In August of 1990, Christy and I moved here from CT and rented an apartment in Galena. During the spring of the next year we had our 1st experience with bats. We soon learned 2 things: bats can squeeze thru very small openings in your bedroom walls and I had an unknown fear of bats. There was quite a commotion in the apartment the night a bat got into our bedroom. Christy had the sense to scoop up the baby and go downstairs while I lost some dignity in dealing with my newfound phobia. Fortunately, the Galena policeman on duty that night had a tennis racquet and a sense of humor.
I was reminded of my 1st experience with bats when I saw that our readings this weekend talk about fear and terror. Although bats have caused me a lot of unnecessary anxiety, the fear of death and persecution that Jeremiah and the Disciples dealt with were very real. We are fortunate that none of us will likely need to face those kinds of challenges, but we can learn from their examples when facing fears in our own lives.
One of the most important lessons we can learn from these early disciples is that God helped them overcome their fears when they fully embraced their vocation. They likely had doubts and setbacks along the way, but their love and commitment to Jesus fostered a relationship of trust that overcame their fears.
· So, what does this mean in our everyday lives?
· How can these faith examples help us deal with fear and anxiety we may have today or next week?
One of the 1st things to consider is how these fears may be shaping our behavior. There are certainly examples that require professional counseling but most of us can spot trends in our behavior that are influenced by everyday fears and anxieties.
Fear of embarrassment and judgement from other people can drive many of our daily habits and behaviors. This is a common fear that keeps many people from taking leadership roles or speaking out for their beliefs.
Concerns about poverty and financial distress can influence our behavior in positive ways by developing our work ethic. Unfortunately, these fears can also become warped and cause us to be greedy and lack compassion.
Fear of losing control is one of my struggles. By not letting go and letting God be in charge, I often avoid situations that are unfamiliar and try too hard to stay inside my comfort zone. I’m sure this has caused me to miss several opportunities to grow in my vocation and in my faith.
When we understand how our fears are influencing our behavior, it will be easier to face them and eventually overcome them. Recognizing our fears and bringing them to prayer each day is the model we are given in our 1st reading and our Psalm today.
In the 1st reading, Jeremiah begins by describing a terrifying situation but then shifts his focus. He expresses confidence that God is with him and will help him through this crisis as He has before.
Our Psalm today follows a similar format. Psalm 69 is one of many Psalms of Lament or Supplication. They begin by describing in detail a situation causing fear and anxiety. They continue with a prayer for deliverance and finish by thanking God for His ongoing support.
So during this next week, let us consider doing 2 things:
· First, let us follow the examples from our readings and write our own Psalm of supplication. Pick a difficult fear we struggle with and describe it great detail for God. Ask Him for the courage to overcome this fear and thank Him for the support He has given us to overcome struggles in the past.
· The 2nd challenge focuses on the Gospel. At some point in the coming days, let’s follow Jesus’ instructions and acknowledge Him before others. It doesn’t have to be a sermon on the sidewalk, but I’m sure each of us has an example of how God has helped us overcome fears in our lives. By sharing our story, it may help someone else gain the confidence, they need to put their own fears in God’s hands.
When God tells us, “Do not be afraid”, He must be serious. It’s mentioned over 365 times in the Bible...one time for every day of the year. So the next time we are feeling afraid, let us take comfort in the last words that Jesus spoke before he ascended into heaven: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
I want to end by saying Happy Father’s Day to all Fathers and those who have taken on the role of a father in someone’s life. May God continue to bless you in your vocation as a Father.
-Deacon Steve Whiteman