I spent almost the whole day yesterday biking up to Lomondao and back. It was scary coming back, especially while descending rapidly on the wet road. It was drizzling. I still remember the crashes in Cateel mountains last month on the penultimate day of my bike-tour for peace.
While biking for seven hours I spent some time reflecting on the gospel and the homily that I will give in my BEC mass in Sto. Rosario last night and in the parish church this morning.
This is the content of my homily, based on Matthew 10:26-33 - "Do not be afraid"
Have you ever been afraid? What are you afraid of?
I have felt fear a number of times in my life.
Thirty-five years ago, one year after martial law was declared, I was picked up by military intelligence agents and underwent interrogation and torture. I was so afraid that they would kill me and dump my body on a deserted highway.
Twenty years ago, I was filled with fear when, together with the people of San Fernando, we formed a human barricade and faced the logging trucks and the military men who were fully armed.
Last summer, during my bike-tour around the Philippines, I was occasionally filled with fear.
I was afraid that I could have a heart attack since I was diagnosed of having myorcardial ischemia and atherosclerosis a year ago.
While biking alone across the Cordillera mountains I was also afraid. I knew that it was a dangerous place especially in Abra and Kalinga where there were inter-tribal violence and where armed encounters between the NPA and the military had been taking place. Some villagers warned me to avoid Lubuagan where a priest had been shot to death while celebrating the Eucharist the previous year.
During the penultimate day of my bike-tour, while biking across the Cateel mountains on my way to Compostela, I was again seized with fear as I went through the area where I saw fully armed men along the way and helicopters hovering over me. I crashed twice while descending on the steep and rocky roads.
What was I afraid of? I was afraid that I would die. Yet, in spite of the fear, I continued to carry out my mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life and peace.
What helped me overcome my fear?
The awareness that I was not alone - there was Someone who was accompanying me in my journey and in whom I put my trust.
I was also aware that if I die, death would not be the end but a transition to another mode of existence.
In our Gospel today Jesus tells his disciples not to be afraid.
Jesus was anticipating that a time will come when his disciples would be persecuted like him.
Why should they not be afraid?
Because death could not completely annihilate them and that there is a God who lovingly takes care of them.
He tells his disciples that even in face of death, they should continue to fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the Good News to others and to give witness to it.
We all have our own fears. We are afraid of so many things. We are afraid of suffering, sickness and especially of death.
If we allow our fears to rule over us, then we won't be able to carry out the mission that Christ has entrusted to us. We won't be able to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel - the Kingdom message of salvation and liberation and fullness of life. We won't be able to denounce the evil in our midst - the culture of violence, corruption, injustice, the destruction of the environment.
We won't be able to transform society and work for peace and peace, and defend the environment. We won't be able to do good and avoid evil.
Everytime we are filled with fear, let us remember always Christ's words: "Do not be afraid."
Courage does not mean the absence of fear, it means embracing our fear, overcoming it and carrying out our mission.