“… you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say” (Mt 10:18-19).
Can you feel the anxiety building within his followers? I can! Presented with the possibility of being dragged before family, peers, and local governance can be daunting. The stomach acid begins to swirl and butterflies take flight often before I preach before fellow believers!
When speaking about and/or defending our faith, anxiety arises because we are risking that the message, and more so, we, will not be received. This is because we are focusing more on our self. When Jesus invites us to speak of our faith he is asking us to express and not to impress. Jesus seeks to expand us beyond our limitations and draw us into the Love of his Trinitarian communion. The Holy Spirit, the Love shared between the Father and the Son, who casts out all fear, accompanies us and will provide what we need to accomplish the task before us, to give us the words to speak, even in the midst of anxiety or fear. We need to learn to trust in him. As Mark Twain wrote: “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.”
One of the most powerful prayers during the Mass is during the Communion Rite at the end of the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and SAFE FROM ALL DISTRESS, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ” (Bold letters mine).
Our anxieties and fears often present us with the temptation to be indifferent, indecisive, and/or to look the other way when the dignity of others are infringed upon. The feeling can be suffocating and choking, yet St. Oscar A. Romero (1917-1980), of San Salvador, who was assassinated for publicly confronting the oppressive military in his diocese reminds us in his book, The Violence of Love, that, “There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.”
When the dignity of any person or people is infringed upon, in any way, we are called to speak up and act on behalf of those that are belittled, demeaned, or dehumanized. At the first moment that the smallest anxiety, worry or fear sends out its tendrils to grasp at and choke us, we are to seek the strength of the Holy Spirit, and trust that he will give us the words and the courage to speak what he would have us to say. In this way, we are to “be God’s microphone” so as to shine a light on the darkness of dehumanization, oppression and fear.