12th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: June 25, 2023
Are you afraid? What causes your fear today?
We just heard Jesus say, “Fear no one… Do not fear… so do not be afraid…” Jesus is really emphasizing that we should not give in to fear. Fear of those who ridicule our faith, fear of the opinions of others, fear of failure, fear of those who are different. Fear is a great obstacle to living this life in a full way. Fear is an obstacle to living our Faith in a full way.
Why is Jesus saying we should not fear? Because we have great value in the eyes of God. Jesus uses an image of a sparrow. At that time two sparrows were worth only a penny, yet Jesus says not one of them falls to the ground apart from God. We are of more value than many sparrows. We are worth so much in the eyes of God. We are never forgotten, never invisible to the eyes of God. You are never distant from God, even if you feel very far from God.
One of the motivations of Jesus was that he always saw great value in each person, he treated every person as though they had great worth. Tax collectors, prostitutes, those considered to be public sinners, Samaritans, the poor, women, children, and so on. People who were often considered second class citizens, treated as though they did not really matter. For Jesus they all mattered. In fact, the only people that Jesus became upset with were those who treated others as though they did not have value. Jesus saw each person as having great value.
As Catholics we should be deeply aware of our own worth in the eyes of God. Also, we should treat all other people as though they have great value. In fact, we should only be upset with others when we see them treat any person or group of persons as though they do not have value.
I was watching a news item this week about the number of refugees in our world today. There are around 89 million refugees, 27 million of these refugees are under 18 years of age. Just in 2023 over 400 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea. Each of these refugees is a human being. Someone who in the eyes of Jesus has great value and worth.
Yet, how are they treated? Forced out of their home and nation due to war and violence and poverty. Forced to go to some other nation where they are often not accepted, treated as having no value and not welcome. Fear is often what causes us to see refugees as having no value and causes us to reject them.
Then I thought about our Canadian prison system. It seems to be so broken, 40% of those released return to prison in under two years. I saw an article that described our prison system as Houses of Hate. When we treat prisoners as though they have no value, should we expect any positive outcome? Again, it is fear that causes us to treat those in prison as though they are not welcome, as though they have no real value.
Jesus saw the value in each person before him. Jesus was only upset with those who treated any person or groups of people as though they had no value. Jesus encouraged us not to fear, because fear is often what causes us to fail to see the value of our fellow human beings. We Christians today need to reflect on how we see our fellow human beings.
Are there certain people or certain groups of people that we fail to see as having value and worth? Do we go along with attitudes and politics that treat certain people as having no value? When we see that in ourselves we need to examine the fear that drives us.