Be not afraid. My Pastor said this many times during his homily at Midnight Mass this year. He was quoting Pope John Paul II who said that to the Church a lot as Jesus did. Why do we need the reminder? What are we so afraid of?
We are afraid of Love. We all know if we love, we will suffer for it. God is love, and He knew that when He created us it would mean that His Son Jesus would suffer. But He was not afraid because His love is perfect and perfect love casts out all fear.
We do not love perfectly. We know that we will let others down and be let down by others, and so we fear love. We know we will let God down, or have let God down, so we hide from him just as Adam and Eve hid from Him in the garden. It’s an old story, yet it plays out in our lives every single day.
First, there’s the voice tempting us to do something and telling us that it’s no big deal, that God is a tyrant who doesn’t want us to have any fun. When that doesn’t work then the temptation is to take advantage of God’s mercy and do it anyway because we know He will forgive us, He knows that we are fallen, He won’t condemn us. We should not feel guilty because Jesus said that He came so that we would be happy right? All of that plays on our fears of not being good enough, of never being good enough so what is the use in trying.
Jesus said that to love Him is to keep His commandments, and we all know that means repentance. We can’t repent from things that we do not acknowledge are wrong to begin with, and guilt is the alarm that tells us when things are wrong. It is much easier to avoid all of that mess and just believe that Jesus doesn’t want us to feel guilt at all. Then we can settle with the belief that He expects nothing from us except what we are willing to give Him. And then we give Him what we want, what doesn’t hurt, and we end up worshipping ourselves and not Jesus at all. We preach a false gospel full of motivational speeches but void of anything that looks like repentance and the promise of hell for those who would rather go there than die to themselves—those who are too scared to love.
Love is not giving someone everything he or she wants. Love is dying to ourselves and giving everything of ourselves to the service of others, first and foremost to God who knows exactly what He wants us to do and gave us the gifts we need to do it. He doesn’t ask anything of us that He doesn’t already know we can accomplish if we would just get up and do it, even if it seems crazy. God is crazy. Love is crazy.
Love does not ask the cost, love just jumps in. Love says yes even when it does not understand or know what is to come.
Jesus was born in a manger and God put Himself and His safety in the hands of human beings by becoming a human baby. Every Mass He becomes present in the Eucharist and puts Himself in the hands and tongues of humans. He is not afraid. He knows what it will cost Him, and He does it anyway, because He loves us, because we need mercy and we need forgiveness. We need to forgive and be forgiven. We need mercy and we need to be merciful. Every time that we forgive and extend mercy is one more time that we die to ourselves a little more.
Forgiveness, mercy, and suffering are all a part of love, not just pleasure. That is not love; that is a cheap imitation of love.
Every time that we hear “Be Not Afraid” from our God, our Lord, our Pope, or our Pastor, what we are really hearing is God saying: “Be mine, Love me and let Me love you back. I have great plans for you. Trust in Me. Be not afraid. I will not let anything happen to you.” The question is will we, like our Mother Mary, say “yes” or will we let fear win and eat the fruit.