Leaving Fear Behind
John Paul II began his pontificate with a charge to the faithful: “Be not afraid.” At the Mass marking the start of his pontificate, Benedict XVI issued the same charge: “Be not afraid of Christ. He takes away nothing and gives all.”
As a Church, as a body of believers, we must heed that charge. We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ, in all His mystery and majesty, to the world. We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ to our own, either. We must do our part regarding the things we can control, and trust that God will take care of the rest.
There is so much fear in our world today. There is so much fear in each of us: fear of failing, of being rejected, of making waves and ruffling feathers. There is fear of being unpopular, of being thought extreme. There is fear of losing parishioners and losing students, fear of the collection baskets coming back empty and capital campaign goals going unmet.
Those aren’t foolish fears. Of course we all want to be successful, we don’t want to drive people away, and we certainly want to keep the lights on. What is foolish is to think that compromising the truth in what we say and do will prevent those fears from becoming realities. For a few years or even decades it might seem like things are working, but in the end, compromise will cost us everything. It’s already costing us plenty, as pews empty and parishes close despite pastors’ best efforts to accommodate the Gospel to the culture’s demands.
If the new evangelization asks anything of us, it is to “be not afraid.” We must not be afraid of what will come of us when we step forward in faith. We must not be afraid of putting into practice all the wisdom the Church has given us about evangelization. We must not be afraid to give people the deepest desires of their heart, to give people a reason to live and to live fully, and to give them the very means by which they live. By which we all live.
As long as we pray, as long as we love, as long as we strive to do God’s will, grace will come and fruit will burst forth. If we move forward innocent as doves and wise as serpents, the faithful will grow stronger and bolder. The Church will be renewed and the culture healed.
Wehner, J. A. (2011). The Evangelization Equation: The Who, What, and How (pp. 121–122). Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.