June 28, 2022 – Tuesday 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Irenaeus
(A Homily during the Baccalaureate Mass for the Junior High School of Iloilo National High School)
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062822.cfm)
What would usually stop us from dreaming and hoping? What would usually prevent us from learning new things, from adapting change, from being creative and innovative? What would usually hinder us from fully committing ourselves and fully giving ourselves for others? What stops us from being truly free?
There could be more similar questions like these in your mind. Questions and concerns that limit us, hinder us and make us prisoners of our own fears. Yes, what we might find deep within us is this fear that shackles our spirit, our heart, and our very person to be truly free and life-giving.
Thus, Fear of being not accepted, of being rejected, and thus, of being hurt prevents us from being free, from sharing and opening up ourselves to and for others.
This is how we find that a traumatic or a painful experience of abuse in whatever form that is, or of betrayal, of failures, shame and guilt, or of separation and death – can paralyze our relationships, damage our self-esteem and hinder our maturity in all aspects of life that basically include the emotional-mental, spiritual and social aspects of life.
However, God desires that we become fully human according to God’s image, and that is by being truly free and having developed our full potentials as persons in all aspect of our life.
St. Irenaeus whose memorial we celebrate today, was bishop and a martyr in the Second Century. According to him, creation including us, every man and woman is not sinful by nature but only distorted by our sins. Moreover, he also said, that “the glory of God is to see every man and woman fully alive.” This means that indeed it is God’s desire that we will live life to the fullest expressed by being free, by being mature and by being able to develop our full potentials and building healthy relationships.
Yet, we are also aware that there could be hindrances in this vision of living life fully. Hence, it is good that we acknowledge them so that we will also be able to know on how we shall address them, healthily and maturely. And it is good that we do this, as all of you guys are about to end your academic year and move up to the next level of your academic studies. So, allow me now to bring you deeper into our readings today and let us discover together how God calls us today to become free from fear.
The Gospel of Matthew that has been proclaimed to us today tells us about the terrified situation of the disciples. “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Jesus asked his disciples when they woke him up because they were terrified by the storm that was sweeping their boat. They were terrified because they thought they would all perish at that moment. The violent storm was too overwhelming for them that they did not know what to do anymore. The boat was being swamped by waves. And they were filled with fear.
Consequently, fear can also breed two unhealthy attitudes of the heart. First is STAGNATION. The second is COMPLACENCY.
There will be times that we become stagnant in life that we do not know what to do. The failures that we experience, the pain and the hurts that we are enduring could make us become stagnant especially, when these things are all being experienced at home, with our friends and with our community. Stagnation is not being able to move and go ahead. This tells us that when we become stagnant in life, we too become lifeless because we stopped from being creative and imaginative.
Second, we may become complacent, not wanting to move and go beyond, and not wanting to grow and mature perhaps because we have become comfortable to the point that we do not want to be challenged. Complacency is an attitude that settles to what is only minimal, staying always to what is only safe and easy for us. Though, it seems that complacency is not that bad, however, when complacency also affects our perspective in life and ways of thinking, then, it also affects the way we relate with others and the way we share our life with others. In fact, when we become complacent, we will refuse to do more, to be more and share more of ourselves to others. Being complacent will make us then, cold, unmoved and indifferent to the needs around us because we become self-centered.
These two unhealthy attitudes of the heart caused by our fear could also make us controlling and demanding in our relationships to the point that we direct others on how they should treat us, or accommodate us and love us according to how we want it to be. We do not think of others then, because we do not want any compromise. We only think of ourselves, locked in those painful past but terrified of the present.
Furthermore, the fear in us is also God’s entry point to bring renewal into our terrified hearts, to bring true comfort and freedom in us. Thus, going back to the Gospel story, Matthew also tells us that while the storm was sweeping the boat and the disciples were terrified by it, Jesus was fast asleep. Jesus was there in the boat with his disciples but sleeping. It seemed that Jesus was not so concerned with the violent storm. He was actually confident that they would arrive at their destination safe and sound. Therefore, the Lord calls us today to take these two important lessons that are also your take aways today.
First, do not forget that the Lord is with you. The forgetfulness of the disciples that Jesus was with them brought them tremendous fear and anxiety. They forgot that Jesus was in the boat and that their Lord was with them on that journey. Consequently, they have actually taken for granted the very presence of Jesus in their life. This is an invitation for the disciples to always recognize the presence of Jesus.
To each of us today, this is an invitation to recognize Jesus in our journey. The Lord is not distant. He is to be found and He is journeying with us, with you guys, to each of you! Thus, unawareness of God’s presence in us will only bring us fear, anxiety and uncertainty. When we become fearful, anxious and uncertain, then, we will be paralyzed mentally and spiritually. It will be very difficult for us to move on and to find opportunities for growth because we will tend to focus on the storm, on our fears rather on Jesus who is with us.
Second, the Lord confronts us with his presence. Because of the terrifying situation of the disciples, it became an opportunity for Jesus to reveal Himself as Lord and Savior. At this revelation Jesus assured his disciples that his presence brings comfort and peace, calmness and confidence. At the same time, the Lord’s presence also is confronting. Jesus confronts the fears and the little faith of his disciples. This is the reason why it was not only the wind and the sea that calmed down but also the terrified and anxious hearts of the disciples.
This reveals to us now that the presence of Jesus brings assurance and confidence in us. The disciples calmed down and found peace because at last, they have recognized the presence of Jesus who was there in that boat.
This invites us again to recognize the comforting and peaceful presence of Jesus in our life. Let us also allow Jesus to confront us especially our doubts and fears, and even our selfish, unkind and ungenerous actions and words. Do not walk-out and hide when we are confronted of our sins and failures, those are opportunities for growth. By being able to recognize Jesus and confront ourselves then we shall certainly find peace and calmness, confidence and assurance in Jesus. Kabay pa.