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One of the most majestic of all creatures is the tiger. For many years these big beautiful creatures have puzzled researchers. It seems that when tigers hunt they have a remarkable capacity for causing their prey to paralyze with fear, a capacity greater than any of the other big cats. As the tiger charges toward its hapless prey it lets out a spine chilling roar. Now you’d think this would be enough to cause the prey to turn and run for its life, but instead it often freezes and soon becomes tiger food.At the turn of this century scientists at the Fauna Communication Research Institute in North Carolina discovered why you’re likely to freeze to the spot rather than run when the tiger charges. When the tiger roars it lets out sound waves that are audible – the ones that sound terrifying – and it also lets out sound at a frequency so low you can’t hear it, but you can feel it. And so, as the tiger emerges from the undergrowth the flashing of its colors, the sound of its roar and the impact of the unheard but felt sound waves combine to provide an all-out assault on your senses. The effect is that you are momentarily paralyzed, so even though there may be time to avoid the tiger, you are tricked into standing still long enough for the tiger to leap on you. [https://storiesforpreaching.com/category/sermonillustrations/fear/]
There are a lot of fears that we might have: fear of public speaking, fear of rejection, FOMO (fear of missing out), fear of the unknown, and even fear of death (or at least losing one’s life, one’s self). These fears can paralyze us. I had been thinking about fear because of the Scriptures we heard last week that dealt in part with fear. But it’s also stuck with me because I think fear can keep us from entering into what we hear in our Scripture passages today. Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This cuts to the heart of our deepest fears, yet it’s fundamental because this fear can paralyze us.
In the first part of our Gospel, Jesus makes some pretty demanding statements about the cost of discipleship. Ultimately, He’s asking us to place our highest love and trust in Him. But this can be scary because what will happen to me if I do this? What will my life look like? How might my life look different? How might my life need to change? It can make it difficult to live in the “newness of life” that St. Paul tells us that we’re meant to have through our baptism. “Living for God in Christ Jesus” requires that we die to ourselves—and this can make us fearful, and thus stand still in our lived relationship with God.
Yet this fear (of dying to ourselves) not only can paralyze us in our relationship with the living God, it can also paralyze our relationships with one another. The latter part of our Gospel passage (along with our 1st Reading from 2 Kings) reminds us of the importance of being receptive to the people God sends in our lives. This speaks of hospitality. Yet hospitality always involves a dying to ourselves because in it we’re looking out instead for the other. But fear can keep us from reaching out. I know this in my own life.
Here at St. Peter Parish, we look to continue to grow a culture of hospitality. Hopefully both regular parishioners and our many wonderful visitors have an experience of this. (I’d love your hear your feedback on that.) But I think we can do so much more. What if we came to Mass looking forward to meeting someone new? (I do…every Mass) What if all people who sat down in the pews were acknowledged even just with a nod or a smile by someone else? What if how we prayed at Mass enabled those around us to enter more deeply into prayer and worship as well? What if we had an increased number of active ministers of hospitality who would not only greet people as they walked through the door and help them find a seat or point out the restrooms, but imagine if we had folks outside helping people with our crazy parking lots, or positioned at a welcoming booth out in the narthex. I can see it, brothers & sisters, and I hope you can too.
In the Eucharist we have a Communion with the self-giving love of Christ—this self-offering that brings us to life and forms us together into His Body. May the grace of this Sacrament help us to be willing to lose ourselves so that we can truly find our life in Christ, and help us to live generously for Him and for others. Let us renounce the fears that can paralyze us in this endeavor, and so walk more freely as disciples of the Lord, as sons and daughters of God.
©2017 St. Peters Catholic Church Huron Ohio.
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