Fr. Michael Schleupner offers today’s spiritual post. Let’s take a quiet moment to reflect on these wise words…
About twenty-five years ago, I had an injury to my neck and my doctor sent me for an MRI.
I was afraid and dreading this – having to lie down motionless in that narrow, enclosed tube. As soon as I got in there, I felt a bit claustrophobic and I quickly decided to do two things: keep my eyes closed and pray the rosary – I used my fingers to count the Hail Mary’s.
The MRI lasted about thirty minutes. The prayer helped me to deal with my fear of being in such a closed space.
I am sure that many of you have had MRIs and you know what I am talking about. And, of course, besides this fear of closed spaces, there are other fears that we may have: like right now, the fear of getting infected with the coronavirus; or the fear of confronting a problem with your spouse; or the fear of losing your job.
My bet is that all of us have some fears. We all have something that we are afraid of.
Have No Fear
Now, in today’s gospel, Jesus tells us three times not to be afraid.
Jesus is very aware of the many challenges and struggles that we will have to face. But still, he repeatedly says, “Do not be afraid.”
Well, the simple truth is that at times, we do have fears and we are afraid. We can try to deny or repress our fear and pretend that it isn’t there, but we all know that this doesn’t really work.
So, what can we do? Jesus teaches us how to approach this.
He first says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowing about it.” The Greek word for “fall to the ground” really means to “alight” or “lights upon the ground.”
So amazingly, Jesus is saying that every time even one little sparrow just touches the ground lightly, the heavenly Father notices. And God does this even though sparrows are so numerous and of little monetary value.
And then Jesus says, “Even the hairs on your head are all counted.” Obviously, that requires a little more work from God for some of us guys than it does for others!
But Jesus’ point with these two images is that God is always watching over and caring for us. And so, we need to turn to God in the midst of our fear.
Our fear will probably not go away. But faith and prayer will help us to deal with it and do what we have to do or what God wants us to do in a particular situation.
Fear Kills/Faith Gives Life
Some years ago, I came across a book entitled A Sense of Self by Howard Thurman.
Thurman tells what he calls a folk tale. According to this folk tale, in late summer a rattlesnake sheds its old skin and a new skin takes its place.
During this time, the snake remains basically immobile and blind, but at the slightest movement near it, it tries to strike out. And if some object touches its body, the snake in its fear strikes the spot that was touched.
But when it does this, it releases into its own body the deadly poison from its fangs. So, in its fear and panic, the snake destroys itself.
This folk tale helps us to see the contrast between fear and faith, or more precisely, between fear and fear with faith. It helps us to realize that fear destroys life, while faith gives life.
Fear diminishes us as persons, while faith frees us to become all that we can be. And perhaps most important of all, fear removes hope, while faith gives us hope.
So, when you get down to the bottom of things, it is not really a question of fear or faith. Rather, it is a question of bringing faith to our fear.
That, I believe, is what Jesus means when he repeatedly says, “Do not be afraid.”
~Fr. Michael Schleupner.
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