Don’t be afraid. This is a refrain we hear over and over again in scripture.
When an angel of the Lord appears to you so glorious you think you will die, don’t be afraid.
When the Egyptian armies have you trapped in a corner, don’t be afraid.
When the nearby nations are hatefully allied against you, don’t be afraid.
When famine and drought threaten, don’t be afraid.
When plague and pestilence sweep through the population, don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid. This is the word of the Lord to his people over and over again. Jesus repeated it countless times. When your boat is about to sink, Don’t be afraid. When you are arrested and put on trial, don’t be afraid. When you come face to face with the risen Messiah, don’t be afraid.
And this isn’t because we as Christians have some kind of guarantee that we won’t suffer, be heartbroken and die in this life. We will, just like everybody else. In fact, in many times and in many places Christians suffer terribly precisely because they are Christians.
Nonetheless, don’t be afraid.
Because by faith and baptism we have been united with our Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ. With him we have already passed from death to life.
Nourished by his living Body and Blood, we already share his eternal life. Through his sacrifice on the cross and entrusting ourselves to him, we have already passed through the judgment.
Does this mean that we don’t care about this life, for ourselves and for others? Of course not. Precisely because Christians can be fearless, Christians have passionately cared for the poor and sick, built hospitals, developed scientific medicine and in countless other ways have contributed to making life in this world healthier, freer and more prosperous.
Yet we also know that we are mortal, and to dust we shall return. Sooner or later this comes to us all. Yet we know, as Paul writes, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. So don’t be afraid.
At times like this when people are getting sick and dying from a new virulent virus, when the stock market crashes and our family members are trapped abroad, we find we are afraid and being told not to be doesn’t solve the problem.
What we do with that?
Well, partly, don’t worry about it. We are worrying about enough already. We are works in progress. We are still learning and growing in our trust in God. We aren’t perfect at it yet.
We can pray, “Lord, I am afraid. Help me to trust in you completely.”
We may also recognize that although we do believe in, trust in, God through Jesus Christ, we believe and trust in a lot of other things as well. We may find that we in fact have many gods in which we put our trust and that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is only one of them and maybe not the not the top one.
This is one way that God works for good in crises like these. He brings us face to face with the ultimate reality that everything and everyone will let us down if placed in God’s spot. Only God himself is completely trustworthy both here and hereafter. We may need to confess that we have put family, nation, science, wealth before him and answer that baptismal question again – or even for the first time –
Do you, really, put your whole trust in Christ’s faith and love? Do I? Do you?
Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord? Do I? Do you?
If your answer is a first time YES or a renewed YES, you can pray this prayer silently with me.
Lord God, Please forgive me for all the things I have done wrong.
I turn to you and turn away from sin.
[Pause. Silently ask forgiveness for anything you know is keeping you from God.]
Jesus, please be the center of my life. I welcome you personally as Lord and Savior of my life.
I ask you, Holy Spirit, to fill me and empower me
to live as a child of God.
I want to have your grace to truly live a new life.
Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The blind man in today’s Gospel (John 9) represents us all. On our own we cannot see reality clearly. When Christ opens his eyes, his world is transformed but it is also made more challenging and dangerous as he comes to the attention of the authorities. Despite their pressure, he testifies, he tells the truth, about what God has done for him through Jesus, even though at this point he wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he saw him in the street.
When Jesus reveals himself to him and asks him, “Do you believe?” he answers him, “Lord, I believe,” and he worships him.
We do not take lightly the challenges of this world but we know we are citizens of God’s greater world so we are not afraid. We live confidently, trusting the one who lived and died and rose again for us.
As St. Paul urges, We live as children of light.
So, again as Paul says,
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.