If you were to take all the recorded miracles, teachings, words and actions of Jesus and place them end to end spread over 8-hour work-days, they account for just two or three weeks of time.
But we know that Jesus’ ministry on earth was for three years. What was he doing the rest of the time?
This was the time he spent with a very small group, the twelve and perhaps a few others along the way, just living together the ordinary rhythms and routines of life. I imagine that there would have been many slow and relaxed meals, food and drink rich with robust conversation and laughter, mixed up with the usual tensions of life lived among family and friends.
Many of the gospel passages that feature in our liturgy begin with the words “Jesus said to the Twelve.” In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus follows this opening with a reminder that we do not need to fear: “Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: “Do not be afraid.”
In a few seconds of silence every one of us can come up with something(s) that we fear. Perhaps the COVID threat and lockdown has caused home and work tensions and crises? Then there are the constant uncertainties about health, financial and relationship security and our concerns for those we love.
We often blame external events for our fear and this often justified since the things that other people do and say do often cause us fear. But if things and people outside of ourselves are the cause of our fear, we are powerless to change the situation and we are left feeling helpless.
Jesus understands this and gives us a new method for transforming fear.
“Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”
When Jesus acknowledges the reality of fear in our lives, he gives us a way forward: not techniques to change others, but a reminder of the divine gaze of love that changes ourselves. We are loved by God. Prayer is simply practicing our awareness of this love.
When we do this, taking moments as we walk or work, or sitting still and breathing for five minutes two or three times during the day, or when awake during the night, the fears we experience, whatever they are, are transformed by the presence of Jesus with us and the love of Jesus for us.