Be not Afraid

22 June 2008 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 20, 10-13; Psalm 69; Rom 5, 12-15; Matthew 10, 26-33

Note: Because of the typhoon Frank, we shall move the Mass of the Holy Spirit next Sunday, 29 June 2008 at the 11:00 am mass, UP Parish of the Holy Sacrifice.

I have been watching the first season of the ABC TV Series, Kyle XY while thinking about what to say today. I would like to say something about studies, and I wrote only one sentence on my computer: “It takes courage to study.” Kyle could study the encyclopedia the whole afternoon; he would flip the pages as fast as Superman would absorb one whole book. And I found myself wishing to be like them. You see, I am 39 and I would like to go to further studies. I am not getting younger, and if I had a memory like Kyle or Superman, my life would be a lot easier. But if I were Kyle or Superman, I would not need courage in my studies. And this I guess is not just myself. It is on the wish-list of many students. And I am speaking to them right now.

The readings today constantly reminds us not to be afraid. Jeremiah is faced with both internal and external dangers. He nearly despairs and doubts his vocation as a prophet. The internal climate of many students is often turbulent. While studying for an exam or beating the deadline of a paper, they struggle with family and financial concerns. Or, many struggle with personal matters such as life directions or relationships. Jeremiah’s former friends are the same people who ‘watch every misstep’ he takes and wish for his entrapment. But the element that zaps whatever confidence we have in life is the realization that we cannot face the storms alone.

Surveys also point to external dangers that threaten the young. Incidences of theft on campus become a perennial concern of both parents and school authorities. The streets are not safe either. No matter whether you are in the heart of downtown Manila or in the manicured Katipunan road where our universities are, we will always feel insecure and afraid of what might befall us.

But studying itself needs courage. With the deluge of data in the internet and new discoveries thicken textbooks, the present generation --- and even older generation --- can be overwhelmed by the enormity of things we need to know. Every doctor today is insecure about the younger generation who might know more than what he knows. There are two reactions to this fear: we either refuse to update or we take in more than what we can chew.

Many Christians remain imprisoned by fears and anxieties simply because we do not take the opportunity to read and to study. The purpose of study is to transform ourselves. By studying, we replace old destructive habits or thoughts with new life-giving principles. For example, we can change our negative perception of life and of people if we read about pressing concerns: we do not remain too negative when we also learn that there are many good people who are still advocating peace and justice. Through reading, we are able to know how we can be actively involved in social change --- not just donation but committed involvement.

principle is true in every endeavor: biology, mathematics, human relationships such as friendships and marriage. It is also true in our spiritual lives. Many of us are hampered and confused in our lives simply because we are uninformed and ignorant about the truth. How many relationships have been destroyed by lies? How many misunderstandings have slacken progress in institutions?

In Christian life, many faithful in church who fulfill their religious duties and even those who seek to follow Christ, remain unchanged. We may sing and pray and worship with all of our lives, have experienced some divine visions, but after the ‘high’ we remained the same before the vision. Or we experience persecution from other religions because when asked about the rationale of our practices, we actually do not know or we have false teachings --- often superstitious or outdated --- as Matthew (23,15) said, “You traverse sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much as a child of hell as yourselves.” The 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines said that we need to have an ‘informed faith’.

Thus, as we begin the school year, whether as a student or as a student in the school of life, we should pick up all our courage and take a book, a magazine, or surf the internet, and begin to read.

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