The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Times
"Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known." (Mt. 10:26-29)
Jesus has given us direct orders! Matthew 10:26-29 from this Sunday's Gospel clearly says," Fear No One; What I say to you in the darkness speak in the light, what you hear whispered, PROCLAIM on the housetops."
My childhood days were spent growing up in an underdeveloped section of the city. The streets were gravel roads, 10' – 15' deep ditches lined either side of these gravel roads, wooded areas surrounding homes, no streetlights, and then there was the proximity of the railroad tracks that carried their fair share of hobos. But none of these things brought me fear. I might add that I ran those gravel roads with bare feet, cutting a trail through the tall grass behind our house to get to the next street, waving at the hobos on the caboose of the trains; that was normal and common to me. These things connected me to the other neighborhood kids.
Fear came to me in the form of darkness and the unknown. If I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the restroom in our small 2-bedroom bathroom home shared with my parents and five other siblings, I would always wake up my twin sister and ask her to come with me. With compassion and bravery, she accompanied me those few steps to the bathroom and stood guard for me. Once, I was chased, or rather I was running from my older sister as she held what I thought was a dead frog in her hand. It turned out to be a piece of paper she picked up next to the frog. She knew I was afraid and did what most big sisters would do. She took advantage of my fear.
Growing up and maturing allows one to let go of those childhood fears, but what happens when we replace them with deeper fears? Fear of rejection, fear of not fitting in, fear of being ostracized, fear of not being accepted because of the color of your skin. Paul's letter to the Ephesians said, "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it FEARLESSLY, as I should"(Eph. 6:19-20). The Bible has comprehensive accounts of prophets, kings, disciples, and even lay people being rejected, ostracized, and crucified for their belief in and profession of love for Jesus and His teachings. They did not let fear stop them from being who God called them to be.
Recently I had the privilege of participating in online classes facilitated by Professor Michael Howard. The first class, "Sharing our Gift of Blackness with the Catholic Church," focused mainly on our own individual gifts and talents that we possess and should want to share with our Church family, despite obstacles of racism and indifference. The second class, Theological Reflections, took us on a deeper journey. We were challenged weekly to dig deeper to "see" more truth. We discovered the more we "see," the more we "see." We should see God in our everyday experiences. Theological Reflection taught us to recognize our authentic experience and then reflect it back to God. If something touches us, as a minister of His word, we now must share it. We get to express the God we've experienced to someone in need. We get to be his hands, feet, and voice. We shouldn't be afraid because we have the message of truth, the message that can stand in the light of day. "Fear No One."
Finally, we were introduced to the six Black Catholics on the Road To Sainthood. Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Venerable Henriette Delille, Venerable Father Augustus Tolton, Servant of God Mother Mary Lange, Servant of God Julia Greeley, and Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman. Sure, we had heard their names before, and we might have even read a few things about them, but our biggest challenge came when we had to select one of these holy and faith-filled Catholics and walk their journey with them. The magnitude of suffering, humiliation, and blatant racism they had to endure as they followed God's call on their life showed their deep love for God and their lack of FEAR. Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you." And Jeremiah 20:11 "But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion. My persecutors will stumble, they will not prevail."
The six Black Catholics on the Road to Sainthood took Jesus at His Word; What was said to them in the darkness, they spoke in the light, and what they heard whispered, they proclaimed on the housetops. It's time to let go of our childhood fears and self-imposed fears and Fear No One as we proclaim His truth.
Author: Darlene Howard, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Lake Charles, Louisiana.