“Do not be afraid.” This phrase is something in which all who have faith in God the Father and his son Jesus Christ can take comfort. This phrase, or some close version of it, can be found in at least 147 times in both the Christian and the Hebrew Scriptures. Some Biblical scholars put the number even higher. These very words where uttered by Pope Saint John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate. So why is this written down so repetitively in Scripture?
Despite the number of times we have heard this phrase, I am sure that most of us have known moments of fear. St. John may have answered our questions about fear in the passage from his First Letter that was read this morning. He writes: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” Working backwards from this statement, I believe it can be said that the reason we still experience fear is that we have not come to love God completely. That should not be a surprising statement. We all know that it is a life-long task to come to perceive and appreciate the love that God has for us.
Just yesterday I was reading that the reason Matthew included the genealogy of Jesus at the beginning of his Gospel was to make certain that we understood that Jesus came among us in exactly the same way we came into the world. God could have chosen simply to appear in our world. However, God’s choice was to come into the world the way all humans come into it so that we would understand that the Incarnation is an act of love on God’s part.
We really do have nothing to fear as long as we stay connected to the love of God. Every year we remember the birth of the Lord Jesus. As we come to the end of another Christmas Season, we have another opportunity to come to appreciate God’s love for us, a love that is expressed every day in our Eucharist.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator