One of the most famous statements concerning fear is the message President Franklin Roosevelt gave the nation in 1933, when the country was struggling with the Great Depression. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Those words came from a man in a wheelchair.
Fear is that invisible but tangible place where the frightened hide.where growth is stunted.where hope withers and freedom dies.
There are a multitude of fears that can plague us. Fear of the unknown, fear of the dark, fear of intimacy, fear of growing old.
One of the most crippling fears is the fear of criticism. We are afraid to speak out because someone might not like us for what we say, even reject us, or humiliate us. The fear of being unpopular, or being labeled "old fashioned" or "out of touch" may sometimes win over the desire to do or say the right thing.
And then there is the crippling fear of failure. What if Michelangelo feared failure? I think it was Neal Simon who said, "If no one took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor."
The Russian philosopher, Nicolas Berdyaev said, "Fear is never a good counselor, and victory over fear is the first spiritual duty of a person."
How is fear conquered? I like these words of Sigmund Freud. He said, "How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved." Sure of being loved.
What kind of love?
-- Love that is unconditional acceptance.
-- Love that is affirmation and praise.
-- Love that is an understanding of the good intentions of another.
-- Love that is a patient waiting as another struggles to grow.
-- Love that is a belief in the basic goodness of another even when they do wrong.
That's the kind of love I remember from my father. And it sure came in handy when I was facing fearful situation. I continue to give thanks to God for my deceased father.
In the book of Jeremiah, we find the prophet facing death. (Jer 20:10-13) His message was unpopular. His call to repentance went unheeded. His warnings were ignored. Even when the King's ministers threw him into a pit and left him to die there of starvation, Jeremiah remained fearless, encouraged by the certainty of God's love.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tries to assure his followers of God's love. "Every hair of your head has been counted." (Matt 10:26-33) God is very attentive to every detail about your life. If God takes care of sparrows, how much more his people. Jesus says we are "worth more than an entire flock of sparrows."
It took Jesus death and resurrection, his ascending and sending the Spirit before the Apostles really grasped the length and height and depth of God's love. But grasp it they did. They become bold, fearless, and most of them faced death, martyrdom for the faith.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read, "When they saw the boldness of Peter and James and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered: and they recognized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
Maybe you wear a cross or medal around your neck like I do, or carry a rosary. Maybe you have a bible at home or a statue in your bedroom. All very good. But when it comes time for our final accounting, the Lord is not going to ask "Where are your religious articles. He is going to ask, "Where are your scars?" Because.
-- If you stand up for truth and justice, you may get laughed at.
-- If you stand up for the environment, you may lose your job.
-- If you stand up for the rights of the unborn, you may be voted out of office.
-- If you stand up for moral values in entertainment, you may be ridiculed.
-- If you stand up for the rights of minorities, you may be rejected and misunderstood.
-- If you work for peace, we may be called a coward
-- If you proclaim your faith, you may be martyred.
Yes, to follow Jesus will bring scars. But once we realize that we are loved by God, we have nothing to fear, not even scars. Then we are free, free to be brave like Veronica and Simon of Cyrene along the way to Calvary and, like Mary, at the foot of the cross.
What are your fears? Jesus' words and actions assure us, "Do not be afraid. You are totally, unconditionally, forever loved. I will always be with you."