XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary
17 November 2019
Fear is defined as ‘an unpleasant emotion that is caused by the belief that someone or something is a danger or a threat’ – likely to cause pain. The most common fears among many Americans include: public speaking, heights, bugs, insects, drowning, tight spaces, zombies, strangers, flying and darkness … It is my opinion that with most Catholics – especially American Catholics – we are afraid of the culture … Most Catholics are afraid to engage culture and the growing trends of our society – a trend meaning something that reflects what is going on at a particular time that are shaping our society … things that have a deep impact on human nature, relationships, and moral integrity. We are afraid because who would have thought a person of faith could be hated? And who wants to be hated by others? Or maybe we are not well versed in our faith, we do not want to offend or perhaps we don’t see the harm in some of these “trends” though it is destroying life and authentic relationships.
In the Gospel today Jesus gives three distinct imperatives – “do not be deceived; do not follow; do not be terrified.” The meaning here encompasses being led to sin, being taught false teachings, and being deceived by who God is and the events that characterize the end times. In the context of our current climate, this is a cultural that fiercely advocates for the individual’s freedom to redefine one’s own gender, marriage, life … “Do not be deceived; do not follow; do not be terrified” … Why? Because we must keep our eyes on heaven. On the God who is our life and our hope. In Him do we discover our truest selves – we learn in Him the meaning of life, human nature and relationships; how to speak and act; how to live and to love. These cultural “values” change over time, they come and they go … But our God never changes. He has withstood the test of time and history … His love endures forever …
There is a story regarding one of the last great Emperors of the Roman Empire – Charles V. When his chief servant was dying, a man who had cared for him since his youth, the Emperor was at his side. He leaned in at his bed and said to him – “You have been so faithful to me all these years, please if there is anything I can do for you now, name it and it will be done.” His servant spoke up: “Sire there is one thing I ask … please add one day to my life.” The Emperor replied: “You know I have do not have that power.” “Yes,” the servant replied, “I know. Even the greatest earthly king cannot give life. And now you see how foolish I have been. I served you well all these years, but I gave no thought to my Heavenly King, and now I must go to him with empty hands. Pray for me.”
Whom will we serve? Nothing earthly can give life … only our God who is the very source of life. Therefore, let us not be deceived, let us not follow, let us not be terrified … rather may we have the courage to stand for moral goodness – that which is right, true, good and beautiful – in defense of life, human nature and right relationships … let us pursue virtue and its rewards … let us not be afraid of bearing witness to these things in such a way that manifests a deep affection for others, a concern for their salvation… lets us not be afraid to use our gifts, talents, our interests in such a way that does not give-in to cultural trends but elevates it and points it to something far greater … in a way that serves God and leads others to Him – to the God who gives true life.