Fear No One
Homily for June 25, 2017 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - A
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi
In today’s Gospel, Jesus talks to his disciples about fear. What are YOU afraid of?
I’m afraid of heights – and cruise ships. When it comes to heights, I’ll do things to face the fear and overcome it – I’ll go up in tall buildings and lean over rails to look down, as long as I have something I can hold onto. I know that some of the most spectacular views of God’s creation can only be seen from great heights.
But I don’t think you’ll ever get me on a cruise ship. I remember being in Hawaii and walking along the shore with Rene’ and saw two of those monster ships docked side-by-side. Just looking at them almost gave me a full-blown anxiety attack. I can get sea-sick just watching a travelogue of a cruise – seriously. And I know that it is all in my head.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a phobia is an “irrational and excessive fear” of an object or situation. In most cases, phobias involves a sense of endangerment or a fear of harm. And depending on where you look on the Internet, 8 of the top 10 most common phobias include the fear of: Spiders, Snakes, Heights, Dogs, Thunderstorms, Flying, Germs, and Open Spaces which, ironically to me, includes Crowds. The remaining phobias would include either the fear of Small Spaces and of Holes, or the fear of needles or injections (which some would say is the same as “holes”), and social phobia, which includes the fear of public speaking. (That’s not one of my phobias, by the way.)
My fear of cruise ships, however, didn’t make the top ten of either of the lists I checked. I wonder why?
In any case, the thing about phobias is not that someone is afraid of something, but that the fear becomes “excessive or irrational”. So, is fear healthy for us? What makes it irrational?
Everyone is afraid of something – if you say you’re not afraid of anything, then you are either deluding yourself, or you are not living life rationally. Fear is, or can be, a healthy emotion. We need to have fear in order to survive. It is in how we face our fears that is important. If we allow them to paralyze us, to keep us from doing what is right, then they become irrational.
And there are two components to fear: being “scared” and being “afraid”. I know it may seem like I may be splitting hairs, but in my mind there’s a difference between being “afraid”, and being “scared”.
Being scared is the direct, involuntary emotional response to an unexpected event or situation that is imminent or has just occurred. It triggers a rush of adrenalin resulting in physiological responses like a quickened heartbeat and rapid breathing, and which wears off once the situation has passed and the adrenalin has worn off. We cannot directly control being scared.
Being afraid, on the other hand, usually concerns the anticipation of a known event or situation that is yet to come. We know – or think we know – that something is coming, and we don’t want to deal with it when it does. But we don’t know for sure. Where there is an immediacy associated with being scared, being afraid often begins long before anything has happened.
And the biggest component of fear is being afraid. But unlike being scared, we can manage and control how we handle being afraid. How?
H.P. Lovecraft once said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The secret to controlling fear then is to control the unknown. Or, at least to know and understand what it is about it that causes us to fear.
Which brings us to today’s Gospel. It’s not about “what” we fear, but “who” we fear. And that reaches beyond our earthly fears and phobias.
Jesus said, “Fear No One.” … “(D)o 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.” Today’s Gospel is about fulfilling the mission of the Church – our Mission – to proclaim the Good News to all, despite whatever dangers may make us afraid. In a sense, we could say that today’s Gospel is about overcoming our “social phobia”, our fear of speaking out in public about our faith.
Are you afraid of proclaiming the Good News? Jesus said to “speak in the light; proclaim on the housetops.” If you’re looking for a way to start, there’s a national group on Facebook called the “St. Paul Street Evangelization” – no relation our parish or our wonderful St. Paul Evangelists ministry – that goes out in various cities, including Dallas, and who proclaim the Gospel message in a non-confrontational way every week. If they can do it, why not you?
If not on the streets, do you at least proclaim your faith to those closest to you? No? Who are you afraid of? A co-worker? A neighbor? A member of your family?
Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. If we are truly Christians; if we truly trust in God and the promises that His Son, Jesus, made to us, then why should we be afraid?
FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Do not be afraid. Trust in God, and share His Good News.