Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Almost exactly 5 months ago to the day I preached on this Gospel.  That was the Second Sunday of Lent.  Now I considered just using that homily again, after all what are the chances that this parish will remember what was said 5 months ago!  But then I remembered that Lynne puts all of my homilies on the parish website and just on the outside possibility that one of you will go and look it up I thought no, I better write a new one.

Five months ago I talked about one word in the Gospel, Listen.  Today I would like focus on a different word, Afraid.  Right after God says, “Listen to Him,” we hear, “When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.”  Fear can paralyze us, make us powerless, drop us down to the ground.  Dictators and totalitarian governments have always understood this.  Why are they so ruthless?  Because it instills fear in the population.  Make them afraid and you can control them. 

Why is fear so suffocating, so difficult to cope with?  It is very different than other emotions.  With sadness we can cry and eventually the tears can drain sadness of its bite.  With anger we can express it, shout in rage, exercise until we are exhausted.  But fear has no simple release mechanism.  Fear paralyzes us and robs us of the strength we need to combat it.  We cannot take our fear out on someone else, it just doesn’t work.  The object of our fear doesn’t go away simply because we wish it away.  With fear, sometimes all we can do is endure.  We can just fall down like Peter, James and John and hope that it will eventually leave on its own.

Two things I discovered in my hospital ministry in dealing with fear.  First, name it.  Just to be able to name something, no matter how unfair, no matter how powerless we are to change it, is to somehow be free of it, to rise above it.  To name something correctly is to partly free ourselves of its control.  So often in listening to patients or families all it took was saying, “It sounds like you are afraid” to see a sigh of relief and a nod of the head.  The monster in the room had been named.  That is ultimately the function of prophecy.  Prophets don’t foretell the future, they properly name the present.  Fr. Richard Rohr is fond of saying:  Not everything can be fixed or cured, but it should be named properly.  This can be helpful in dealing with fear in our lives.  Naming it, recognizing where that symptom belongs and how powerless it leaves us, can help us to live with it.

The second point comes from the Gospel.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’”  No one can touch God or be touched by God and not be changed.  Fear leaves at God’s touch.  The woman hemorrhaging knew that when she touched the hem of Christ’s cloak and was healed.  The blind man knew that when Jesus touched his eyes.  And Peter, James and John knew that when Christ touched them.

At every Eucharist we have the opportunity to touch and be touched by Christ.  The goal of Christianity is not that we become good people but rather that we become God-like.  God became one of us so that He might raise our human nature and make it share in His divine nature.  We begin to share His nature when we eat His body and drink His blood.  Jesus touched the disciples and Jesus touches us in the Eucharist.  Every time we go to Eucharist we are meant to let that transforming event touch us, touch our wounds, our fears, and our emotional paralysis and bring us to a transfiguration in wholeness, energy, joy, and love.

The Eucharist is the ultimate healer.