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TRUE DISCIPLESHIP IS A SCARY VENTURE – IN THE TIME OF THE APOSTLES AS WELL AS TODAY

Following and imitating Jesus Christ in today’s surroundings

Whose fear is it, anyway?

“True discipleship is a scary venture; it was so in the time of the Apostles, and it remains so today. Discipleship, which is another way of saying that one embraces the baptismal call to follow in the footprints of Jesus Christ, requires resisting the mongering that our culture so often encourages.

The messages so frequently displayed in advertisements and on television promote a culture of fear that seeks to convince women and men today that they are inadequate, unlovable, and imperfect without buying this or that product, without paying for this or that service. The advertising agencies around the globe realise that human beings make too many of their choices out of fear and capitalise on that dynamic.

When individuals wish to take control and seize authority, it is to the weapon of fear that they turn, planting the seeds of insecurity and doubt into the hearts and minds of the population.

Working to overcome fear 

Jesus, as truly human, understood the experience of fear. Weeping in the garden on the night he was betrayed, the Lord expresses solidarity with those who face physical harm and emotional stress.

But Jesus, as truly divine, also understood that following the Father’s Will means working to overcome the inhibitive fear that too often prevents us from doing what is right and speaking the truth when necessary. Hence, Jesus’s first words to his followers – then and now – are always ‘Do not be afraid,’ because when we surrender to fear we are unable to live the Gospel.”

– This is an excerpt from “Do Not Be Afraid!” by Daniel P. Horan, published in Messenger of Saint Anthony, issue June 2015. For subscriptions please contact: Messenger of St Anthony, Basilica del Santo, via Orto Botanico 11, 1-35123 Padua, Italy

 

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TRUST IN GOD GIVES US INNER STRENGTH AND A FUNDAMENTAL TRANQUILLITY

The antidote to fear

“‘Do not be afraid.’ These were the reassuring words of Jesus to Peter, James and John as they groveled on the ground at the sight of His transfiguration. They were frightened to find themselves on such intimate terms with divinity.

Our Lord’s words had a much wider range, however, than the disciples’ present moment of confusion. Very soon Jesus would die in disgrace, apparently helpless to defend Himself. The apostles (Judas excepted) would survive this test of their faith, but then they themselves would become the victims of persecution. There would be times when every man’s hand would seem to be set against them. In the end they would be faced with the choice of denying Christ or suffering violent death.

It undoubtedly was with all this in mind that Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid.’ They had seen His glory. They would remember Tabor. They would know that Jesus was with them through all their trials.

‘Do not be afraid.’ It is the constant remembrance of this admonition which will give serenity to our own lives.

Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened

God loves us. Unceasingly we have His attention, His whole attention, His concerned attention. There is not a thing which happens to us of which God does not take note. Time and again in the Gospels our Lord tries to inspire our confidence in this loving care which He has for us.

‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?’ He reminds us. ‘And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave… Therefore do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.’ Then there is the beautiful parable of the lilies of the field whose raiment exceeds in beauty the robes of Solomon, and Jesus’ conclusion: ‘How much more you, O you of little faith!’

From His quiet invitation, ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest,’ to His majestic, ‘Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world,’ Jesus keeps appealing for our trust.

Situations which test our confidence in God

We might be tempted to think that our Lord has been unduly repetitious in this matter, except for our own experience. Shamefacedly we have to admit that we still forget His assurances, still burn up an untold amount of nervous energy in unprofitable worry.

All of us are faced, and faced frequently, with situations which test our confidence in God. Some of these anxiety-producers are small ones, others are of major proportion. ‘I really should attend that funeral tomorrow, but if I do how shall I get my washing done?’ ‘I have to give a speech at the meeting and I’m frightened to death. What shall I say?’

‘I studied so hard for that exam, and still I flunked it.’ ‘The bills keep piling up. How shall we ever get out of debt?’ ‘If the diagnosis is cancer, how shall I ever bear it? And what will become of my family?’ ‘If I had taken the baby to the doctor sooner, I’m sure she wouldn’t have died.’

Out of all that happens to me God is going to bring good

In these and a million other worries and regrets, there are a few basic facts which we have to keep repeating to ourselves, over and over. God does love me. God does know and God does care what happens to me. Whatever happens to me (my own sins excepted) is God’s permissive will, is part of God’s plan for me and for those who depend on me. Even my mistakes, my well-intentioned mistakes, are a part of His plan.

Out of all that happens to me God is going to bring good; otherwise He would not let it happen. God knows my weaknesses and makes generous allowance for them. All that He asks is that I do my best, however inadequate that best may sometimes seem. When I have done my best, whether the result is success or failure, I can leave it to God to work it into His plan for me. Finally, I can never, never lose when I choose to do God’s will as I see it, no matter what human wisdom may dictate to the contrary.

Inner strength and tranquillity

We must be realistic. Trust in God will not stifle sorrow. It will not eliminate disappointment. It will not still all apprehension. Our emotions are not easily controlled. But trust in God will give us an inner strength and a fundamental tranquillity. Trust in God will keep us from defeatism and despair.”

– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

 

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JESUS HOLDS THE KEY TO OVERCOMING FEAR

UNTIL WE HAVE FOUND SOMETHING BIG ENOUGH TO DIE FOR, WE DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO LIVE FOR.

UNLOCKING THE DOORS OF FEAR, ACTS 2:1-11; JOHN 20:19-23

“Ten men were huddled in a room. They were in hiding. They locked and bolted the doors. They talked in hushed tones. Their leader had been killed, and they knew they may be next. Who had called this meeting? It was fear. Fear is their new leader. It gripped them by the throat, choking their words. It paralysed their feet. It immobilised their ability to make the next step. The room was full of fear. Ironically, they hid there because they sought safety from their enemies, but in reality they had locked themselves into a cage with their worst enemy – fear.

While in the grip of fear, Jesus came to them. He broke into their fort and helped show them it was, in fact, a prison cell. He had come back from the dead. He had returned to galvanise these men into the Church. How did Jesus do it?

Firstly, he helped the apostles overcome their fear. How startled they must have been when he suddenly appeared in their locked fortress. Neither death nor the fear of death bound Jesus. Why? It was because of his faith in God’s care and his sense of mission for his life. Now Jesus had come to help his disciples live and die in that same confidence. Jesus knew that we are not ready to be alive until we are ready to die. He knew that until we have found something big enough to die for, we do not have anything heroic to live for. It was the disciples who were in the tomb of their own making! Jesus had come to set them free.

The very fact that Jesus came to the disciples on that evening in the locked room answered many of their fears. They may have feared that their failures in Jesus’ final hours had forever locked them out of God’s favour. Jesus came to give peace to these frightened men. They feared that death held the final power over life. Jesus came to show them that with God, life holds the final power over death. They feared the power of the Roman and Jewish authorities. Jesus came to show them that all earthly authorities yield to the authority of God. They feared that they were seeing a ghost of Jesus. They couldn’t believe their ears when he announced peace to them. Jesus showed them his hands and side. The Jesus who stood in their midst was the same Jesus who suffered on the cross.

WILL WE LET THE RISEN LORD STAND IN THE MIDST OF OUR FEARS?

LET HIM UNMASK FEAR FOR THE COWARD IT IS!

Will we let the risen Lord stand in the midst of our fears? Let him unmask fear for the coward it is. For fear is at the root of many of our failures, what is cheating in an exam but the fear of failure? What is greed but not trusting in God’s providence and the fear of not having enough? What is lying but the fear of not revealing the true self? It is fear that makes a bird walk, or keeps a ship in the harbour, or makes a Church crawl.

This brings us to the other thing that Jesus did for the disciples. Jesus gave them a mission. He had come to them that night, not to show them that he could get into their room, but to show them the way out of it. He had not only come to give them the courage to unlock the doors, but also to give them something compelling to do on the outside of their room. Many a released prisoner cannot adjust to life outside the prison because there is little opportunity for meaningful work, or little community of welcome. Jesus gave his apostles worthy work to do on the other side of their locked doors.

He sent them to announce the forgiveness of sins, to set free others who are locked behind doors of their own failures. Who better than the disciples to announce such good news?

Jesus also equipped the Church to carry out this mission. He did this by giving them the Holy Spirit. This is the power of the Church. It is the breath of God that brings us to life, both in the Garden of Eden and on the day of Pentecost. It is the wind of God that unfurls our sails and sets us on course.

Know that God has given you and me a purpose in life. He has gathered us together on this Pentecost day to enter a world that desperately needs to be set free. With God’s wind in our sails we are to go forth to give away what we have received.”
– Fr Francis OFM CAP “If you enjoy reading Fr Francis’ weekly homily you may like to order his homily and other books, CDs and DVDs by requesting a mail order form. Address: 15 Cuppin St., Chester CH1 2BN. Email: brfrancis@btconnect.com .”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Universe” issue Sunday 19th May, 2013. For subscriptions please contact http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com (external link).

 

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RESISTING FEAR AND THE TEMPTATION TO COMPLAIN – BECAUSE JESUS IS ALWAYS BESIDE US

NO GOSSIP, NO FEAR

“If you want to solve life’s problems you have to look reality in the face. Like the goalkeeper of a football team, you have to be ready to catch the ball from whatever side it comes. And you have to do this resisting fear or the temptation to complain, because Jesus is always beside us. Pope Francis said this at morning Mass on Saturday, 13 April, 2013 in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

LIFE WAS NOT ALWAYS CALM AND BEAUTIFUL

In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7), proclaimed in the First Reading, ‘there is’, the Pope explained – a piece of the history of the Church’s early days: the Church was growing, ‘the number of disciples was increasing,’ it was at this very moment that the problems arose.’ Indeed, ‘those who spoke Greek murmured against those who spoke the Hebrew language, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.’ – ‘Life,’ he continued, ‘was not always calm and beautiful,’ and ‘the first thing they do is to murmur, to gossip about each other: ‘But look, the thing is…’ But this does not lead to any solution.’

LIFE MUST BE TAKEN AS IT COMES

‘The Apostles, on the contrary,’ he said, ‘with the help of the Holy Spirit, reacted well. They summoned the group and spoke to them. This is the first step: when there are difficulties, it is necessary to examine them closely, to take them up and to talk about them. Never hide them.

‘Life is like this. Life must be taken as it comes, not as we would like it to come.’ – ‘It is,’ the Pope said, using an effective metaphor that is dear to him ‘a little like the goalkeeper of the team, isn’t it? He grabs the ball wherever it comes from. This is the reality.’ Thus the Apostles ‘spoke to each other and came up with a lovely proposal, a revolutionary proposal, for they said: ‘but we are the Apostles, those who Jesus chose.’ However, that was not enough. They realised that their first duty was to pray and serve the Word.’ And as for the daily assistance to widows, we must do something else.’ This is ‘what the deacons decided to do.’

ALSO AT LIFE’S BLEAKEST MOMENTS

Pope Francis ended his homily with an invitation: ask ‘the Lord for this grace – to have no fear,’ to be able ‘to take life as it comes and to try to solve problems as the Apostles did, and to seek the encounter with Jesus who is always beside us, also at life’s bleakest moments.'”
– This article was published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna” issue August 2013, Vol. 15, No. 04. For subscriptions or to support seminarians please visit http://www.donboscosmadonna.org (external link) or http://www.dbmshrine.org (external link).

 

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DEATH IS A TISSUE-THIN CURTAIN THROUGH WHICH WE WALK INTO A BLAZE OF GLORY

“Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

“DEATH IS NOTHING MORE THAN A PAPER TIGER”

“If you are afraid to die, you need not feel ashamed. Your fear of death simply proves that you are human.

Fear of death stems from the will-to-live, sometimes called the instinct of self-preservation, which is a normal part of our human equipment. God has endowed us with this stubborn attachment to life precisely so that we shall adequately safeguard our physical well-being and live out the span of days which He has in mind for us. It is as natural to shrink from the thought of death as it is to eat when we are hungry.

FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Our fear of death is intensified by another human characteristic – fear of the unknown. Even if we have a deep religious faith and are strong in the virtues of hope, we remain apprehensive concerning our life beyond the grave. We do not question the fact that an ecstatic happiness awaits us, but it will be a new kind of life, different from our present mode of existence and quite unimaginable. As a consequence, we face the prospect of death with some trepidation.

SMALL CHILDREN

This fear of the unknown is plainly visible in small children. For example, a youngster is excited because he has been promised his first boat ride. But as he approaches the gangplank of the excursion steamer he becomes frightened and pulls back, sobbing, ‘I don’t want to go!’ Another child may be similarly terrified when he is first lifted onto the wooden horse of a merry-go-round. Still another toddler will whimper and rebel when, on his first trip to the beach, he is led to the water’s edge in his swim suit.

UNEASINESS

We adults have pretty well outgrown such fears of the unknown, but very few of us have conquered our uneasiness at the thought of death. Fortunately, the fact of death will be much easier than the anticipation. Either we shall die suddenly, with no time for panic, or we shall die after a debilitating illness, too weak to care whether we live or not.

WE HAVE HIS ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE

We need not feel ashamed that we are apprehensive concerning death, but fortunately Jesus has robbed death of any real terror. We have His absolute guarantee of a better and an everlasting life. ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ our Lord assures us; ‘he who believes in Me, even if he die, shall live.’ This promise is fortified by still another: ‘He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has everlasting life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.’

IF WE HAVE AN EFFECTIVE FAITH WE ARE INVULNERABLE TO DEATH’S THREATENING SCOWL

If we have faith in Jesus, an effective faith which issues in love for God and for neighbour, and if we nourish ourselves on His Body, then we are invulnerable to death’s threatening scowl. Death has become for us nothing more than a paper tiger – a fearsome-looking but tissue-thin curtain through which we walk into a blaze of glory. It is no wonder that St Paul exclaims, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?’

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT MOMENT IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE?

It has been said that the most important moment of our life will be the moment of death. In a sense that is true. But it is even more true to say that the most important moment of our life is RIGHT NOW, right this present moment. Because it will be such ‘right now’ that will be the moment of our death.

The chances are a million to one that this particular moment – as I write or as you read – will not be the moment of death for either of us. But there will come a particular moment for each of us when that is no longer true, a moment when the odds have become meaningless, a moment when God says, ‘come to Me, NOW!’

CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT

That is why it is so essential that as God looks into our hearts, at any moment of the day or night, He should be able to see there some evidence of love for Him. That is why it is so crucially important that at this very instant, no matter what we may be doing and even though our conscious mind may be on other things, our basic attitude should be a desire to do God’s will.

We are weak, yes. We are very imperfect, yes. But at least let God see, this moment, that our ‘fix’ is upon Him and that our reach is toward Him.”
– Fr Leo Trese, 1966

 

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THE LIVING GOD SAVES, SETS FREE, AND WORKS SIGNS AND WONDERS (Dn 6:28)

The living God saves, sets free, and works signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth (cf Dn 6:28).

Through the intercession of all the saints who have sought refuge in God in time of trouble, let us pray:

R. Listen to our cry!

You delivered your people from slavery in Egypt:
– deliver all those in bondage to sin and oppression. (R.)

You delivered your people from exile in Babylon:
– deliver all those who endure or fear the loss of homes and livelihood. (R.)

You delivered the world from sin and death:
– deliver all those whose minds and hearts are wrapped in the darkness of fear and anxiety over the burdens they must bear. (R.)

(Personal intentions)

Our Father…

Lord our God, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, you brought life from death through the mystery of the cross. Deliver your people in time of suffering and need, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 
 

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LOVE BANISHES FEAR

“True love for Jesus Christ excites in the soul sentiments of such lively confidence, that we lose all anxiety about our predestination, the uncertainty of our salvation, and the multitude of our sins, because we are sure of finding in Him that abundance of our redemption and effusion of grace which God the Father has predestined for us in consideration of His merits.

Then, freed from a servile fear worthy only of slaves, we experience in the depths of our soul a consciousness that we have received the spirit of adoption of the children of God, in virtue of which we have obtained the privilege, not only of honouring Him as our Master, but even of loving Him as a Father.

By the hope and faith which we have in Him, He becomes also our support and refuge in misfortune, both during life and at the hour of our death, which He sanctifies, in the case of His friends, by the holiness of His own. It is His image we embrace in our last moments; it is from His arms that our soul should set forth for eternity; it is His name which should be on our lips at the parting of the soul from the body.”
– On the Knowledge of Jesus Christ

 
 

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