July 19, 2015 – 16th Sunday OT – B


I have been mortally afraid quite a few times in my life – from childhood all the way to adulthood. The first time was some kind of a twilight zone experience. I was probably teetering on edge between toddlerhood to early childhood. I was midway between being fully asleep and being half awake. I don’t remember the details nor the images, but I do remember the fear and the trembling … alone in a dark room, while I heard terrifying sounds of gunfire and loud voices of people in the middle of the night.

There were other occasions of “fear and trembling” that did not quite equal the terror of the first, but again, I still remember the feeling.

As an adult, I still fear the unknown. I still fear getting sick and old and eventually dying – a reality that seems less and less far-fetched as time moves on.

But my experience has taught me one thing beyond those fears. One may be very afraid of something not necessarily defined, but one stands better chances of managing those fears when one is accompanied, assisted, guided and affirmed by someone who stands by you, reassures you, and keeps you close to his or her heart.

I remember my “lola” (grandmother) rubbing my back, hands and feet when I was burning with fever and unable to care for myself. High with fever, chilling and shaking and overcome with all sorts of frightening illusions, there was that reassuring presence and soothing touch that made the ordeal bearable.

I remember my mother holding me close to her bosom on a stormy night.  The scary lightning bolts and the deafening peals of thunder paled in comparison to my mother’s tight hug and warm embrace.

I remember by father holding me by the hand, teaching me how to go to school. Wrapped in a heavy raincoat that was longer than me, and lugging a big bag inside, the rain-induced darkness and dreariness were offset by the presence of someone who somehow appeared to me then, as more powerful than any force represented by the raging rain and the wild, whistling wind.

Come to think of it, it is PRESENCE and CLOSENESS that matters more than anything else … empathy and intimacy … LOVE and COMPASSION from someone powerful that would help anyone brave through the trials and vicissitudes of life.

This is what the readings today remind us of. This is what we believers are convinced of – what Jeremiah speaks about and what St. Paul extols …

The Israelites of old were more than just abandoned. They were scattered. They were exiled. Their rights were trampled on. They felt alone and terrified and had their own share of “fear and trembling.”

But God was present and was with them all along. Take it from Jeremiah, who now assures us once again: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow.”

Take it from David, who now teaches us once more to pray with faith and hope: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

Truth to tell, like I did as a child, we all feel alone at times. We feel out of the loop on occasion. We feel helpless even. But the other side of the truth we all need to hear now is what Paul reminds us of: “In Christ Jesus you, who once were far off, have become near by the blood of Christ.”

This is what we celebrate each Sunday, the day of the Lord.  This is what we proclaim. This is what this Mass is all about.

“Come away by ourselves to this place and let us rest a while.” Then, and most especially now, despite all the fear and trembling that we are facing, he sees us – the vast crowd – and like then, I would like to believe that “his heart is moved by pity.”

For he is Lord. He is Savior. He is Shepherd. There is nothing more I shall want.