June 21, 2023 at 9:54 a.m.

Be not afraid!

It takes courage to tell others the truth; it takes patience to wait for your words to be accepted by those who they are meant for.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Father Anthony Ligato | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Be not afraid! Those were the words that Pope St. John Paul II spoke as he began his papacy. 

“When, on Oct. 22, 1978, I said the words ‘Be not afraid!’ in St. Peter’s Square, I could not fully know how far they would take me and the entire Church. Their meaning came more from the Holy Spirit, the Consoler, promised by the Lord Jesus to His disciples, than from the man who spoke to them. Nevertheless, with the passing of the years, I have recalled these words on many occasions. ... Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. ... The power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear.” (“Crossing the Threshold of Hope,” 1995)

Fear is a powerful emotion that can overtake all other emotions causing them to become irrelevant, but fear can never overtake love. We are living in fearful and difficult times in this post-pandemic era, caused by the lingering effects of not only the virus but also inflation and other economic concerns, as well as gun violence, civil unrest and general uncertainty about the future, which causes fear and anxiety in many people. The uncertainty of the times we live in and the fear and unrest caused by these times cannot overpower the love of Jesus. 

The scriptures for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time provide us with two great truths that Jesus gave to his disciples to help them overcome fear and anxiety. These two great truths are that we are greatly loved by our God who created us. “Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid.” (Mt. 10:31) We are a precious gift in the sight of God. The God who created us is the God who sustains us through these uncertain times. The Christian need not be afraid for we live in the knowledge that we are greatly loved. The second great truth Jesus shared with his disciples is that the Lord always hears those who cry out to him, and he will never turn away from those who are in need. Psalm 69 speaks to this great truth, “Lord in your great love, answer me!” Knowing that the Lord hears those who cry out for help fills us with courage and hope to face the uncertainty of these times.

The uncertainty that we all live with can have an outward effect on our behavior, such as not sleeping well or overeating or not eating at all. We may find ourselves falling back into unhealthy habits and our emotional health may be affected by these turbulent times as well. We may find ourselves short-tempered with the people who love us most and maybe even with the Lord himself. We may be anxious about what is going to occur next. Just turning on the news elicits many different emotions in us, from fear and anxiety to frustration and anger.

How then do we overcome fear? With virtue! More specifically the virtues of courage, justice, patience and fortitude. Jesus speaks about these virtues in Matthew 10:26-33, “Jesus said to the Twelve; Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetop.” Courage is needed to face these troubling times. That courage comes from God who loves us and consoles us. Jesus is the exemplification of courage on the cross.

This uncertain time of violence and civil unrest cries out for justice, and that justice is from God who loves us and calls us to not be afraid of the truth. The quest for God’s truth requires patience and patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Patience is so powerful and the one who has patience will wait on the Lord to reveal all that is true, even if that waiting causes us to suffer. Fortitude is one of the four cardinal virtues, which speaks of a reasonable willingness to protect and lead others by doing what others are unwilling to do. The prophet Jeremiah did just that by going to deliver a message to his beloved hometown of Jerusalem, “In their failure they will be put to utter shame.” (Jeremiah 20:10-13)

It takes courage to tell others the truth; it takes patience to wait for your words to be accepted by those who they are meant for. And it takes fortitude when we are seeking God’s justice. If we fear, we are not trusting in Jesus. To fear means to lack faith, so if we have faith, we trust in Jesus, so what are we afraid of? Just as Pope St. John Paul II said when his papacy began, be not afraid, let us cry out to all the world, be not afraid!


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