1. Many of you no doubt know that I enjoy bicycling. You may not know that I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was 7 years old. And then, my dad forced me to learn. Up until then, I had refused for fear that I would fall off, and maybe get hurt. So my dad put me on the bike and guided it around the house in the yard. That is really all it took and I have been riding ever since.
2. Fear of falling keeps many people off of their bicycles. And the fear is somewhat rational. Yes, you probably will fall, and you could get hurt. I have fallen off the bike many times. I have flown through the air over my handlebars, I have bounced on the pavement (thank God I wear a helmet). My arms have been covered with tiny scabs called road rash, my shoulders bruised by crashing into trees. I have thought my heart would explode as I suffered up hills. But I have also sped down those same hills at 40 miles an hour. I have raced against the clock to keep my job when my car would not start. I have pressed the pedals so hard that the bike jumped in air as it accelerated.
3. Fear should not keep us from doing the activities that are worthwhile, even if it is a rational fear. Rather, we should judge with worthiness of what we propose, and then proceed prudently. Now bicycling, although a wonderful recreation, is really not that important as activities go. On the other hand, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ is not merely a worthwhile activity, but it is among the most important that we could possibly do. In fact, we are commanded by Jesus Himself to proclaim the Gospel. He said What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. It is the serious task of every Christian to busy ourselves with the proclamation of the Truth of God’s love, shown to us in Jesus Christ.
4. The truths of our Faith are not secrets. The reality of the Resurrection of Our Lord is not private revelation. The total self giving love which God calls us to share with one another through respect and charitable actions of mind, body and heart are not meant only for the select few, like priests, or Sunday school teachers. The evangelization of the world is not an option, to be selected from a variety of religious type actions which we might do from time to time. Jesus is very clear- Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
5. Still we are afraid. We fear that others will make fun of us, if we speak up like we should. We might lose our friends or even our jobs. Look at Jeremiah. He spoke God’s word, and yet his own people wanted to kill him.
6. Today, Christianity in general and Catholicism specifically do not get much positive press. And many of the events we fear could indeed come to pass. For example, if a couple accepts many children in their marriage as gifts from God, there will be those who criticize them with unkind words. Even some of their doctors will pressure them to be sterilized- which is a sin. But look at your child: which will last longer- the ugly words that someone says, or the family bond that God Himself has created?
7. Maybe we are afraid to forgive someone who has harmed us. What if they think we are weak and do it again? They might. We cannot control the thoughts of others. But what is really more weak- to hand something over to God and ask for healing, so that it will no longer harm us, or to drag the weight of a past hurt around for the rest of our lives, being controlled by the words or actions of another? At least we know that if we forgive others, God will forgive us. Likewise He will always be just, even if it takes a long time.
8. Of course we could be afraid of generosity with our money. We fear not having enough if we let what we think of as our stuff go and give it to God. Maybe we will not have enough for soft drinks or beer or electronic devices or whatever. But do you know any generous people? Are they happy, or are they in constant fear? All the ones I know are happy. They are not enslaved by things. And God seems to provide for them just when they need it most.
9. Some are just afraid that if they admit that they are Catholic someone will challenge them on something and they will not have an answer. Or they fear the lack of social stature if one does not belong to the most popular church. Or they look to other groups that seem to have so many activities / benefits for the kids or the family that it just seems foolish to stick with the Church. Maybe they will ask something we do not know- after all, we are not God, we might have to keep learning. Maybe we will have a loss of social stature, in this life. Maybe our parish does not have a gym just yet, or whatever else is popular. Maybe members of our parish act badly in public. But we share the Eucharist- the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. Do the others? Sadly no. Even if we cannot explain it, and do not know enough to be able to defend it, it remains the truth: Jesus gives us Himself to eat and drink, so that we might have life. What can really top that?
10. What if we were to die on account of our Catholic faith? Would that be such a bad thing? We pray to Saint Jude, and that is what he did. We read from Saint Matthew, and that is what he did. What if we were to live without limits our Catholic faith? That is what the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio and the Mother Teresa did.
11. How do we get rid of the fear? There is only one word to describe how to overcome it- Trust. Jesus said Fear is useless, what is needed is trust. In the Gospel, Jesus tries to tell us how valuable we are. The Father knows and cares about even the smallest bird. We are much more valuable than they are: we are the adopted children of God. Our Father will not abandon us. He never has and He never will.