HOMILY OF THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
Fear is a natural human emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives. It is a snare that traps and entangles us, keeping us off the path we are called to pursue. Most times, we are always afraid of the unknown, of failure, or even of what others may think of us.
Moreover, in a world that is often hostile to our faith, it can be easy to give in to fear, anxiety, and disobedience. Oftentimes, our negligence toward God’s commands pushes us to sin, which engenders fear, anxiety, and even death. In this homily, we will explore why Christians should fear sin and not be afraid of doing what is right, even in the midst of challenges and persecution.
THE DANGERS OF SIN:
Sin is a spiritually destructive force that can lead to fear, anxiety, alienation, and death. In the first reading, we hear the prophet Jeremiah lamenting, “I hear many disparaging me. Terror is on every side! ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All my familiar friends, watching for my downfall, say, Perhaps he will be seduced into error; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him” (Jeremiah 20:10). This implies that we can only be harmed spiritually when we allow ourselves or our friends to succeed in luring us into sin.
As the scripture says, to be spiritually minded is life and peace, but to be carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6). Hence, when we give in to sin, we distance ourselves from God and from the people around us. We may feel a sense of shame and guilt, which can lead to fear and anxiety. Sin can also lead to physical and emotional harm, both for ourselves and for others. Ultimately, sin can destroy our souls and lead us to eternal separation from God (Ezekiel 18:4, 20).
Furthermore, St. Paul also reminds us in the second reading that “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Romans 5:12–13). Yes, our first parents, Adam and Eve, succumbed to the temptation of becoming equal to God but, instead, realized that they were naked. Certainly, sin is our nakedness before God, and through sin, we alienate ourselves from God and others. When we deviate from God’s love, we are filled with fear and shame.
OVERCOMING FEAR THROUGH FAITH:
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus Christ tells His disciples, “Do not be afraid of men.” He also tells them not to be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. He reminds them that they are worth more than many sparrows and that God knows and cares for every hair on their heads (Matthew 10:28–31).
These words are a reminder and assurance to us that we are not alone in this world and that we have a God who loves us and cares for us, even in the midst of our fears and anxieties. So, we are called to live our lives with faith and courage, trusting in God’s love and guidance. When we put our trust in God, we can overcome our fears and anxieties, knowing that He is always with us. If God is for us, no evil forces can harm us, for we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ, who gives us strength (Romans 8:31, 37). Besides, we can also draw strength from the examples of the saints who have gone before us, who faced persecution and challenges with courage and faith.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DOING WHAT IS RIGHT:
From the early days of Christianity until today, the followers of Jesus Christ have been faced with many persecutions and attacks for their faith and for doing what is right, with many enduring imprisonments, torture, and even death. Despite these challenges, they continue to hold fast to their beliefs and remain steadfast in their commitment to their faith, living lives of righteousness even in the face of persecution.
Of course, doing what is right is not always easy, especially in a world that is often hostile to our faith. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ tells us not to be afraid because He is with us always, even to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). He equally promises us that He will always declare Himself for us in the presence of God in heaven, provided we do not disown Him before human beings (Matthew 10:32–33).
Despite the dangers of sin, we should not be afraid to do what is right and always stand up for the truth, no matter whose ox is gored. As the scripture says, “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach” (Proverbs 14:34). So, as Christ’s followers, we are called to be a light in the darkness, to stand up for what is right, and to be a voice for the voiceless. When we do what is right, we not only please God but also inspire others to do the same. We can be a source of hope and encouragement for those who are struggling, and we can help build a better world.
Meanwhile, in his exhortation, St. John says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life but must endure God’s wrath” (John 3:36). He further avers that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached the perfection in love” (1 John 4:18). Certainly, when we love God with all our hearts and become obedient to His commandments, then no evil shall befall our soul (Psalms 91:10–11).
WHAT TO DO WHEN WE FALL TO SIN:
As Christians, we are called to put our trust in God and have faith that He will guide us through the challenges and difficulties of life. For God is always ready to welcome us back whenever we offend Him and immediately repent of it, just like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32).
Below are some of the steps that we Christians can take when we fall into sin:
- Repent and Seek forgiveness:
As Christians, especially Catholics, the first step we must undertake when we fall into sin is to acknowledge our sins and confess them to God (1 John 1:9). This can be done by going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confessions). But we must show remorse and repent of them before going. Repentance means turning away from sin and turning toward God. We believe that God is merciful and forgiving. Therefore, we should ask God for forgiveness and trust that He will forgive us (Isaiah 1:18–20).
- Pray and Study the Scriptures daily:
There is power in prayer and the Word of God. St. James says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Similarly, St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the Power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Hence, we should pray and read the Bible regularly. These daily spiritual exercises can help us stay connected to God and His teachings and to avoid temptation, as well as situations, certain people, or certain places that may lead us to sin.
- Join the fellowship of a Christian community:
We should find a Christian community that always has fellowship with God in truth and sincerity (Hebrews 10:24–25). This group can inspire or influence us spiritually and help us stay on track. As the scripture says, iron sharpens iron, as one is sharpened by another (Proverbs 27:17).
- Practice Self-control:
We should learn to control our thoughts and actions. This can be done through prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices. Also, finding new hobbies or activities to replace old ones
However, we cannot achieve self-control through our own strength. We need divine strength in order to actualize that. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the grace of God sustains us. God’s grace is sufficient for us even in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). Hence, we should always remember that we are not perfect and that God’s love and forgiveness are always available for us.
As Christians, we are called to follow the example of Jesus Christ and live our lives in accordance with His teachings. Also, we should fear sin and not be afraid of doing what is right. Sin can lead to fear, anxiety, alienation, and death while doing what is right can bring us closer to God and to one another.
Moreover, we should always be courageous and confident in the knowledge that we are never alone. Of course, we have a God who loves us and cares for us, even in the midst of our fears and anxieties. We may not always understand why certain things happen, but we can be sure that God is working all things together for our good. When we put our faith and trust in Him, He will always guide us through the challenges and difficulties of life, just as He promised (Exodus 23:20). So, let us not be afraid of doing what is right, but avoid occasions of Sin.
May the Holy Spirit grant you the grace to always avoid sin and to have the courage to stand up for what is right, even in the midst of challenges and persecutions, and also empower you to always strive to live your life in accordance with God’s will, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.