I've been meaning to publish this for over a week. This is the reflection I gave at the monastery for the Feast of St. John the Baptist. I hope you enjoy.
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
I remember when I first started playing the organ. It was a dream come true. When the time finally came that I was able to play for prayer and Mass, I was extremely . . . . scared. I was so scared, I was shaking in my organ shoes. I wasn’t even skilled enough to play the pedals, but I still put on the organ shoes. When I first started playing, Sr. Theresita was right by my side, and we all know that she has great musical ability. I was praying at that time that she also had great scooting ability. In other words, if I panicked in the middle of a song or a mode, I would simply scoot off the bench and she would scoot on in a flawless manner so that no beat was missed. Fortunately, by the grace of God, despite the shaking hands and feet, I survived those early beginnings. After playing one day, Sr. Helen told me I had done a good job. Then she suggested I play louder. My response was, “But people will hear me.”
You can see how scared I was. Fear has a way of getting a hold of us and not letting go. It alters what we think, how we act, and how much we trust in God. We forget to let God be in control and work through us.
Fear is what got Zechariah in the predicament we hear in Luke’s Gospel. If we look back at Luke, chapter 1, verse 6, both Elizabeth and Zechariah “were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” Despite this, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, he was “troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him” (Luke 1:12). He then went on to doubt and question the word of God spoken through the angel, and as a result, became mute.
I’d hate to think that every time I doubted the word of God, I would become mute, but it certainly would be an eye opening and humbling experience. How often do we question our own abilities or life experiences, forgetting that it is God who works through us? It is God who leads and transforms us. How often do we truly let God’s will be done? I usually want to hurry things up, control situations to fit my schedule and change people to fit my comfort level.
Fear is a common reaction to the unknown or the unusual. Zechariah was righteous and holy before God, but he still feared and doubted. The apostles weren’t much better. Jesus was constantly greeting them with “Be not afraid” or “Fear not.”
Fear keeps us from trying new things, sharing ideas, or expressing feelings. We could let fear run our lives or we can be like a feather on the breath of God and trust in God’s plan for us, no matter how outrageous or impossible those plans may seem to us. There is, after all, nothing of which to be afraid. We are constantly reassured through scripture that our God is with us. We have no reason to fear or be troubled if we place everything in God’s hands – our needs, lives, concerns, and futures.
Letting go of fear and trusting fully in God will certainly lead us to places we never expected, stretch us further than we ever thought possible, and ultimately make us happier than we ever imagined.
I never in a million years would have ever thought I’d be a music teacher. I never thought I’d be playing the organ loud enough for people to hear me. And if I gave in to fear, I, like maybe some of you, would not even be here at this monastery.
In today’s Gospel, God took what seemed impossible by human standards and expectations and made it possible. St. Benedict tells us in the prologue, “Do not be daunted by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in this way of life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love” (verses 48-49). When we let go of fear and trust fully in God’s word, what inexpressible delights of love are waiting for us?