Hi everyone... greetings from Assisi. After receiving a blessing from the Holy Father, Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, we journeyed to Assisi for a few days. Here's my homily for the 13th Sunday in Ordinart Time June 28, 2015 - at a beautifully simple little Church in Assisi - San Stefano. The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/062815.cfm Thanks as always for reading... and following us on our pilgrimage. God Bless - Fr Jim
Most of you know, or may have heard that I hate flying. Actually its more than that, I have an irrational fear of flying. Up until about 6 or 7 years ago, that prevented me from a lot of great opportunities and experiences - including ever coming on a pilgrimage to Italy (and I know my friend Lino all too well, so let me save him the trouble - my fear of going to the Holy Land is totally rational - so that’s a totally different thing). After having a awful flying experience my senior year of college, I kind of swore off ever getting in a plane again - and up until I became a campus minister, and had a group of students highly excited about attending a conference in Dallas Texas (before I realized that we were going there by airplane) I had simply accepted that reality - that I would never fly.
Fear is an incredibly powerful emotion... powerful obstacle. Which is why I love this gospel simply for the one sentence:
Do Not Be Afraid... Just have faith.
Those 7 words Jesus utters in today’s Gospel seem to jump off the page. They are so simple, so basic, so beautiful yet so incredibly hard for us to obey - aren’t they? Yet when we are able to accept Jesus’ invitation to move beyond those fears; we see how life-changing it is for us to know and love Jesus and have that relationship with him which constantly is transforming our lives.
That’s what happens in today’s Gospel where Jesus offers these two memorable, life-changing encounters. First for Jarius - who’s daughter is deathly ill . . . and then this woman, who’s been suffering with these hemorrhages for 12 years.
Jarius as a synagogue official had to know that going to Jesus would not be looked on well by his fellow colleagues of the synagogue who were (at the very least) skeptical of this Jesus. What does he do? He moves beyond that fear of, “What will my friends and relatives think if I go to Him?” - He moves beyond the fear of being mocked when those friends and relatives tell him, “Your daughter is dead, what’s Jesus going to do for you?” - His faith moves him beyond all of those, and no doubt many other fears, to have this encounter with Christ.
The woman who’s been ill for 12 years - she’s been told by all the doctors and experts - look there’s nothing you can do - you’re unclean. It’s too bad. Keep away from everyone else, lest you make them unclean. And so physically, emotionally, spiritually she’s been isolated. Yet, Her faith moves her beyond the fears of, “What will the crowds do if they see me out in public?” “What will Jesus’ reaction to me be?” - and so she had this encounter with Christ.
On this second day of Pilgrimage as we have now come to the holy city of Assisi, we hear those simple, basic, beautiful but incredibly hard to obey words directed at us: “Do not be afraid - only have faith.” While we recognize the truth of this command, we don’t seem to think it’s possible for us. We’re able to itemize and list all the things that bring fear into our lives - whether they are real or imagined fears; We’re able to explain the complex situations and challenges that make them even more difficult to deal with almost as if to justify for ourselves why what Jesus’ words might be a nice idealistic thought but not practical, not possible for us...
Which is why coming here to Assisi, being in this place - those words carry extra weight to them. Because at the heart of Sts. Francis and Claire’s stories was the moment when they truly listened to those words, followed them, and never looked back. That single-mindedness not only changed their lives, it re-proclaimed the Gospel message in such a dramatic way that it reformed the Church - and continues to capture the attention of both believers and unbelievers in a way that has few comparisons. The countless numbers of religious orders that try to emulate Francis and Claires Gospel living all these centuries later - where you have thousands upon thousands of men and women centuries later who are enriched, encouraged to see that yes it is possible to take Jesus’ words seriously. And the amazing effect that it can have not just in our own lives but on the world when we do.
As we examine our hearts, our lives and consider how Jesus is speaking to us today and asking – . What is it that’s holding us back from having that deeper relationship with Him? What is it that’s holding us back from the “imperishable life” that God created us to have [that we heard about in that first reading] - God created us in his image - that’s not an image that gives into fear.
If we truly took to heart those words“‘Do not be afraid - only have faith’ - we’d find like Jarius, like the woman with the hemmorages, like Sts. Francis and Claire it would revolutionize our lives and our world once again. So we are challenged:
Do not be afraid of what other people will think of you: follow the way of Christ.
Do not be afraid of failure: following God’s will is the only path to everlasting success.
Do not be afraid of changing your personal plans in order to follow God more closely, His plans are even better.
Fear, confusion, lack of trust in Christ – these are the kinds of things that tie our souls into knots, causing untold needless suffering and keeping us from experiencing the life-giving power of God’s grace.
Let us ask these two beloved Saints who’s presence is still very much alive in this city to walk with us as we reflect on what fear is inhibiting each of us right now - And imagine what will we be able to accomplish, if that fear was replaced by a deeper ability to trust him?