Our Sacred Stories ~ Confidence in God: A Relationship of Trust and Never-failing Love
There are times when watching or listening to the news is a recipe for disappointment and even despair. Conflicts and threats in Ukraine, Sudan, the Middle East, south east Asia and elsewhere have an impact on the rest of the world. Wild fires in Canada and elsewhere affect areas well beyond the flames themselves. In many places, political life seems rife with populism, anger, hatred and extreme views. Addressing the challenge of climate change seem beyond our ability as a global community. The pain of refugees fleeing the threats at home to places often unwilling to welcome them leaves a scar on our world. Is this really part of God’s plan for creation? Are we destined to live inconstant peril and fear?
Fear can be debilitating. It can enchain us in a way that we lose our freedom and capacity to act. It freezes us. Many years ago, while cycling with a friend, he remarked that he did not like snakes and he hoped we would not see any along the way. Well, we did. My friend literally froze, could not move at all. The snake in fact was not a threat. It would not harm us. But that is not the point. Snakes were feared by my friend, harmless or not. And that is the point, fear takes away our freedom and restricts us.
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah found himself threatened as he sought to speak God’s message to Israel (Jer.20:10-13). Even his close friends were rejecting the message he bore and in doing so, they were rejecting him. He cried out: “Terror is all around.” In the midst of this “terror”, however the prophet recognized that he did not stand alone. With him stood the Lord, the God whose message he was proclaiming. In the midst of his rejection and fear, Jeremiah knew he could rely on the Lord, who was a God of “steadfast love”. (Ps.69)
At the core of the gospels is the story of the growing relationship between Jesus and his followers. As they journey together through Galilee, the bond between the teacher and disciples grows. They become friends. John’s Gospel describes this relationship of love as it grows: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…. I do not call you servants any longer,… but I have called you friends. (Jn.15:12-15)”
This loving bond between Jesus and his disciples is what we see in Matthew’s Gospel as Jesus instructs his followers in the Sermon on Mount (Matt.5-7). The bond that was built among them then led Jesus to pass his mission on them. He called them to become apostles of the good news he had given them. It was not their private preserve. Like all good news, it deserved to be shared with others.
Good news it was. But for some whom they met it seemed a threat. So, the mission the disciples were to undertake was not an easy one, just like Jeremiah. As Jesus sends the disciples out, however, he offers them encouragement, much as Jeremiah found it.
Matthew’s early Christian community faced rejection and levels of persecution and shunning by their local communities. After calling them to share his mission, Jesus urged them not be afraid. He would never leave them alone, rather he would be with them even to his Father in heaven (Matt.10:32). Matthew will have Jesus reasserting this commitment in the final words he says to them: “Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time (Matt.28:20). In John’s Gospel, as Jesus enters the Passion, Jesus reassures his friends, promising the Spirit and telling them: “I will not leave you orphaned (Jn.14:18).” The relationship is unbreakable and marked by never-failing love.