I suspect everyone reading this knows that the Risen Jesus’ appearances typically only engendered one response: fear. He spent most of his first moments after reuniting with his people telling them, “Don’t be afraid.” (John, who was honest enough to express doubts about the possibility of resurrection, got calming words but not that same “chill out” line.)
We live in a time of fear. Recently a dear saint asked me to close a Zoom meeting of her church’s council in prayer and to remember “all the things that we are frightened of.” That started a few folks naming their fears and the list was large and long!
But I couldn’t say I don’t get it.
When Jesus met frightened people he may have said “Don’t be afraid, “but he never told them they were weak or wrong for being scared. That might be the first thing for us to remember. I remember being taught as a boy that courage is doing what you know is right even when you are scared.
Next, Jesus showed us how to deal with your fears. He generally asked folks to do something: John, put your hand in my side;” “Go tell the disciples;” “Feed my sheep;” “Go and tell.” In the middle of our fears we should remember that we do have the power to act for others and for ourselves. And when we act we are invariably less afraid.
And Jesus pointed frightened people to the power of God. That’s what Easter is about. Easter tells us that God’s power is firmly directed to our good. We may feel afraid but our fear is not the last word. God’s action for us is.
In the coming weeks, just as in the past 2 months, we will have occasion to help frightened people. That is the work of the Church at all times, but especially now it seems to me. May we do so in the Spirit of Jesus who said, “Do not be afraid.” Thanks be to God!
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