Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Fear and Faith

Job experienced many storms in his life and some were devastating. In the midst of complaining to God, God answer him with questions. The questions point out the greatness of God’s creation and how all the wonders of the world are subject to God’s command.

When we hear the gospel story we see once again the power of God over nature. Jesus was in a boat with some of his disciples when a violent storm came up and waves were breaking over the boat that it was already filling up. Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat.

They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?

The question, “Why are you afraid?” is followed immediately with the question, “Have you still no faith?” It is clear that Jesus links faith with the ability to let go of fear. It appears that the two, fear and faith, are inextricably linked together.  

Fear is a natural human response that can be helpful or debilitating. As we age, fear connected to health issues is high on the list for many. Some fear relationships because they may get hurt if the person leaves them or dies. Some fear changes of any kind. A new neighbor moves in and fear of what they will be like or do takes over. 

But not all fear is debilitating. A healthy fear tells us danger is up ahead. Caution tells us that the black ice can cause injuries. Fear that I am ill can cause me to get medical help. Fear of uneven terrain can cause me to walk more carefully. 

But what about faith? In his book Catholicism, Richard McBriensays that “…faith is the gift of God by which we freely accept God’s self-communication in Christ.” We have certain deep seated beliefs that guide every aspect our lives and strengthen our relationship with God. Having these beliefs is not enough – they have to be put in action. To put it another way, faith simply becomes love in action.

Our former president, Jimmy Carter, has a wonder description of his faith. He says, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something . . . I’m free to choose what that something is, and the something I’ve chosen is my faith. Now, my faith goes beyond theology and religion and requires considerable work and effort. My faith demands — this is not optional — my faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”  He certainly knows what it means to say that faith is love in action.

Whatever our fears may be, our faith should carry us through. Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” We also know from that same passage that Jesus calmed the waters and said, “Peace. Be still.” If Jesus has power to still the raging waters, he certainly can still the anxiety and turmoil within us as well. Those words apply to us just as they did to the raging water. “Peace. Be still.” 

When have you experienced any forms of fear – apprehension, alarm, fright, being without courage, being timid, faint-hearted, or lacking in confidence?  Were they debilitating or helpful?  What did you learn from the experience?

What are your deepest held beliefs?  How are they lived out in your daily life? How do they relate to your relationship with God?

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