Today, we begin the season of Advent and the new liturgical year. In this season, we focus on preparing ourselves for the second coming of Christ as we remember His incarnation. So, the readings often focus on being ready. Many see Advent as a mini-lent, but Lent is about repentance and purifying our communion with Christ, Advent is about preparing for His second coming. It is a little different.
During this year we will focus partially, as we do every year, on the Gospel of John, but primarily on the Gospel of Luke. This Gospel was written specifically to Gentiles, which is what we are. The late Fr. Rufus Pereira a world renown Catholic preacher from India often said Luke has a unique focus on the role of women as disciples of Christ that we don’t find in the other gospels.
Jesus, in today’s gospel, foretells a rather scary scenario. This is what is known as apocalyptic literature. It focuses us on the end of the world.
However, I want you to notice something powerful.
Jesus describes two kinds of people as they react to the same cataclysmic scene.
One type, we see in the first paragraph are those who have no connection to Jesus. They are living their own lives separated from Christ and then disaster happens. We see cataclysmic destruction. But Jesus, in the second paragraph, speaks to his own disciples and he teaches to them to get ready. He tells them to avoid drinking and carousing. Then comes a rather unique exhortation that is often missed. He tells them to avoid succumbing to the anxieties of life.
Look carefully, in the first paragraph people will die of fright, they will be so terrified. In the second paragraph people living through the same scenario are warned to avoid being worried or afraid.
Jesus teaches us that anxiety and fear are just as damaging to our faith as if we were drinking or carousing or, committing other sins.
Fear is an intensely powerful emotion. It is the greatest method to motivate people against their will: make them afraid. We even have those who use a horrible thing called terrorism. They commit vicious acts of violence not just for destruction, but to instill fear in the hearts of those who witness it.
You are the target of all forms of terrorism even if it never touches you, because the intended result is to get you to be afraid.
Notice how much fear is used to motivate you. Sometimes the antagonism is stupid. “If you don’t pay your bill on time, we will assess a late fee and then you will be in even more debt.” Well, if one cannot pay the bill on time, then the person cannot pay the late fee either.
Fear can cause people to become paralyzed and even disabled it can be so severe.
Jesus is telling you to be careful not to allow yourself to be controlled by fear and anxiety. In several places he describes fear and anxiety as weeds that strangle your faith. As he says here, anxiety is just as destructive to your faith as the worst of all sins.
What is the cure for fear? Trust, trust in God. Jesus himself taught the apostles not to be troubled but to have faith in Him. This is a central part of what it means to be Catholic. We are people of prayer who bring all our joys and sorrows daily to the Lord and share with him. We invite him into every aspect of our lives. We ask Him to protect us, directly or through His and Our blessed mother. He even teaches in the eighth chapter of Luke to trust him. “Fear is useless what is needed is trust,” he says.
He also commands us to trust Him for His mercy and forgiveness. Never fear that you will not be forgiven of those sins of which you repent. If you feel overwhelmed by guilt, which is a kind of fear, over your repented sins, St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches us that this is not from God.
Perfect love casts out all fear, Jesus teaches as well.
All the saints taught not to be afraid. St. Teresa taught we must not let anything trouble us. All things pass, only God is changeless.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, whom we know as Padre Pio, taught: Pray, hope and never worry.
The Bible itself teaches 365 times not to be afraid.
Sirach chapter 2 reminds us that when we go through difficult times, that has the same effect of purifying our faith as fire does in purifying gold. James chapter one tells us that when what we are most afraid of happens, it is a way that strengthens our endurance in the faith. He even says to consider it pure joy when that happens.
The saints all remind us that nothing can happen to us that God does not allow and that all things work for the good of those who love God.
Remember, the reason why it is so important to keep this in mind is that fear can paralyze you and lead you astray. Anyone can use fear to manipulate you if you allow them to do it.
So, what do we do with fear and anxiety? We bring it into our prayer, always. We bring it into our bible reading. We bring it into our devotions. We bring this along with our joys and happiness. This is one of the many reasons that daily prayer is essential to our faith. We invite the Lord in every aspect of our lives. Therefore, we ask him to help us when things go wrong, and we expect an answer to our prayer.
When you are afraid, you voice that to the Lord. You ask him to help you trust Him through this painful event and you ask Him to help you come out of this event with His grace.
It does not matter what it is you are afraid of: Is it a medical test or procedure of you or a loved one? Is it a court proceeding? The illness of a loved one? Your finances? What is it? Bring your fear to the Lord. Be patient and trust in an answer. However, do not expect his answer will be your wish. He may answer you in many ways that you do not expect but they will be more effective than you expected. However, we cannot two time this, we need to be faithful to our Lord and He will help us in our fear.
What are you most afraid of? It is essential that you bring your fears to the Lord. That you ask him to help you grow in the faith.
This is an essential part of the Catholic life, because fear is such a motivator our greatest weapon against it is faith in the Lord. If we have this faith, fear will have little or no power over us. What power it has may require some healing and with that it will no longer overtake us. But remember, the greatest weapon we have against our enemies is to not be lost in fear and anxiety.
Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.