Do Not Be Afraid

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:10-13

Jeremiah said: "I hear the whisperings of many: 'Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!' All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. 'Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.' But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O LORD of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!"

Romans 5:12-15

Brothers and sisters: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned— for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come. But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

Matthew 10:26-33

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."

Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, merely nineteen years of age, is the winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize and just recently, the recipient of an honorary Canadian Citizenship; a noticeably rare and one of the highest honours given to a foreign national. Similar honours have only been awarded to five other individuals, namely the 14th Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Karim Aga Khan IV, and Raoul Wallenberg. Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, Commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, leads the fight against recruitment of child soldiers despite his own struggles with PTSD after helplessly witnessing one of the most horrible atrocities against humanity in modern history. What do a 19-year-old Pakistani girl and a 70-year-old retired Canadian soldier have in common?

Just as Jeremiah exclaims, “Terror is all around!” in this week’s first reading, both individuals were forced into the fight of their lives (Jer 20:10). Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken activist for education for girls, was barely fifteen when shot by the Taliban. In her address to the Canadian Parliament on April 12, 2017, she admitted that she had “seen fear and experienced times when [she] didn’t know if [she] was safe or not” (CBC News). As a young girl, she lived in constant fear just because she wanted what every child in Canada has taken for granted, an education. As she recovered from the gunshot wound that almost took her life, her conviction grew. Speaking to the Canadian Parliamentarians, she insists that “education is vital for security around the world because extremism grows alongside inequality — in places where people feel they have no opportunity, no voice, no hope” (Ibid). Indeed, she has found strength under the most extraordinary circumstances and remains one of the strongest advocates for girls’ education.

Similarly, Romeo Dallaire’s faith in God and humanity never falters despite the horror he witnessed during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. His requests to the United Nations for increased military support were continuously denied as the killing escalated. He was deeply troubled and frustrated when help never came. One could only imagine the betrayal he felt during his darkest moments when his friends – the UN – abandoned him. The words of Jeremiah come alive in Dallaire’s struggles, “‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my close friends are watching for me to stumble” (Jer 20:10). Though overwhelmed by hopelessness and isolation at times, he insisted on doing the right thing when confronted with unspeakable violence, “I was on the ground, I was in command, I had been given the mission, and I took the decision” (Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil). During the early days of the Genocide, he stood his ground and managed to save thousands with very limited resources. Just as Jeremiah takes refuge in God, Dallaire remains steadfast to God and believes that God will deliver “the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers” (Jer 20:13). He writes, “I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God” (Ibid). Indeed, where there is darkness, there is light. In spite of his struggles with PTSD, he becomes an important voice to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers and the prevention of mass atrocities. Dallaire’s actions during and after the Genocide, propelled by his faith and hope, bear powerful witness to God’s love and saving grace.

Both Malala Yousafzai and Romeo Dallaire did not choose to suffer in the hands of “evildoers”; however, each has rejected fear and despair, and courageously answered the call “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). In extraordinarily challenging situations, neither of them resort to violence or fall into the bottomless pit of despair. As Christians, the foundation of our strength lies in our conviction that Christ’s “free gift in the grace of one man” surpasses all trials and tribulations (Rm 5:15). This is a profound call for all, especially Christians who proclaim Christ’s victory over death, once and for all. As we strive to make the right choices and shine God’s light over darkness of fear and hopelessness through our actions, God’s gentle voice, saying, “do not be afraid”, reminds us that we are certainly “of more value than many sparrows” (Mt 10:31). Therefore, let us not “fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:26). Let us take courage to be visible signs of God’s hope and love amidst darkness.

Posted: June 25, 2017

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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