We know this is true. We've heard it before. But, it's easier said than done...

In our world where fashions and customs continue to change, where new cars come from the salesroom with built-in obsolescence, where furniture and gadgets quickly go out of style, where children's toys hardly last from one birthday or holiday to the next, and where more and more items become dispensable and disposable (with everything from paper wedding dresses to throwaway flashlights), less and less emphasis is placed upon quality, authenticity and durableness, and more and more significance is set upon discardableness, throwaway-ness, and cheapness.

We live in an age where great effort is made to make things as inexpensive, impermanent and short-lived as possible, with oftimes only a fake appearance of being attractive and usable - an appearance which all too often disappears and is gone.

Now the sad thing, the eternally sad thing about this discardableness is not primarily that our highways and roadsides are littered and unsightly, that our beaches and resort areas are checkered with styrofoam cups, plasticware and tin cans, nor that our closets and garages are cluttered and disorderly, or that our municipal dump heaps are burning with continual air and atmosphere pollution. These things are bad in themselves. However, the really sad thing is that people transfer this posture of temporalness, carelessness, and cheapness to their own souls, the one aspect about ourselves which God tells us is immortal and worth more than the whole world combined - more than billions in cash, bonds and real estate. "... the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18) "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Why is the soul so precious, so important, worth more than the whole world? There are several reasons....
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Humor: What God Can't Do

A Sunday school teacher was examining her pupils after a series of lessons on God's omnipotence. She asked: "Is there anything God can't do?"

There was silence. Finally, one lad held up his hand. The teacher, disappointed that the lesson's point had been missed, asked: "Well, just what is it that God can't do?" "Well," replied the boy: "He can't please everybody."

Gary W. Houston, Cowherding Christians, CSS Publishing Company
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Religion: A 500 Pound Word

When you talk about religion, it's a 500-pound word. Religion has become something heavy, but I don't believe religion is heavy. I believe that it's joy. Religion is not the sandbags, it's the gas balloons that raise us up.

It's not the sandbags that hold us down. To me, religion gets in the way of God many times with ritual. God wants relationship, not ritual. And he wants love, not laws. He wants righteousness. He wants it to be in our lives, a part of our lives, and not just something we go through. I think joy has a big part in religion. In the Bible it says, "Raise your voices in a joyful noise." You know, dance, dance before me.

Mike Thaler, "Bible Stories to Tickle Your Soul," The Door, January-February 2001, 5.
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With or Without People?

A second grader once asked his teacher how much the earth weighed. The teacher looked up the answer in an Encyclopedia. "Six thousand million, million tons," she answered. The little boy thought for a minute and then asked, "Is that with or without people?" Viewed from one perspective, it might very well seem that people don't really matter very much. After all, we are but microscopic inhabitants of a tiny planet orbiting a relatively obscure star in a small galaxy among the billions and billions of stars and galaxies that make up creation. Yet the God of creation has counted the very hairs of our heads. Wow! What a magnificent picture of God.

King Duncan, The Love of a Father,www.Sermons.com
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Effective Teaching

Robert Frost's first assignment for a class of teachers was to read "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." This was Mark Twain's famous story about a frog that lost a jumping contest because he had been pumped full of quail shot. When the class next assembled they were mystified because they did not understand what this story had to do with a course in education.


Frost patiently explained to them that this particular story was about teachers. He said that there were two kinds of teachers. There was the kind that filled you with so much quail shot that you could not move and the kind that gave you a little prod on the behind so that you could jump to the skies.

Gary W. Houston, Cowherding Christians, CSS Publishing Company
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Your Mission, Should You Accept It

I played in the high school band before the days of flag corps, rifle drill teams and dance routines. Everything depended on the band and its abilities and talents in playing and marching. Every week we had to learn an entire new set of songs, to go with our new marching formations to be performed at half time of the football games. We all received our instructions early in the week and then practiced them until we got them right. They were not always easy: count time, play the music, step out on the appropriate measure and move exactly eight steps every five yards. As long as everyone followed their set of instructions, the maneuvers on the field were correct and the trombones did not run into the clarinets. Of course, if you missed a beat, or turned the wrong way, you could, as I did on one occasion, end up at one end of the field while the rest of the band was at the other. It's not easy trying to convince everyone that you were right and the other 64 were wrong!

The disciples are called to march, to move out with a special mission in the world. Matthew heard those moving words as addressed not only to him but to all who would join the movement in the years to come. There is about them an echo of the old television program "Mission: Impossible!" I can hear the words coming through: "Your mission, Matthew, should you decide to accept it...."

Larry M. Goodpaster, Like a Breath of Fresh Air, CSS Publishing Company

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The Importance of Rooftops in Jesus' Day

Rooftops were places of great activity in Bible times. The high, open, flat surfaces were perfect for winnowing chaff from grain, drying fruit, storing grain, nuts, and fruit, and sun-bleaching laundry.


Rooftops were also household gathering places because so much work was done there, and they were sleeping places on the hot nights of summer.


But rooftops, because of their height, their openness, and frequent assemblies of people, rooftops were great places from which to shout the news.
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Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

St. Ignatius of Loyola
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The Work of the Righteous

In his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman recounts a story of an American soldier inVietnam. His platoon was hunkered down in the rice paddies locked into the heat of a firefight with the Vietcong.

The rice fields in Vietnam are often separated by an earthen beam, and on this day, a line of six Buddhist monks started walking along the elevated beam separating the field where the American soldiers lay hugging the ground and the field where the Vietcong were also crouched in battle.

The monks walked directly toward the line of fire, calmly and steadily. They did not look to the left or to the right, they just kept walking. The soldier reported, "It was really strange because nobody shot at 'em. And after they walked over the beam, suddenly all the fight was out of me. It just didn't feel like I wanted to do this anymore, at least not that day. It must have been that way for everybody, because everybody quit. We just stopped fighting."

Of course, I cannot say what any of us are called to do right now. I can only say that anyone who chooses to walk with God may well be completely out of step with the expectations of the office, the neighborhood or the family. Sometimes, it seems, God's people are called to walk right through the field of fire, faithfully, sacrificially, loyally, doing what we have been called to do.

Roger Ray, When God Won't Be Nice
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Do Not Call It Sacrifice

A couple, visiting in Korea, saw a father and his son working in a rice paddy. The old man guided the heavy plow as the boy pulled it.

"I guess they must be very poor," the man said to the missionary who was the couple's guide and interpreter.

"Yes," replied the missionary. "That's the family of Chi Nevi. When the church was built, they were eager to give something to it, but they had no money. So they sold their ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves."

After a long silence, the woman said, "That was a real sacrifice."

The missionary responded: 
“They do not call it a sacrifice. They are just thankful they had an ox to sell.”