Than Many Sparrows
Have you noticed that since 9-11, there are very few new stories that are merely called headlines. Everything now is a news alert, not a headline. The government is also guilty of keeping us in a heightened state of crisis. Yes, we need to be aware of terrorism, but the government does not have the right to use the threat of terrorism to frighten us into submitting to the latest item on its political agenda. Nor does the opposition to the government have the right to make people fear that they are living in a totalitarian state and that they soon will have all their rights removed if they don’t agree with their stands. We Americans are neurotic enough on our own. We don’t need the government, the opposition to the government, or the media intensifying our paranoia.
We don’t need their help. We have some real fears to consider. The protection of our children from the negative aspects of our society, or from those who prey on the weak is certainly a valid fear. Concern about providing for the future of our families is also valid. Many of us our concerned about our health and the health of our loved ones because we receive daily reminders that life is fragile and people do die suddenly, at least sooner than they expected. Then again, everyone dies sooner than he or she expect.
How should we, as Christians, deal with stress, real or imposed on us by others? Today’s Gospel, from the tenth chapter of Matthew, tells us to trust in God, and be people of faith. It contains the beautiful passage about sparrows:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
I recently began reading St. Augustine’s classic, City of God. My motivation is to try to come to a deeper understanding of the thought process of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who bases much of his theology on Augustine. The first book or actually chapter of City of God addresses the disaster of the sack of Rome by the barbarians. Augustine presents all the suffering of the people and emphasizes that the Barbarians could torture and rape and pillage and kill, but they could not desecrate the Presence of God in the believing Christian. Nor could they steal God from them.
Maybe there are valid reasons for concern in our lives, but there is no valid reason for fear. 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 Gehenna. Yes, we have to take care of our families, particularly our children. Yes, we have to keep bad things out of our homes to protect them and to protect ourselves. And we certainly have to be extremely careful of those with whom they come in contact with. And yes, we have to be careful about our own health, going to the doctors when we need to, eating correctly etc, etc. And yes, we do need to be alert to anyone who could threaten our security, but fear? No, we do not need to fear. No matter what happens to us, we will always have God. We do not need to be afraid.
Many times I’m called in to speak with a person who is terminal. Usually, the person is a senior, but I have also spoken to many people who were much younger than me. Sometimes, the person will wait for his or her family to leave and then say to me, “I know I’m dying, Father.” Often, I’ll say, “Well, we are all dying, you’re just going about it better than the rest of us.” After what I hope will be a smile, I’ll say, “Look, you are going to be OK. Whether you live or die, you are going to be OK. Just trust God.”
That’s what Jesus is telling us today: trust God, don’t be afraid, and know that whatever happens, you and I will be OK. He told this to his disciples in the Gospel who chose to proclaim the Kingdom of God even if it would lead to their death. Their deaths themselves would be a witness to the Love of God. The word martyr means witness. He tells us to proclaim his Love to the world and hold fast to our Christianity, and not be concerned with the attacks of others. Good is always going to be attacked by evil. He tells us to be good parents and care for our children, protect our children, but trust in Him, for our treasures, our children are His treasures, His children.
So the next time you turn on the news or pick up the paper and are accosted with: Alert, Breaking News, or whatever, remember even if the item is far more serious than the Runaway Bride running away again, the only thing that you and I need to be concerned with is the One thing that makes every aspect of life not just bearable but beautiful, and that is the very Presence of the Love of God within each of us.
Do not be afraid; you, we, are worth more than many sparrows.