Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jesus Defuses Fear

February 6, 2015
Friday of week 4 in Ordinary Time
(Saints Paul Miki and his Companions, Martyrs)

Jesus Defuses Fear
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?

Human living depends on being motivated by both the carrot and the stick. Divine living focuses us on who is holding them. Jesus makes it clear to us who that is.

The “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:23, cited at the beginning of Mass) is the “favor of sharing in the divine life of God.” Grace comes from all Three Persons, through the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, but we “attribute” (associate) our sharing in God’s act of Being to the Father; our sharing in God’s act of Knowing to the Son (as “Word” of God), and our sharing in God’s act of Loving to the Holy Spirit. In terms of practical activity, we see “divine life” as using the three divine gifts of faith, hope and love, by which we share in what God knows, in what he intends or promises, and in what he gives himself to and desires. They are all packaged together in the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”... who teaches us about the carrot and the stick:

King Herod claimed to hold the carrot when he said to Herodias’s daughter, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” But, like everything that anyone in this world offers, it was a very small carrot; he couldn’t give her “whatever you wish.” In fact, he had no power to give anything at all unless God gave it through him.

When Pilate was questioning Jesus, he thought he held the stick. He said, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10). He had told his disciples earlier: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

When Peter drew his sword to protect Jesus from the mob coming to arrest him, Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Just to get a sense of the perspective Matthew is trying to give us here, we should remember that when Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem, one single angel “struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies” (2Kings 19:35). A Roman legion at full strength was made up of 6000 men. Multiply that by twelve and you get 72,000 angels. Does Matthew make his point?

So God has the ultimate carrot and the ultimate stick, and if we are okay with God, we have nothing to fear—and nothing we absolutely have to get—from anybody. There is a fundamental freedom in that.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?
 The Lord is my helper,
and I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?

Jesus tells us not to be afraid in general (John 12:15; 14:27); and specifically:

  • when he calls us to do the work of God (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; 5:10)
  • when angels speak to us (Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10)
  • when he reveals his power or glory (Matthew 14:27; 17:7; Mark 6:50; John 6:20)
  • when we realize he is risen or meet him risen (Matthew 28:5, 10)
  • when we see Jesus and think he is a ghost (Luke 24:37; John 6:19)
  • when Jesus seems to leave us (John 14:1)
  • when we fear someone has died (Mark 5:36; Luke 8:50)
  • when enemies slander and persecute us (Matthew 10:26)
  • when we are betrayed, arrested, persecuted, put on trial, in prison or to death (Luke 21:12)
  • when we hear of wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and great signs from heaven (Luke 2:19)
  • of those who hurt or kill the body (Matthew 10:28, 31; Luke 12:4, 7)
  • that anything we need will be lacking to us (Luke 12:32).

In summary, Jesus defuses all fear that distances us from God, gives others power over us, or comes from a sense of insecurity on earth. And by giving us eternal life, he has made free “those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15).

That's pretty impressive.

Do I choose to let Jesus free me from fear?

Pray all day: “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.

Practice: Whenever you feel fear, bring Jesus into the picture.

Discuss: What is your greatest fear? How is Jesus the answer to it?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments!