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Keeping Courage in the Face of Fear

July 14 2020  Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin (Lectionary: 390)

Reading 1   IS 7:1-9

In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah,
Rezin, king of Aram,
and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah,
went up to attack Jerusalem,
but they were not able to conquer it.
When word came to the house of David that Aram
was encamped in Ephraim,
the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled,
as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.

Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz,
you and your son Shear-jashub,
at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,
on the highway of the fuller’s field, and say to him:
Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,
because of the mischief that
Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah,
plots against you, saying,
“Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force,
and appoint the son of Tabeel king there.”

Thus says the LORD:
This shall not stand, it shall not be!
Damascus is the capital of Aram,
and Rezin is the head of Damascus;
Samaria is the capital of Ephraim,
and Remaliah’s son the head of Samaria.

But within sixty years and five,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!

 

Responsorial Psalm   48:2-3A, 3B-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (see 9d) God upholds his city for ever.
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Mount Zion, “the recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
For lo! the kings assemble,
they come on together;
They also see, and at once are stunned,
terrified, routed.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.
R. God upholds his city for ever.

 

Alleluia   PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

 

Gospel   MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the nether world.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

 

By Melissa Velez 

When reading Bible passages for personal scripture study, Lectio Divina, or just to prepare for the Sunday readings, I occasionally catch myself skipping over those parts that contain a lot of historical begetting- you know the deal. Jesus was the son of Joseph who was the son of Jacob who was the son of Mathan who was the son of Eleazar, and so on for 14 generations, etc. It starts to sound a little like a history lesson, and I’m never sure what the point of these passages really is.

But this time, though I was tempted to skip over it and move onto the next, I didn’t allow myself to do it. I read it carefully and deliberately, trusting that what I was meant to hear would come through. And it did.

When word came to the house of David that Aram was encamped in Ephraim, the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.

I read these couple lines and thought to myself, don’t I know what that feels like?

How many times have I received news and felt my stomach shrink in trepidation, or my whole body just deflate under the weight of some burden?

I know it well, and in those moments I’ve felt so weak. Isaiah and his people are no different here, terrified that Aram and his men would overthrow them and tear the land of Judah apart, and they were tempted to despair.

But the Lord responded in this instance: 

Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail.

The Lord desired Isaiah to remember who was taking care of him, as I am called to do every time I encounter an obstacle that I think I am too little to overcome.

God asks me to keep my courage up, to remain calm in the face of fear.

It’s hard to do, but also comforting to know that He has remained the same in His expectations for thousands of years.

Then, and this is the best part, the Lord delivers a great piece of news to Isaiah.

But within sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation. Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!

Isaiah learns that in 65 years, his enemy will be completely annihilated. No longer a threat, never to terrorize the people of Judah again. The only catch? 65 years is a long time. So the Lord reminds Isaiah to remain firm in his faith, else he will not have the strength to withstand the wait. 

What does this mean for me?

I can’t help but think about my own life and the things I’ve hoped would come to pass. Many hopes have been fleeting over the years, but some dreams have stood the test of time. When I’m tempted to despair, to cower in fear, to think I don’t have what it takes to remain strong and faithful, I hear the Lord saying to me as he said to Isaiah, fear not, remain patient, even now the darkness is being defeated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Velez is from Southern California, born and raised, and a current Cincinnati, Ohio transplant. She has also lived in Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah. A teacher by education, she now works in social services as a client advocate at St. Vincent de Paul. She is a lover of all things beautiful and educational, most especially poetry, the performing arts, and accomplishing her goal of visiting all 50 states (30 more to go!) Three things she is constantly craving: sushi, matcha lattes, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Her writing can also be found on the The Catholic Woman, Lifeteen, and NET ministries blogs.

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