Tuesday, June 23, 2015

BE NOT AFRAID. (Don't read if not suffering)

Boy, at this moment in my life is the following ever music to my ears:


Although the readings in the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form this Sunday are different from each other, they both touch on a similar theme: Jesus scolds His followers for being afraid and for not trusting in His Power.

Jesus says, “cast your nets”, but Peter protests. We’ve labored all night. We did this and we did that and nothing has happened. It was only when they did as the Lord had commanded them to do that they made their catch.

The problem with us is that we always think we know better than God. If things don’t go the way that we think they should go, God is obviously making a mistake or He’s powerless.
This can especially be a temptation for us whenever we think about all of the suffering and evil that happens in the world. We know that there are a lot of bad things going on in the world today. Maybe we’re even struggling with some trials in our own lives. The temptation is to ask, “Where is God?” Why doesn’t He care? Doesn’t He care that there is violence? Doesn’t He care that there is terrorism? Doesn’t He care about what is happening to marriage and the family? Doesn’t He care that I’m sick or someone that I love is sick? Doesn’t He care that my children have fallen away from the faith? Doesn’t He care that there are so many who are poor and suffering?
Jesus, of course, does care, and He rebukes His followers of not having faith in Him. But not only that: He rebukes them for being afraid. You see, where there is no faith, there is fear. And where there is fear, there is an easy target for the devil. Show me a disciple who is afraid, and I’ll show you a disciple who is ineffective.

Now, fear is a natural reaction. It’s understandable that there is some reluctance on Peter’s part when Jesus ask Him to cast his nets once again. But this wasn’t the only time that Peter and the other Apostles lacked in trust despite seeing the miracles and healings that Jesus performed. And so Jesus admonishes them because of it. If you believed in me and really knew who I am, you would have faith in me, and if you had faith in me, you would not be afraid.

Fear, as I said, is a natural human emotion. It’s a natural reaction to danger. Often times, it might prevent us from being reckless in the face of a real danger. Where fear becomes a problem is when it paralyzes us or when it robs us of joy, which often happens when we don’t trust in God. In our own lives, no matter what our vocation might be, whether we are a priest, or nun, or married person, or consecrated person, there will be trials and even the occasional crisis. God never said that following Him would guarantee a life of smooth sailing. But when these trials come up in our own personal life, when the world around us seems to be falling apart, this is not because God is asleep at the wheel. It is not because God doesn’t care. It is not because God is powerless or incompetent. Often times, these difficulties are nothing more than tests – opportunities to make the right choice. Opportunities to persevere and not take the easy way out.
So understanding this helps us when we’re trying to deal with the problem of suffering and evil either in the world or in our own lives. Suffering and evil are not good things, of course. But they test our faith. They test our willingness to persevere. And if we approach it in the right way, it can actually strengthen our faith and increase our joy.
When we find ourselves afraid or lacking in faith, a good thing to do is to pray for the virtue of fortitude. Fortitude is one of the cardinal virtues. It is the virtue that allows us to stand firm in the face of difficulties. It strengthens our resolve to resist temptation. The Catechism tells us that fortitude “enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause.”[1]The fortitude of the martyrs was off the charts. I love the story of St. Lawrence. Legend has it that he was literally grilled to death. And as he was lying on the gridiron, his flesh roasting, he said, “turn me over, I’m done on this side”.

Why do we want to overcome fear? Because we want to be joyful. Pope Francis said that Christian communities become “sick” when they live in fear and fail to be joyful – even when times are difficult. This applies to individuals as well. He said,
“A Christian without joy is not Christian. A Christian who continually lives in sadness is not Christian. And a Christian who, in the moment of trial, of illness, of so many difficulties, loses peace – something is lacking in him.” What is lacking is an understanding of who Jesus is and what His messages say to us.
Why do we want to overcome fear? Because we want to be effective disciples. The Apostles would never be effective fishers of men as long as they continued to be burdened by fear or a lack of trust.

Again, Pope Francis says, “Do not be afraid. Ask for the grace of courage” so that when time seem to be tough, we can remain joyful knowing that the Lord is near.