The first time I went zip-lining was several years ago. My very first time was a short line - but across a very deep canyon.
I am afraid of heights. So my fear kept me from enjoying the view I was being offered -- mostly because I had my eyes closed and I was hanging on for dear life.
After a few more attempts at this past time -- I learned how to relax - knowing I was perfectly safe in my harness. And it was only after I felt comfortable - that I truly enjoyed the experience.
I learned to enjoy zip-lining -- by doing it.
One of the things I feared the most about becoming a priest -- was speaking in public. I'm an introvert. I seek out quiet corners at gatherings.
I totally dislike being the center of attention.
It was only by doing this -- over and over again -- that I became comfortable doing it - and now enjoy it quite a bit - even though I still get intimated from time to time depending on who I am speaking to.
To become good at public speaking - to get over the fear that most people fear more than death itself -- you just have to do it. And it certainly helps to be convinced that you have something worthwhile to say and share with people.
Jesus said: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."
This certainly builds on the idea that we heard last week: that all of us are called to evangelize. That all of us, not just me --- but all of us -- are called to be the light of Christ -- and to draw others into the light of Christ. And we get used to doing it -- by actually doing it! And it should help that we do have something worthwhile to say: we are proclaiming the Kingdom of God – a way of being and of doing here on earth, so that we enjoy life in heaven for all eternity.
Oh I know - we don't like doing it. We are afraid people will think we are some kind of Jesus freak. And we are also probably fearful of rejection and of failure.
Which puts us right there in the pit with Jeremiah who experienced terror on every side when he tried to prophecy on behalf of the Lord. Or like St. Paul who was writing his letter to the Romans as he was on the way to that city to be put on trial -- for boldly preaching the kingdom of God to Gentiles!
So if we are a little afraid of responding to our call to be evangelist -- those spreading the good news of the kingdom -- we are in good company. Name the saint - and chances are they had a rough time too. BUT IT DID NOT KEEP THEM FROM DOING WHAT GOD WAS CALLING THEM TO DO!
And I think that's because they remembered at least two things -- that we would benefit from remembering also.
First - most often they let their actions speak louder than their words. As St. Anthony of Padua, no stranger to misunderstanding as he spent several years in a treehouse to get away from his detractors -- once stated:
" Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak."
Or as St. Mary Mackillop stated: "we must teach more by example than by word."
So if people don't want to listen, and if they out-right reject us -- we just keep doing what we are supposed to do - living the calling God has given us – being the light in our dark world and leading others to the light of Christ --- because we never know who is paying attention and WILL grow closer to God because of us.
The second thing we should remember -- is what Jeremiah tells us today: that no matter what: "the lord is with us, like a mighty champion and our persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph and in their failure they will be put to shame."
Which is just a re-enforcement of what we heard last week: when we are actually failing, or think we are a failure -- that's when God swoops under us -- and lifts us up as on Eagle's Wings -- and allows us to try to soar once again.
My sisters and brothers - the Scriptures and our faith are very clear on this: God loves us. And God wants to get that message across to as many people as possible.
And so God sends us --to carry that Good News to others.
And so we need to heed what Jesus tells us four times in the Gospel today: do not be afraid.
Just as God takes care of the sparrows -- God will take care of us -- because we are worth more than sparrows.
And then also listen to this advice of Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta: “If you want to bring God to all the world – first go home and love your family.”
Moments in time...