12th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]

June 22, 2023

Matthew 10:26-33

Fear is one of the most basic and primitive human emotions. Fear can be defined as an emotional and physiological reaction to perceived dangers or threats. In humans and many animals, an archaic part of our brain called the amygdala plays an important role in regulating fear. When potential threats to our lives are perceived, the amygdala releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. These hormones heighten our alertness and strengthen our bodies, and thus, increase our chances of survival. The amygdala (and its fear) is responsible for our survival.

However, there is a big problem. Our brains, unlike animal brains, are much more complex and advanced. Amygdala is just a very small part of a bigger system. As our intellect goes sophisticated, our understanding of fear is getting complicated. We are afraid not only of physical danger before our eyes, like fire, explosion, and venomous animals but also of potential threats and dangers that do not exist yet. Here comes the problem. We fear something that is not a real danger or even something that is not real. This fear manifests in different forms like ‘overthinking,’ ‘staying in your comfort zone,’ and ‘insecurity.’ This fear paralyzes us and even suppresses our authentic growth.

How does Jesus teach us about fear? We often read in the Gospel that Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not fear!” Yet, what does it mean ‘to have no fear’? Does it mean Jesus wants us to repress our emotions? Does Jesus instruct us to be reckless and disregard fear altogether? Today’s Gospel gives us a deeper insight into Jesus’ teaching on fear. Jesus said, “And 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.” Jesus did not ask us to be numb to all kinds of fear but rather to know what or who we must truly fear.

Jesus knows well that fear is fundamental emotion of a human person. Fear serves the critical purpose of survival; without it, the human species would have ceased to exist long ago. Thus, distinguishing between the real objects of fear and the fake ones is imperative in properly handling our fear. However, Jesus reminds us that we are not simply earthly beings but primarily beings created for God. Consequently, we must fear the most things that will separate us from God. Yes, we are naturally afraid of those things that harm our bodies, but we must fear those things that harm our souls more, even if these things give us comfort and security from bodily harm. Jesus’ teaching is in harmony with Old Testament’s wisdom: one must fear the Lord (see Ecc 12:13; Psa 34:9). We do not fear the Lord because He is fearsome, but we fear that we may lose Him for eternity.

Now, it is our time to reflect and evaluate our lives. What are the false objects of fear in our lives prevent us from growing and loving God and our neighbors? Do we fear more those things that harm our earthly lives or those that put us away from eternal life? Are we ready to face our fear for the sake of Jesus?


Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

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