I noticed the toddler strut through the pool gate, ahead of his mother. They found a spot for their belongings and entered the pool. He was quite excited to be in the water – as long as mom was holding him and he could hold his mom. He laughed as he splashed his one free hand, gave great big grins as his mom gently bounced him up and down, and smiled at the other kids swimming around him.
At one point, his mom tried to place him in a pool float. He wasn’t too sure about this. I could see his chubby little fingers digging into his mom’s strong arms as she lifted him up and tried to place him in the float on the water. His whole body tensed up, he clung to her shoulder with one hand and her suit with the other, his smile disappeared, and fear took over.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is following up his mission to send the Apostles out into Israel with some instructions – and some fairly intense warnings. They will preach the Gospel, they will speak the truth of the Father – and they will be persecuted for it.
Persecution and suffering cannot be avoided. Suffering is part of the human condition. We endure suffering to become mothers. We care for helpless infants while being starved of sleep and routine. We see our kids suffer illness and help them through it. We watch kids go away to college or to work in a different place, leaving siblings and the familiar safety of home behind. And we may observe them make poor choices and suffer the consequences.
But our suffering will not last forever. God reminds us that through it all, he is still in charge and he will not abandon us. As Jeremiah states in today’s first reading, The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.(Jer 20:11). Even in the midst of his crisis, Jeremiah was confident the Lord would be there to protect him.
In his message to his Apostles today, Jesus tells them, Do not be afraid. Not once, but THREE times. He is reminding them to put their complete trust in him. Trust is the opposite of fear. He is asking them to surrender to his plans. True surrender doesn’t mean giving up, it means to submit to authority. He is letting them know that he is in control.
And Jesus goes one step further. He tells the Apostles, ‘All the hairs of your head are counted’ (Mt 10:30), and ‘You are worth more than many sparrows’ (Mt 10:31). He is conveying that he has an intimate knowledge of them as individuals and of the events in their lives. Our individual sufferings and joys will vary, but God knows all of them. Among the billions of people in the world, he knows your needs and your desires. You are in his care.
The mom at the pool calmly held her toddler as she adjusted him and the float, and kept repeating, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you.” Eventually, he relinquished his tight grip on his mom and happily sat in the float. Trust in his mom conquered his fear of letting go.
Like the toddler in the pool, we need to let go of the safety and control we imagine we have. We need to unclench our fists from what is comfortable and familiar, and surrender our will so that God can place us where we need to be. Resignation to the Divine Will is one of the hardest virtues to practice. It won’t always be easy – Jesus has warned us of that – but be not afraid! The reward for resignation, surrender, and trust in God is worth it.
He’s got you!