Sunday, August 10, 2014

There's fear and then there's Fear (2014-08-10)

SUNDAY August 10, 2014   / 19th Sunday, Year A
Readings:  1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a | Psalm 85 | Romans 9:1-5 | Matthew 14:22-23

[__01__]    Saint Peter; Peter the apostle was frightened, fearful, afraid of the strong wind.

The boat was a few miles offshore on the Sea of Galilee. And, there was a “perfect storm” and strong wind.

Peter was overtaken by this fear,  after having stepped out of the boat. Who steps out of a boat in the middle of a lake?

This was an entirely new surface, an entirely new way of traveling and walking upon the water of the lake.

[__02__]      Naturally, we would experience fear or some variation of it, if were to do something new.

è ANXIETY – waiting for the doctor to call us back about a medical test.

è MISGIVING – on the first day of a
new school, new job…

è WORRY – about a difficult assignment in school or at work.

These are natural reactions in our feelings and emotions to real obstacles and problems.

Would this ANXIETY – MISGIVING – WORRY – hold us back?

In any of the above, we might hear the voice of a friend or family member telling us … not be overcome; “We Shall Overcome” as the song says.

Or… as the other song says … BE NOT AFRAID.  We are told in so many words, take action, take responsibility.

Don’t stay on the sidelines.

Peter is afraid.

[__03__]     However… however… in the Bible, we read that there is a place in our soul… even a virtue called FEAR OF THE LORD…

In the Book of Proverbs…

è Proverbs 14:26 - In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
è Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction.
è In the Gospel of Luke in the traditional song/canticle of Zechariah …. “Luke 1:50 - And [God’s] mercy [is] on them that fear him from generation to generation.

[__04__]         This is a different manifestation of fear … a fear that is NOT simply the feeling of fright that overcame the not-very-water proof Peter.

Peter is not water resistant…nor fear-resistant.

But, there is some Good News about fear …

Because… a healthy sense of ourselves and our identity and God’s identity calls us to certain actions.

Father Adolphe Tanqueray, writes about this is in his classic book The Spiritual Life (nn. 1335-1338) –

That is, fear of the Lord invites us to consider that …

  1. Our suffering, sorrow this life is not a punishment taking us away from God, but a path leading us toward him.  In other words, Fear of the Lord is not the same as fear of an earthquake or fear of an injury … fear of the Lord does not keep us indoors where we build a defense against the next bad thing to happen. Fear of the Lord simply invites us to respect God’s presence.

  1. Also..fear of the Lord invites us to have sorrow for our sins, to confess our sins, and to avoid sinfulness.

Consider that we experience ”FEAR” in our own interpersonal relationships.

This is not just fear of the teacher in whose mind is our grade …or fear of our parents about punishment.

In other words, this is a fear based on reverence, respect, awe for another person.

This is the same attitude we are called to have toward God…I just use this as an analogy, this next part…

Consider ….  if we were trying to get a new job… or a promotion .,…or to make the soccer or basketball team …or to do anything that required the decision of a conductor, a director, a coach… would we not try to do everything in our power to respect this person…

In other words, in the other person some aspect of our future is being decided.

We would be called to a healthy respect, reverence for their leadership role.

There is a connection between fear and reverence.

Could we not also say the same is true in the respect between husband and wife …parent and child… There is respect, reverence.

And, in this respect, reverence, are we not doing this to protect the relationship, to protect ourselves, to protect the other person.

Because, in fact, if we love someone, then, we could also FEAR losing their love, their respect…

We could fear losing it if the other person were to see me as selfish…as unable to give …or disrespectful.

And, this is a similar attitude in our relationship to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

To love him, to serve him, we are also called to consider if I have ever offended him, sinned against him…or if I could be showing greater respect toward God.

Jesus reminds us, also that our love for God and love for neighbor are related… we cannot have one without the other.

What is the greatest commandment – to love God with all of our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (cf. Mark 12:30-31)

We are called to examine ourselves before God…so that when we step out of the boat…into a new relationship, new circumstance… that we are also doing so with respect for our Savior who is also trying to hold us up, to keep us in balance.  [__fin__]     

The Purchase (2014-07-27)

SUNDAY July 27, 2014   / 17th Sunday, Year A
Readings:  1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 | Psalm 119 | Romans 8:28-30 | Matthew 13:44-52

[__01__]     One of the most important – if not the most important – financial transactions of our lives is the purchase of a home.

Often, this would mean not only the ownership of a building/structure with living room, kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms but also the title, the deed, the right to the land.

Buying a house – whether sitting on a fraction of an acre or multiple acres – would give the owner the right to the land.

[__02__]     Of course, the purchase of a home brings both excitement and concern for the owner, the buyer about the foundation, plumbing, electrical.

We would want the advice and guidance of a good attorney/legal counsel and banker/financial adviser so that we would sign our name to a contract for a home we can reasonably afford.

Such a transaction would not only be for the house but also for the land.

So, in our own way, we may have – or we may one day – do what Jesus says in the Gospel, “sell all you have and buy that field [or home / or house / or cottage].”  (Matthew 13:44)

For the right home, we would sell all we have – and then we would do all that we can – to protect our investment, make our home safe for visitors, for children.

[__03__]     In the Gospel, a man also sells all that he has.

We might notice that in this parable/metaphor of our Lord that Jesus speaks of a man finding treasure in a field.

But, with such a treasure we might immediately think of buying low and selling high… buy now, sell later at a big profit.

But, this is not the message…this man buys the field and holds on to the field.

[__04__]       That is, our Savior is reminding us that there are certain aspects of God’s kingdom, of God’s commands, of God’s ways for which we may have to sacrifice, to give up something.

We may not turn a profit … simply by being honest, by being fair.  We may not even turn an immediate profit by doing our jobs … honorably or honestly… or by studying hard in school.

Nevertheless, these are some the ways that we called to discover God’s kingdom, God’s buried treasure.

C.S. Lewis writes that decent behaviour does not mean the behaviour that pays and gives these examples of the “investment” are called to make by following God’s ways and selling all we have…

It means … “being content with three … when you might have got thirty… doing school work honestly when it would have been easy to cheat … staying in dangerous places when you would rather go somewhere safer, keeping promises you would rather not keep, and telling the truth even when it makes you look like a fool.”[1] (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952), “Ch. 3 The Reality of the Law”, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001, p. 19)

In the short term, there may be little profit on our “investment.” 

[__05__]     So, in our lives as well, when we give ourselves to each other in marriage, in family life, in friendship, we are also buying a treasure, we are making a transaction.

Yet, this is not a transaction which will be closed by an attorney or banker nor will it give us the absolute right to gain whatever we want.

Rather, we are buying the field and surrendering to God’s ways and will – freely – so that we can care for the gifts which he has placed in our lives, on our property, in our possession.[__fin__]     

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952), “Ch. 3 The Reality of the Law”, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001, p. 19.