Saturday, July 11, 2009

You Are Worth More Than Sparrows. Do Not Be Afraid!

Genesis 49-29-32; 50:15-26a
Jacob gave his sons these instructions: "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite, along with the field. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites."

When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said.

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Can I take the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with his father’s entire family. He lived a hundred and ten years and saw the third generation of Ephraim's children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph's knees.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place." So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Matthew 10:24-33
Jesus said to his Apostles: "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

"So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”

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The theme of today’s readings seems to be God’s knowledge of, and care for us. In the first reading, Joseph forgives his brothers, saying “Even though you meant me harm, God meant it for good, to achieve his purpose, the survival of many people.” And in the gospel, Jesus reminds his disciples of God’s concern for them. God knows the fate of sparrows, and his children are worth more to him than sparrows.

Three times in this gospel, Jesus encourages his disciples not to be afraid. Someone has written that fear is the homage due to gods and princes. But if love of God is nothing more than a form of fear, should we not love the devil even more than God, since we have more to fear from him?

Still, you might remember that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is called “fear of the Lord.” But this “fear of the Lord” has nothing to do with fear in the usual sense of the word. It is rather a sense of awe, of respect, of reverence before the ultimate mystery. Jesus often repeats the admonition, “Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 14:28; 17:7; 28: 5,10; Luke 5:10; etc.). And St John wrote, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). God asks for our love, not our fear. It is said that those who love to be feared, fear to be loved. How could God love to be feared, or fear to be loved? “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:8, 16).


Today is the memorial of Saint Benedict. He was born in the town of Nursia in Umbria about the year 480. Educated in Rome, he began the eremitic life in Subiaco, where he gathered disciples, and eventually left them for Monte Cassino. There he established the famous monastery, and composed a monastic rule. Because this rule was eventually adopted by all of the monasteries in Europe, it is known as the Benedictine Rule, and he is known as the patriarch of Western monasticism. Benedict died on March 21, 542, but since the end of the eighth century, his memory has been observed on July 11.

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