19th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.”  Isn’t that a beautiful sentiment Jesus shares with us?   Sometimes I just love these sweet, tender and intimate words – like a mother speaking to her children.  And sometimes, when fear increases and darkness approaches, I need these words.  I need them when in Dayton and El Paso there is the tragic confluence of hate and violence – at once mindless and frighteningly purposeful.   I need it when we are reminded of the sins of our Church and our failure to respond adequately, as well as the price we must now pay.  I need it, and we all need it, when the darkness in the world reminds us of our own hurt, of the times we were used and abused, of our loss.  I then NEED to hear from the Lord, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock.”

It seems to me that this fear grows as we drift away from Jesus personally and as a society.   It grows when his word is not at the center of our life.  Why does Jesus say we should not be afraid?  Because he desires to give us the kingdom.   Because we can put all our trust in him, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  We should be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding and never give up on him, especially as times grow more challenging.  We do not take advantage when he appears to be absent. We still live kingdom values confident that justice and peace will prevail.  In the midst of the darkness, we place our hope in Christ, the dawn of salvation.

This a moment which calls for great faith, defined famously in the second reading’s Letter to the Hebrews as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”  Like love, it cannot be pointed to, but its effects change the world.  If faith truly is “the realization of what is hoped for,” we are being told to live fiercely the kingdom of God in the way Jesus preached it.  If faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” then the only way to make it known is to live as Jesus lived, to make him come alive right now in our words and actions.

For faith promises an even greater gift – grace, the action of God in the world.  Faith always precedes miracles and we have all witnessed the miracle of grace and its power.  I see it when survivors of abuse by clergy, with every right to hold the church in utter disdain, dedicate their lives to healing it and making it more responsive to those whom we have hurt.  I saw pure grace on Saturday when a son eulogized his 50 year old mother with dignity and humor and love.  Grace in action can dispel the deepest darkness.

So let us show this faith.  Let us realize what is hoped for; let us be the evidence of things not seen.  Let us announce to the world, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for in the cross of Christ, good has triumphed over evil.  “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for we will never allow the beautiful face of Christ to be distorted into something so ugly as white supremacy.  “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for if gun violence would not be tolerated in your neighborhood, how can it be tolerated three miles away in a neighborhood that might look different from yours; but not so much for parents still love their children and kids should have the right to play.  “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for only when we cling to Jesus’ truth will our Church be the merciful and just vessel God has called it to be.  “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for we are the body of Christ, inseparable and bound by the Holy Spirit where the division of them and us dissolves into being brothers and sisters.

“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,” for fear and hate will only know its demise when met by faith and grace.  Let us be the dawn God has sent upon the world.  This dark night must end.