12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Job 38:1-4,8-11; Mk 4:35-41
Sunday, June 20, 2021
I have been blessed to meet many holy religious sisters and nuns throughout my life, but one in particular I meet in a small monastery in San Diego left me with spiritual insight that profoundly changed my life. This sister has lived a difficult life, knowing spousal abandonment and abuse among many other challenges but found peace and renewed purpose in becoming a religious sister.
In the midst of our conversation, she said to me and two other priests: “Fathers, the three nails that the devil wants to drive into every heart are the nails of fear, shame and guilt.”
When I first heard these words, my immediate reaction was to object as all three do have value. Fear is important to avert you from danger, shame to teach you not to act in a certain manner and guilt helps someone to seek forgiveness and be set free of the burden that guilt brings.
While this is true, what is also true is that all three can also be deadly poison in someone’s life if they are used for the wrong reasons.
Fear can cripple someone to act irrationally or to defend themselves but without any sense of hope or right judgement.
Shame can be used to damage someone’s reputation and inflict hurts upon another, which in our current times is seen especially in the realm of social media.
Guilt, when not rooted in the desire to be forgiven or change one’s life, can lead someone to self-loathing that attempts to be remedied by seeking to inflict the same guilt upon individuals, communities and institutions, all in the hopes to alleviate the pain one experiences but with the consequences of not removing the guilt in a healthy manner.
Upon deeper reflection, I have come to appreciate what this religious sister shared with me about these three nails and the need to be vigilant in not allowing them to be driven into our hearts.
Many of the biblical figures had to face these three nails. Job certainly did! When God allowed him to be tested by Satan to show the righteous trust Job had in the Lord, he could easily have become overwhelmed by fear as he watched his possessions, livelihood and family be taken away from him, by shame as his friends tried to convince him the source of his misfortune was because he had offended God when God was actually allowing him to be tested and by guilt that would harden his heart against God and prevent him from humbly accepting that the ways of God are mysterious and not always immediately evident.
Job succeeded in preventing all three nails of fear, shame and guilt to ruin his relationship with God, resulting in the awe inspiring moment that He stood before the glory of the Almighty and was reminded that He was not present when God set the foundations of the world in place and witnessed the great miracle of creation, and that Job should be affirmed that he did not allow fear ruin his relationship with God, shame to make him think that the accusations of his friends of wrongdoing were true and guilt to lead him to self-loathing for sins he never committed.
Just as Job had an awesome experience of God’s glory, so too did the Apostles encounter the same Lord of Heaven and Earth on the Sea of Galilee.
As the disciples were sinking into the depths, righty filled with the natural fear of death, Our Lord challenged them to not be afraid, for He was with them, to save them and lift them up from the dangers set upon them.
We continually need the Lord to affirm us with the words of Do Not Be Afraid to keep away the three nails from being lodged into our hearts.
Among the greatest gifts to keep them away is the Holy Eucharist, of whom we are blessed today to have a number of young children making their First Holy Communion. We welcome them to our parish and are grateful that they today remind us of the gift of the Eucharist in our lives and the reminded that Jesus is always with us, even when the winds and storms of life batter us.
Let the Eucharist today then continue to be a spiritual strength that helps us battle against the ways fear, shame and guilt want to tarnish our friendship with God. May the Eucharistic Lord remind us to be not be afraid since we will be with us in the breaking of the bread, that we are to put aside shame if others tell us we are not worthy of God’s love and to cast out guilt that makes us doubt our ability to be forgiven for the Lord desires to forgive all those who seek him with humble and contrite hearts.