Sunday, June 21, 2020

12th Sunday OT (Cycle A): Do not be Afraid

      I think we can all agree that the year 2020 has turnout to be a year unlike any other. A few weeks back when I stood here preaching to the mothers of St Michael our number one worry was protecting ourselves and our loved ones from the Covid-19 virus… What a difference a few weeks make!
     Today, on top of all of our worries about COVID-19 now we have to add all of the tension caused by news and images of police brutality, protesters, looters, tear gas, graffiti, rock throwing, rubber bullets... It is clear to me that on this Father’s day 2020 our nation is battling another type of virus, not a microscopic entity that only affects our bodies but something more dangerous and more destructive, a virus of the soul. Now some people might be thinking “Well here it goes the minority is going to lecture us about racism”.  If you think like that you are wrong. I believe that this virus which is stealing our peace and consuming our nation is not racism, it is something much deeper and more dangerous.
    As a Puerto Rican, throughout my close to 40 years living in the United States I have had my fair share of encounters with racism. I still recall the very first time I attended mass in Laurel, the very first words out of the usher’s mouth when they saw me walk into the church were “Let me show you where the Spanish masses are in the area”;  back then I  discovered something that is very clear to me in the pictures we see on TV.  Behind all the screaming, and anger, all the destruction of property and the violence, behind all the calls for change  and the actions of corporations changing their logos, and news of politicians threatening to dissolve police departments; behind all this, there is a deep undercurrent of fear. People are scared. Some people are living scared of the police, others live scared of people of a different color, or even a different accent.  Some People are scared of the change one group demands but more importantly almost everyone is scared about their future, and the future of their loved ones.
      If you think about it, we find ourselves living in a paradox. On one hand this is the most advanced society ever, the wealth of our nation, our health care and our technology are really stuff that people from a 100 years ago wouldn't even dream off! Even with all these advances as a society, as a community of people, in our nation we have never been more scared in our lives. The problem with fear is that it makes us behave in ways we would never do under normal conditions. Fear brings the worst in us, it takes away our capacity to think clear and to see or hear what others are telling us.
      In this time in which we live, it is easy to see how our fears can make other human beings look like the sparrows from Jesus story, part of the background, insignificant, without any value to us; So in the middle of this pandemic of fear today we hear Jesus proclaim in gospel: Do not be afraid!  No one is insignificant, not one person falls to the ground without the Father's knowledge, every hair of our head has been counted.  Every human life is precious in the eyes of God.
What I like about these words of the Lord for us today is that He cuts through all the noise and tells us “You are afraid, don't be!”. He doesn’t assume we are scared, he knows we live in fear, and he knows that the very first step to overcome our fear is to recognize we are afraid. When we realize this, fear can not control us anymore. We begin to see the fear of those around us, and we can begin to help them overcome their own fears. So if you find yourself getting angry at what the protesters are saying or about the silence of people who do not understand or care about the issues of race in our country, be honest with yourself and ask …”What am I afraid of?”
“Do not be afraid” is not only a message for today, but it should become our way of life. Do not be afraid of those who look different, sound different, think different than us.  Do not be afraid of stepping out of your echo chamber and listen to what the other side is saying. The Lord calls us to live a life without fears, free to love in the same way he loves. This is the antidote, the medicine our country needs, only then will the words from our national anthem will find their true meaning, that we live in the  “Land of the Free, Home of the brave ''. GBMBAS