The Christophers - Be Not Afraid

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.

At the inauguration Mass of his pontificate, Pope St. John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.”

This message of John Paul II echoes the many biblical passages declaring that we must overcome our fears and have faith in the power of God to transform the world. But how often do we shrink from the confidence God calls us to? It is an age-old problem that can be seen throughout the Bible, such as in the story of Daniel, who trembled in fear before a heavenly vision sent by God, until hearing the words, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:13).

We also see Christ on multiple occasions calling His disciples to move beyond their fears in order to follow Him, such as the scene on the Sea of Galilee, when their boat was being tossed about by a storm and Christ came to them, walking on the water. Rather than being relieved to see Him, the disciples’ first reaction was terror, thinking it was a ghost, until Christ said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 22:27).

How many times is our first reaction to God’s call similar to Daniel’s or the disciples’? We need to be reminded to cast our fears aside in order to do God’s will, and one of the best ways to do that is to realize the greater purpose in the good we are called to each day.

In his prayer The Mission of My Life, Saint John Henry Newman reminds us of the unique purpose to which God calls each person. Newman’s prayer acknowledges that this mission can be difficult to understand, especially in times of trial. He eventually concludes, “He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”

It is this confidence in God’s purpose that will help us to overcome our fears even through the most difficult trials so that we might act upon all we know to be good and true. At the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, John Paul II said, “This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it…. Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern metropolis.”

This call to cast off our fears and any sense of shame in the teachings of Christ remains relevant today. The most profound aspects of Christ’s teachings remain counter-cultural, yet we are called to bring those teachings into the public square and every aspect of life in order to extend the hope of the Gospel to all who are in need. In the most challenging situations, fear will be a natural emotion. But we must trust in Christ and step out of our comfort zones. When we do that, He will lead us out of fear to the realization of a purpose and to lasting glory.

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