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Fr. Tim’s Homily for June 25, 2017

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-A

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 Jeremiah 20: 1-13

 Romans 5: 12-15 

Matthew 10: 26-33

 

There are two Latin words that we commonly use: “terra firma,” meaning “earth that is firm.”

There was a man from Massachusetts who had a great fear of flying.  He said he had a great respect for terra firma.  As he put it, with his Boston accent:  “the less firma, the more terra.”

Ronald Reagan was afraid of flying, and yet, as President, he needed to do it.  He was asked by a reporter one day on Air Force One:  “Mr. President, have you overcome your fear of flying?”  And the President replied, “Not at all.  I am holding up this plane by sheer will power.”

We all have our fears.  One survey indicated that some people were more afraid of speaking before a crowd than they were of death itself.  I don’t know how you would feel about trading places with me right now.  But we all have our fears.

Fears that are unmanaged can really limit us.  Fear of failure….fear of rejection…fear of looking foolish…fear of intimacy…fear of change…fear of being criticized.  These and other fears that are unmanaged can hold us back.

So Jesus’ words to us today in the Gospel I find very encouraging.  Three times He tells us, “Do not be afraid.”  He uses the example of the sparrows. “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge…  So do not be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.”

One writer put it this way in terms of percentages:  “60% of our fears are totally unfounded.  20% are already behind us.  10% are so petty they really don’t make any difference.  Of the remaining 10%, 5% are real, but we can’t do anything about them.  That means only 5% are real fears that we can do something about.”

And yet how much time do we invest in that 95% rather than in the 5%?  And so Jesus tells us:  “Do not be afraid.”

Sometimes people are fearful because they do not have a healthy self-confidence.

We need to believe that you and I are beloved children of God, and that God gives us His grace to do what He has asked us to do.

God gives His grace in the present moment.  The future is not here yet, and so God’s grace for the future that we worry about is not here yet either.  When that future moment becomes the present moment, God’s grace will be there with us to face whatever challenges or opportunities are at hand.

Sometimes people object that they are so unworthy of God’s love.

The truth of the matter is that we all are unworthy of God’s love, but that is how magnificent God’s love is!  God loves every single one of us without exception.  God does.

Sometimes people are fearful because of their guilt.  I am not going to stand here today and tell you that there is no place for guilt in our lives.  There are some things we NEED to feel guilty about.  But we don’t have to stay there and wallow in them.  We have a God who is merciful.

If guilt is holding you back, for heaven’s sake, go to Confession!  The Lord has given us this powerful Sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive our sins so that we can start fresh.  “So do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us.  “You are worth more than many sparrows.”

There is a story that comes to us from Elmira, New York in 1905.  It is about Mr. and Mrs. Martin – her first name was Civilla. What an interesting name – Civilla – the kind of first name where you never have to use the last name!

Civilla Martin and her husband were visiting Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle.  Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for twenty years, and Mr. Doolittle was confined to a wheelchair. They were described as being very warm, welcoming, Christian people.

During one of their visits the Martins asked the Doolittles, “How do you do this?  How do you stay so ‘up’ about things?”

Mrs. Doolittle responded this way:  “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Mrs. Martin was a poet, and she took that line and went home and crafted a poem around it.  When she finished the poem she sent it on to Charles Gabriel, who was a musician.  He set that poem to music.  Later on, actress and singer Ethel Waters made it famous.  In fact, she used its name for the title of her autobiography.

I thought that you might like to take a look at the words of that song, and perhaps take them into your own heart.  It goes:

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely

And long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion?

My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,

I sing because I’m free.

His eye is on the sparrow.

And I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,”

His tender word I hear.

And resting on His goodness,

I lose my doubts and fears.

Though by the path He leadeth,

But one step I may see.

His eye is on the sparrow

And I know He watches me.

“Do not be afraid,” Jesus says.  Believe in yourself, for you are a beloved child of God.  Believe in God.  Trust in God, “for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”