Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 94

Jesus said to the Twelve:
"Fear no one."

I once listened to a Dominican extol heroic virtue. This is what the Lord demands and expects of us, he said. I could not imagine a Franciscan preaching such a sermon.

Despite our romantic notions of supermen and superwomen, with sub-genres for secret agents, super-villains and x-men, most people in most ages prefer to live not on the frontier edges of society where they must be courageous to survive. We do best in the middle of the safe zone among our fellow citizens.

We may be entertained by stories of the unknown and unpredictable but we give a wide berth to dangers and dangerous people. Many people consider roller coasters all the adventure they need.

Forced to name some heroes we've actually met, we talk about men and women just doing their jobs. They didn't enjoy the adventure.

Back in the sixties, I had a college professor who broke up a small, rowdy demonstration. Though "nothing actually happened," he was unnerved and swore he would not do it again.

Jesus says to them, "Fear no one." I don't suppose this word was directed only at his disciples as they set out. Nor was it impressed upon the graduating class of superheroes on their way to fight for truth, justice and the American way. It's not even about heroic virtue.

"Fear no one" is spoken to Christian congregations; when something happens they should not scatter like panicked sheep in a thunderstorm. We should remain together; supporting, consoling and encouraging one another. "There is strength in numbers!" we tell ourselves.

At one time people liked to take a walk in the evening before bedtime. European cities were famous for this. Thousands of people greeted neighbors and friends and politely inquired about strangers. Gossips kept an eye on the proceedings while boys flirted and girls flaunted their finery. Crime couldn't happen in such places; everybody knew everyone and no one got away with mischief.

Suggest to Americans today they should take a walk in the evening on their own city streets and they cringe in horror. There's fear out there! Obsessed with news of crimes in near and distant cities, they cannot take the risk. "Leave policing to the police!" they say, which only invites a police state. They forget that polite, police and politics all come from polis, the Greek word for city.

"Fear no one!" should be common sense for any society, and especially for Christians. We don't need heroes. Our policy is politeness to friends, family, neighbors, enemies and strangers. Because we are not afraid, we make our world safer.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.