Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Facing Fear with Easter Faith

Bartolomeo Rigossi da Gallarate
The Resurrected Christ Appearing to the Marys 
“Let nothing disturb you, nothing make you afraid” (Teresa of Avila’s Bookmark).

This past Holy Thursday Louis Jordan was rescued after being lost at sea for sixty-six days. He says he survived by capturing rainwater in a bucket, snagging little fish to catch bigger fish, and praying to God. Frank Jordan, his father, an experienced sailor, remained optimistic that his son would turn up. “With God, all things are possible,” he told friends and family three days later on Facebook.

Three days after Holy Thursday we had THE MOST amazing rescue story to tell the world. We were rescued from fear. That first Easter morning two women standing at Jesus’ empty tomb were tossed about by torrents and waves of fear (Ps. 42).  “Where is the one we seek?” they asked. “Do not be afraid,” an angel replied. “I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen....go quickly and tell his disciples (Mt. 28:5-6).

These words, “Do not fear,” are woven throughout Scripture, from Genesis to the Resurrection. They always herald good news and announce a mission. As the women hurry away from the tomb they meet Jesus, “Do not be afraid,” he says, and again a mission is announced, “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Mt. 28:20).

One acronym for fear is “face everything and run!” When Jesus told the women “go” he didn’t mean “run the other way.” His Spirit empowered them to share the good news that we need not be afraid. There are times, says Rowen Williams in Sojourners, that “We want to stand still and be reassured, rather than moving faithfully with Jesus along a path into new life whose turnings we don't know in advance. ‘Do not cling to me,’ Jesus says to Mary and to us; instead, ‘go and bring others along on the journey’”(John 20:17).

One of the first stories newcomers to our Pauline life read is the autobiography of the founder, Blessed James Alberione. One chapter in particular relates the second founding moment. The first foundations in 1914 were already miraculous. The mission of evangelization with the media was challenging in many ways. Fr. James had committed to buying a printing plant when the first declaration of war came. Now his health was precarious, and creditors demanded money. He was afraid of being gravely imprudent: summoning people for a mission, with the danger of abandoning them halfway down the road.

In June 1923 a dark cloud seemed to cut down all his dreams as they dawned. Fr. Alberione became seriously ill; the diagnosis of the doctors did not offer much hope. Contrary to all expectations, Fr. Alberione miraculously recovered. Later that year, he said he had received, probably even before his illness, a confirmation of his lifes mission in words he heard in a dream or in a revelation of the Divine Master”;  these made their way into Pauline chapels all over the world: Do not be afraid; I am with you. From here (the Eucharist) I want to enlighten. Live with a penitent heart” (See www. alberione.org).

Easter turns fear into faith and faith into evangelization as we:
  1. turn our eyes away from the seductive image of a settled soul with nothing more to learn or to repent of and “live with a penitent heart”;
  2. keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his gaze—towards the heart of God, especially in Eucharistic adoration and reading scripture;
  3. stop clinging to personal comfort and start trusting that God is with us on the journey. Or as Pope Francis encourages us: “Boldly take the initiative, go out to others, and seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast” (Evangelii Guadium, 24);
  4. own our weaknesses by trusting in God's mercy and frequenting the sacrament of confession;
  5. resolve to follow the risen Jesus into the unknown depths of Gods life. Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten, guide, strengthen, and console.
The best acronym for fear is “false evidence appearing real.” Easter gives us true and real evidence for not being afraid. The Apostles were afraid at first. In The Scriptures, The Cross and the Power of God, Tom Wright tells us what happened next:
“They had every reason to be afraid: An earthquake; an angel; guards struck down as though they were dead….As Jesus goes to the cross, heaven and earth, God’s space and our space are drawn together in a new way. The events that are unfolding carry cosmic significance. Jesus has gone to his death bearing the weight of evil, the evil that has infected and corrupted human life and the whole world, the evil which is symbolized both by what we call human evil, not least the evil of arrogant human empire, and by what we call natural evil, the waves and storms of the physical world. Now here, with the defeat of evil and death in the cross, the earthquake and the angel are, strangely, just what we ought to expect. And the guards, symbolizing here the political and military powers for whom they are working are struck dumb. Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas and their henchmen don’t belong in this new world, the new world where heaven and earth have come rushing together in a fresh way, a fresh celebration, a worked full of new possibilities, new power which leave the powers of the world lying helpless on the ground. Don’t be afraid! God’s new world has begun, and you’re invited to be part of it. That is what Easter is all about. That is what baptism and confirmation are all about.”
God’s new world has broken into the old one. God’s new creation happens through God’s renewed people. We are resurrection people. Our Easter greeting, “Christ is raised! He is truly risen! He is with us” is our “go and tell.”

Pope Francis reminds us that Enthusiasm for evangelization is based on this conviction. We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love(Evangelii gaudium, 265).


“Be not afraid, I am with you.”
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Painting: Getty Trust. Bartolomeo Rigossi da Gallarate, illuminator (Italian, active about 1460 - 1480), Initial N: The Resurrected Christ Appearing to the Marys, Italian, about 1465, Leaf: 15.1 x 14.6 cm (5 15/16 x 5 3/4 in.), Ms. 49, recto.
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Sr. Margaret Kerry celebrates 40 years of life and mission as a Daughter of St. Paul. With a Masters from Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, she gives presentations on the vocation and mission of the laity, media literacy, and evangelization. She directed the Association of Pauline Cooperators for 15 years and was creative editor of The Pauline Cooperator magazine. An author (St. Anthony of Padua: Fire & Light; Strength in Darkness: John of the Cross), Sr. Margaret is working on a young adult book. You can reach her at mkerry@paulinemedia.com.


1 comment:

Maryann Toth said...

Thank you for this article on a topic that affects all of us. How comforting to visit a Pauline chapel any where in the world and see the words, "Do not be afraid; I am with you." God bless you, Sr.