St Kateri Tekakwitha was an Algonquin-Mohawk lay woman who lived from 1656-April 17, 1680. She was around 24 years old when she died. She contacted smallpox during an epidemic that killed her family and scarred her face and damaged her eyesight. The name Tekakwitha means someone who bumps into things probably given due to her damaged eyesight which caused her to bump into things when she was young. Her tribe probably cared for her when her parents died. She was set up to be married but she ran away from it and decided to convert to Christianity and was baptized when she was 19 years old. When her tribe opposed her conversion, she was advised by a Catholic priest to move to a village where native converts to Catholicism lived. There, she learned more about Catholicism and when the single women learned about religious sisters, they formed an informal association of consecrated women. She is noted to have said I have deliberated enough. For a long time, my decision on what I will do has been made. I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary, I have chosen Him for husband, and He alone will take me for wife. She knew who she loved and she surrendered herself to him. 1 John 4:19 tells us: let us therefore love God because God loved us first. This is the message the Catholic Church is called to preach.
The First Reading shows the young Christian community growing and the widows of Greek speaking Jews were being neglected in the service of food. The Apostles resolved this by telling the Greek speaking Jews to appoint seven men to look after their material needs while they devote themselves to prayer and to serving the word. The Apostles understood that the primary purpose of the Church is to serve the Word. They cannot sacrifice the serving of the Word for the sake of serving the poor. Jesus said in Luke 4:43 To the other cities I must preach the kingdom of God for therefore I was sent. If Jesus MUST preach the kingdom of God then his Church must also preach the kingdom of God.
In his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict said Jesus is the Kingdom of God. If the Church is to preach the Kingdom of God, she must preach her Lord and Master and call people to believe in him, so they may have eternal life. Jesus has to be preached because Jesus is all that matters in life.
In the Gospel, the disciples were terrified as they saw Jesus walking towards them. Jesus said It is I; do not be afraid. The literal translation of this is I am; fear not. Jesus is telling them I am God! Fear not!
Life is difficult, especially now, there are many uncertainties. This pandemic has caused many to lose their lives, their jobs, their physical and emotional health, their friends and loved ones. In these situations, fear is a normal response. When we are infected by the virus, when we are prevented from worshiping our God, when we do everything and nothing happens, when we are tossed around by circumstances beyond our control, when things do not make sense and when we are lost, this is when we listen to what Jesus says: I am, fear not!
The disciples wanted to take Jesus into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. This is what we need to do when we are afraid: accept Jesus as he is, not according to our imagination but as he reveals himself. 1 John 4:18 tells us love casts out fear. When we accept Jesus as he is we have the love that drives out fear. Just as St Kateri’s love for Jesus drove out the fear of uncertainties in her life, we are also called love Jesus so we can surrender our lives to him.
As we continue in this mass, we offer the Lord all the fears we have: the fear of dying, of being infected by the virus, of not having enough to pay our bills, of the uncertainties of the future, of being in situations beyond our control. In the midst of all these, we hear Jesus say: I am, fear not! The Psalm today tells us: truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. If we need to fear, we fear the Lord, meaning we trust him, we let him take charge of our lives because his eyes are on us and he will deliver us from death and keep us alive in famine. Why should we be afraid of what surrounds us when the Lord of heaven and earth is in our midst? Jesus calls us now to fear him, believe him, trust him, love him and allow him to do great things for us in his name. The safest place to be is in the hands of the Lord. We are safe. There is nothing to fear, it is the Lord.