We CAN move forward in courage
Posted: Thu, 18 Jun 2020 09:47
A reflection on the Gospel for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, by Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB
This Sunday, the Church invites us back to ORDINARY TIME, as we still endure a lockdown preventing us from sharing together at our parish Churches - ordinary in the midst of the extraordinary. It is no coincidence then, that in the Gospel of today, Jesus tells us, "do not be afraid!" Many of us have lived in fear over these past few weeks as we are enduring a pandemic that has taken so many lives across the world - something that has been totally new to us. There has been a fear of contacting others; unless they are in a 'social bubble', even grandparents cannot hug their grandchildren as they must keep the 2 metre rule of separation. Parents rightly fear sending their children back to school. Shops have re-opened in the strangest of circumstances and, naturally, we are afraid of a new encounter that we took for granted three months ago. We fear travelling; we are scared of being in close contact with others - yet all our natural inclinations to reach out to others are being curbed through fear.
Worry, anxiety, fear, can overwhelm us with a thick shadow of darkness, controlling our every move and decision. So much crazy going on around us today: wars, conflicts, persecution, violence, crime, natural disasters, terrorism, economic uncertainty, unemployment, divisions, disease, death - even global pandemic! We fear for our children's future, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, we fear for our safety. The list goes on and it's long. There actually is a lot we could potentially worry about. Yet reality tells us that so much of what we spend our time worrying about never even happens. Living under the weight of the "what if's" is a hard place to dwell.
Fear is a natural reaction to situations that are beyond our control. In these past few weeks, we have seen the reemergence of another global illness: racism - a horror rooted in fear. As we work together to overcome Covid-19, the terror of racism once again has been brought into the spotlight with the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. All of us were faced with the fear that members of the black and ethnic minority communities feel at times. As the respiratory pandemic took lives from us in the most vicious way, we witnessed the death of man whose last words were, "I cannot breathe!"
Dr Martin Luther King is the icon of non-violent protest as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He stood for an equality for all; in his famous DREAM speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr King envisioned a time when his own children would be judged on their CHARACTER and not on the COLOUR of their skin. Even the night before his vicious assassination by a white supremacist, he preached a gospel of forgiveness, urging his followers not to fear on their journey to the Promised Land. Encouraged by his vision and wisdom, we can face the horrors of coronavirus and racism without fear. We move forward together, assured that the Lord walks with us to give us confidence in these days. Like the Apostles, we need not fear, as we know that we are cared for in the most special of ways.
The phrase "DO NOT BE AFRAID" appears 366 times in the Bible - assuring us of God's care in the most difficult of times. We now see the BEGINNING of a return to a new normal as our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples can be opened for private prayer, subject to all the new and needed regulation. During this enforced lockdown, people of faith have missed so much as they were unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way. "As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship," said a Number 10 spokeswoman. It is essential that the Government recognises how important it is, at this unprecedented time, for people to have the space to reflect and pray, to connect with their faith, and to be able to mourn for their loved ones.
We need to move forward with trust and not to fear the uncertain future that lies ahead. Fear can cripple us if we allow it to take over and ruin us. As we gather in this Eucharist, we pray with Don Bosco that this ordinary time becomes extraordinary because of the faith and courage we show. All of that stuff on your mind? Give it to the Lord – again. Replace those fearful thoughts with His words of truth. And sleep in peace tonight. He knows what concerns you, He's got you covered and we CAN move forward in courage. As the great American poet Maya Angelou reminds us: we need courage in those most difficult of times "because without courage, you cannot practice any other virtue consistently."
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB