Before coming to celebrate the Eucharist this weekend, it would be a good idea to recall the days of the early Church. For example, St. Matthew put together (or “wrote”) his Gospel in the midst of a Church community that had much to fear from persecutions. They were also facing big changes – as more and more Gentiles found their way into what was primarily a Jewish/Christian community. So, the people in St. Matthew’s community were afraid of the persecutors and afraid of change.
One of the motivations for St. Matthew to compose his Gospel was to encourage that group of faithful disciples. But let’s remember that it was not only St. Matthew who was writing the Gospel – Christ Himself was speaking to that same Church, offering them courage in order to confront their fears.
Well, Jesus speaks to us today in like fashion and He wants to give us courage, too. Obviously, it is a timely message: there is plenty of fear being used on us these days. For example, instead of offering us hope and pragmatic workable solutions to the problems we face in our society today, many of those running for public office just want to frighten us by telling us what danger there is from the policies of their supposedly evil opponents.
At the same time, however, there is fear lurking within our Church, a fear which started after the Vatican Council in the 1960’s and 70’s. But fear of “a changing Church” (a Church which responds to the promptings of the Holy Spirit) leads to closed minds, ears, and hearts. Add to that the individualism of this age, which nurtures the “I’ll do it my way” attitude “because I can” … and all of this puts our unity in danger. Will we allow Jesus to repeat His words of encouragement to us? “Come to me all you who are weary … and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11,28