Irish Dominican Church, Tralee, Co Kerry
Reflection for 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (20th June 2021)
Since the coronavirus pandemic started in March of 2020, many fears which we probably never even knew that we had, have surfaced up within us. The big three were the fear of death or the death of our loved ones, fear of isolation and loneliness, and fear of unknowingly passing on the virus to someone else. Like with the disciples in today's gospel, it was most likely the fear of death that you were the most worried about. We all saw on the news the numbers of people who were dying of the virus, even young men and women who you would think would've been able to fight it off. So it's no wonder that we were all so frightened.
But what's the answer to our fears? Well for most people today going to a counsellor or a psychotherapist is the answer to their fears. Working with the counsellor or psychotherapist, a person can begin to understand why they have a certain fear, and then afterwards look for solutions to overcome it. Very often the therapist might try and get the person to gradually expose themselves to their fears, so that they can become more resilient as time progresses. I saw a program there lately where the house of a mother and her children was subjected to a terrible storm. And the storm was so strong that it even blew the roof of their house. But at that time the mother froze in fear, and so wasn't able to help her two young daughters. Thankfully however they all survived. But the mother had to go through a lot of counselling in order to get her life back together, especially for her fear of being helpless if it occurred again. She even became what's called a first aid responder, where she learned to cope with unpredictable situations which could arise. This was in the hope that if a storm happened again, she would be able to overcome her fear, and respond to the situation in a reasonable manner.
As humans we're spiritual beings in that we have bodies, minds and a soul, so is there a spiritual solution to our fears? Well in the gospel reading today, (right after Jesus asks the disciples why they're so frightened), Jesus also gives them the answer to their fears. He says, 'Why are you so frightened? Have you no faith?' And so we see Jesus making a link here between fear and lack of faith. But how can having faith help us to overcome our fears. Well I think that it's within the knowledge that despite our worst fears, there is still a God who is looking after us, who is there for us, even in our darkest moments. It's so re-assuring to know and experience this; to know that despite our fears, our mistakes, our failures, and our past sins, God is with us. Even though we see much suffering in the world today, God is still in control. And so there's really no need to be afraid at all. Even if disaster strikes our lives, and our worst fears become a reality, God can still use it to make us into better people, to help us grow to spiritual maturity, and to give us the compassion and wisdom to be able help other people who are suffering.
The answer to our fears then is faith and trust in God. One of the most important devotions in the Catholic Church today, is the Divine Mercy devotion. In a series of visions to a polish nun named St Faustina, Jesus asked her to have a certain image painted of Him. After many years the image was finally produced, and most of us know what this Divine Mercy image looks like by now. But one particular aspect of the image, is that Jesus asked St Faustina, to get the artist to put the words 'Jesus I trust in You,' under the image. I have one of these Divine Mercy images in my room, and on some occasions when I feel really afraid, I just look at the image and say the words over and over again, 'Jesus I trust in You.' I find that it really helps in reducing my fears. With these words Jesus is telling the world that our greatest enemy is fear, and that it's only by turning to Him that can we truly overcome our fears. So maybe as an exercise over the upcoming week, we could try to write down all the fears that we have. And then as we read them out to ourselves one by one, we could ask Jesus to take care of them, as we say the words, 'Jesus I trust in You.'
Written by fr Matthew