“Faith over Fear”
“Why are you terrified?” asks Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. (4:40) “A Good question!” Why are we get so frightened by so much? The opposite of fear is not love, as a dear spiritual director tells me. It is trust! The disciples come to trust Jesus little by little until the silence settles on them and they can give themselves away as the Master did. COVID 19 scared the “bejesus” out of us. And all forms of “Terrorisms” dominate the 24 -hour news networks and social media. We are a terribly afraid generation.
I love the image of the boat on the storm. The very first words out of the mouth of the angel Gabriel in St. Luke when he speaks to Mary are, “Do not be afraid.” The Bible seems particularly intent on repeating that statement, almost like a mantra. A scripture scholar tells us, for example, that these same four words are spoken 365 times throughout the Bible!
The other question the disciples ask is just as telling, “Teacher don’t you care we are perishing?” In the Gospel of Mark is more direct. Jesus just wakes up and snorts at the winds and they subside. Then to the waves he adds his “Peace.” So, the answer to the question is that he does care. This divine attention can EN-COURAGE us, give us “animo” – an action energy so we can offer peace and silence to other boats around us on the choppy waters of our crazy lives.
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell noted in a 2015 article that some worry is toxic. He called it “a disease of the imagination…insidious and invisible, like a virus.” It sets upon one unwanted… stealing its way into our consciousness until it dominates one’s life. As worry infiltrates one’s mind, it diminishes the ability to enjoy family, friends…because of the fear of what might go wrong. It undermines the “ability to work, to love, and to play.” Jesus invites the fear-full, DIS-COURAGED disciples to imagine reality differently.
To our deepest fears: “Am I enough? Can I make it through life with all the things that scare me?” Jesus says “Peace. Be still.” Do you not yet have faith? Nope. We often don’t. But there is time. Jesus demonstrates both his intense love for people and an awesome power over fears by simply speaking three words: “Peace, be still.” And the winds cease.
In the midst of it all, trust is everything. The Lord of the wind and the sea simply asks us to choose faith over fear. It’s not that he doesn’t understand how all-consuming fear can be. He will experience it himself in his agony in the garden. And the most fearful of the disciple’s, the one who runs away leaving behind his clothes, becomes the first witness of the resurrection. The passion in Mark called Jesus to “awesome” trust. We are invited to do the same.
As “dearest friends,” our faith will tell us that we are not left alone, that we are infinitely cherished, and that those same three words Jesus spoke can be trustingly said by each of us: “Peace, be still.” To all our fathers and those strong men who have parented us against the wind and the waves, we offer our profound thanks.
A gentle week.
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM
I am grateful to Celebration’s Ted Wolgamot 2015 article for elements of this reflection.