“Do Not Be Afraid”

Deacon Greg Maskarinec’s Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I have a confession to make.  When people ask me about the call to become a permanent deacon, I usually don’t tell  hem the whole story.  I do tell them that it was about 20 years from my first thoughts about becoming a deacon until the time I entered formation.  What I don’t tell people is why it took 20 years for me to decide to enter into the diaconate program.  One of the main reasons…I was afraid.  You see, as a lector I was always nervous.  So when the question of becoming a deacon arose so did thoughts of having to get up in front of the entire church…to chant…to proclaim the Gospel…to peach!  For someone who was nervous lecturing the thought of chanting and preaching was terrifying! I was familiar with many of the Scripture passages that encourage us not to be afraid.  But to be honest I was doubtful.  would God delivery me from my fears?  I entered formation, not sure that God was calling me to be a Deacon and fearful of what being a deacon required of me.  And so, whenever that fear arose within me I talked to God about it…”God, if you’re calling me to be a deacon, you have to take this fear away and help me to trust in you.”  By the time I was ordained and preached for the first time much of my fear had disappeared…I was more at ease preaching than I was when I lectured in the past.  Don’t get me wrong…it’s not like I never get a little nervous.  But it didn’t paralyze me as I had thought it would.  When I mentioned t0 my wife how surprised I was that I didn’t feel so nervous, she looked at me as said, “Greg, it’s called “grace”!  Yes…grace…the help that God gives us to respond to His call.

In the context of today’s readings and my own experience, I’d like to offer 3 points for consideration.  First, God call us to do great things….nothing short of walking on water…and He equips us with what we need to accomplish it!  In the sacraments o Baptism and Confirmation God blesses us with spiritual gifts called charisms which are to be used to help Him build up His Church.  God also offers us the grace to respond to his call, but He will not force it upon us.  We accept God’s gift by our free response.  It has been said that we won’t be truly happy until we discover our spiritual gifts and put them to use.  That certainly has been my experience. Being ordained a deacon has brought great happiness and fulfillment to my life…ranking up there with being married and fatherhood.  God has a plan for you too.  Hospitality, teaching, intercessory prayer, craftsmanship, music…these are some of the gifts that God may have given you.  And it’s only in using those gifts for God’s glory will you find true happiness.

Second, make it a habit of calling out to God in prayer.  When we find ourselves in the midst of life’s difficulties…we should call out to the Father to deliver us.  Just as Peter does in today’s Gospel as the winds swirl about him and he sinks into the water fearing for his life.  But God is also available to us in the quietness of life.  Consider Elijah in our first reading…He does not find God in the earthquake or in the fire, but in the silence that f0llows.  And so we should carve out silent time for conversation with God asking him…God, what great work are you calling me to?  What gifts have you given me to help build up your Church?  My own experience has been that prayer is an indispensable part of everyday life.  Calling out to God to deliver me from my fears and anxieties.  Calling out to God in the quietness of life to discern the spiritual gifts He has given me.  Go to God in prayer and ask him what gifts He’s given you.  You’ll never become the person God intended you to become without talking to him about it.

Finally, when God calls you to do great things…”do not be afraid”.  The fear that we’re talking about isn’t the fear of watching a scary movie or the fear of zip lining.   The fear that we’re talking about is the anxiety of doing whatever it might be that will bring us into a deeper relationship with God and others.  The fear of stepping out onto the water when God calls us to do so.  The fear of placing our trust in God…doubting that he will protect us and provide for us.  My sisters and brothers, the fear that prevents us form trusting in the Lord and His word is a lack of faith.  Faith is the virtue by which we believe in God and Believe all that he has said and revealed to us because God is truth itself.  The fears that prevented me from responding “yes” to God’s call to the diaconate stemmed from a lack of.   Faith is the virtue by which we believe in God and  believe all that he has said and revealed to us because God is truth itself.  The fears that prevented me from responding “yes’ to God’s call to the diaconate stemmed from a lack of faith…a doubt that God would provide me with the spiritual gifts necessary to carry out His will in my life.  Have you ever thought that God might be calling you to do this or that, but you’re afraid?  Earlier this summer over 20 parishioners from our parish attended a workshop entitled “Called and Gifted”.  Many of them faced their fears and set out on a process of deeper discernment by experimenting with and putting some of their spiritual gifts into action.  Please pray for them and if you’d like to be part of a similar activity in the future stay turned to the bulletin.

In closing, be who God meant you to be…and you will walk on water.  God calls you to do great things and He blesses you with what you need to accomplish it.  Through prayer, seek to know the greatness He call you to and what gifts He has graced you with.  Don’t be afraid to use these gifts in service of Christ and His Church.  If you do these things you might not literally walk on water, but…You will experience true happiness, and…You will be instrumental in helping Jesus save the world.

Go forth…and do not be afraid!