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July 15, 2017 - Your Worst Case Scenario

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Scripture Readings

Reflecting on today's readings, I found myself focusing on one common theme: fear.  If we had to be honest with ourselves, all of us are probably afraid of something.  Perhaps take a moment to reflect on what you're most afraid of.  Or, in the words of one of my favorite Catholic speakers, Ennie Hickman, what's your worst case scenario?  Since the time we were kids trying to determine if we should climb the tallest tree in the neighborhood or ask a certain girl or guy to the school dance, we begin our discernment by thinking to ourselves, "What's the worst thing that could happen?"  Maybe we fall from the tree and break our arm.  Maybe she says, "No."  Sometimes our fears are unfounded, but often we do have legitimate fears and concerns.  My worst case scenario is easy to pinpoint- losing my wife and son.  There's a legitimate fear that I have in my worst case scenario.  Initially, it can be somewhat crippling to think about, but there's also a great sense of freedom and peace in bringing my worst case scenario to God (and hopefully that's your experience as well).

In today's first reading from Genesis, Joseph's brothers were afraid that Joseph would enact revenge upon them after Jacob's death.  In that situation their worst case scenario was clear: "Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!" (Gn. 50:15)  However, this worst case scenario is never realized and the situation resolves itself in a beautiful portrait of reconciliation.  In today's Gospel, Jesus refocuses the worst case scenario of the disciples away from temporal pain and bodily death.  Jesus says, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna."  In this way, Jesus puts Himself in the midst of the many fears we experience in this life and refocuses them in the context of eternity.  Jesus reminds us that the actual worst case scenario is losing our relationship with God and neglecting His steadfast love- the love that propels us to think, talk, and act like Jesus.

Even with a refocused worst case scenario, it's difficult for us to simply turn off the other various fears that we have in this life.  As I mentioned before, many of these fears are even legitimate.  So where do we find the necessary courage and peace?  Twice in today's Gospel we hear the words of Jesus say "do not be afraid."  Speaking for myself, sometimes these words are somewhat difficult to process and I find that my fears remain upon hearing them.  "Do not be afraid."  Obviously it's not as easy as just saying, "Okay."  However, I think about the experiences of my eight-month-old son when he gets scared in the middle of the night.  Sometimes I'll rush in and try to whisper something comforting, like "It's okay buddy.  Don't be afraid."  At his young age, he can't comprehend what my words mean, but he calms down nevertheless.  Why is that?  Well, it's the realization that I haven't left his side that means the most to him in his moment of fear.  Simply put, he wants my presence.  I find this to be so true of my own experiences of fear because it is foremost in my realization that God has not left my side in which I find my courage and peace. 

On July 13, 2013, God has not existed His throne.  Therefore, regardless of our respective worst case scenarios and the fears that we experience in this life, God is with us!  Today, may we pray for an increase in the virtue of fortitude and look for opportunities to be the presence of God to those who are in fear and those who may be in the very middle of their worst case scenario.  Amen.

Ryan J. Mahle