Do Not Be Afraid, I Am With You

Friday of Week 25 in Ordinary Time - Cycle I

Haggai 1:15-2:9 & Lk. 9:18-22

When the people returned to Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon, they must have been discouraged by the huge task that lay before them. They rejoiced to have been freed from captivity and restored to their homeland, of course, but they could see the vast amount of work that needed to be done.

Their beloved city of Jerusalem and the magnificent temple of Solomon were in ruins, and only a remnant of the people of Judah had returned to try and start again. Through the prophet Haggai, God encouraged His people, and told them not to be disheartened by the fact that the former glory of the temple had gone. Though they faced great difficulties, He was with them - if He had helped their ancestors out of Egypt, would He not help them now? His Spirit would be there with them in their struggle. Indeed, He wanted to assure them that, in the end, the splendour of the temple would be greater than it had been.

It is easy for us to be discouraged by the state of Catholicism in today's world. In a largely secular society few people go to church and Christianity is often mocked. Is there any chance of such a decline being reversed? God says the same thing to us as He did to the lsraelites in Haggai's time: He is with us, and we should not be afraid. However bad appearances may be He is the same God and His power is at work in the world as it has always been. We can be sure that God is faithful to all His promises, and His Spirit is always with us. He is the Lord of the Universe, and He will again manifest His glory in the world. Even though we may wonder where God is, our faith tells us that good always overcomes evil and, in the end, God's Kingdom will reign supreme. So let us not lose heart but have as our motto the words of St Padre Pio whose feast we celebrated recently, "Pray, hope and don't worry".

When Jesus asked His Apostles who the people thought He was, not one of them thought He was the promised Messiah despite the miracles they had witnessed - lepers cleansed, the blind having their sight restored, the deaf hearing and even the dead raised to life. Not one person asked, apparently, whether this extraordinary man could be the Messiah? They thought He could be John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the ancient prophets but not the Messiah. I find that extraordinary! But then Peter announced that Jesus was the Messiah and He gave them a strict instruction that they were not to tell this to anyone. People were to come to this conclusion themselves.

After Peter's profession Jesus foretold them of His suffering and death. I am convinced that when they heard that He was to die so tragically they failed to hear the truth of His resurrection - for after His death not one of them expected Him to rise.

Lord Jesus, we believe that you are the Christ the Son of the living God, and by our lives we wish to make it known that we are proud to be Your followers.