Reflection on the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 20:10-13, Matthew 10:26-33
“Fear no one,” we just heard read at the beginning of today’s Gospel. Jesus said to the Twelve, “Fear no one.” To back up this command, to give the Twelve a reason to behave this way, to have no fear, he tells them about God and sparrows. It seems strange to us to be buying sparrows at the market — even catching sparrows to sell would be a task for us. Further, sparrows are cheap at the market, not worth very much. Yet, Jesus says, “Not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” Then Jesus gives his reason why we should fear no one: “Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
In these days of our growing consciousness about the oneness of all creation, about the importance of the protozoa in the ocean or the trees in the Amazon forest or the birds around Loretto, we may not want to stress that we are worth more than the sparrows. We are all one in this earth community in which we live.
Nonetheless, God cares, Jesus assures us. God cares a lot. God knows what happens to each sparrow, God knows how many hairs are on each of your heads, God knows you and what is going on with you every moment. Yet perhaps our growing consciousness about the oneness of all creation is a help to us. We may be more and more aware that God is not out there but within, that God is one with all that is, that God permeates our very being, and the being of every sparrow. We don’t know for sure; God is way beyond our understanding. Yet we get glimpses here and there. Faith urges us to trust the glimpses even as we may not understand.
Fear no one, Jesus says. I think of Black Americans on the streets of U.S. towns and cities. “Driving while Black“ is a condition that we White Americans do not have to worry about. Knowing someone is watching us in a department store is not something we think about since it doesn’t happen to us — we are White. It’s hard to believe that even Jesus did not have some twinge of fear as he realized that those with power in Jerusalem wanted him off the scene — “better that one man die…” For Black Americans there is reason to fear someone sometimes. White and Black Americans need to find ways to change that reality.
Sometimes there is a condition or a reality that looms up in our lives that we fear. At this point in time, COVID-19 is a virus that demands attention and that does cause fear, as it should. It is causing quarantine of more than half the Motherhouse Community. It is putting extra demands on staff and on those who live in the Infirmary. COVID-19 has a power all its own. There is reason to fear.
In the long run, though, our faith challenges us and encourages us to do what Jesus says: “Fear no one, fear nothing.” In the long run we must know ourselves to be cared about like the sparrows: God knows about us and knows what’s going on. God is in it all, in the midst and around the edges.
As we move into Eucharist, into this meal Jesus gave to us to nourish us and to strengthen us for this trek through life, we might ask to be freed from fear that can bind us. We might also pray for those who live in great danger that justice can come into their lives.