Fear & Faith

This summer season has been extraordinarily stormy, to say the least. As I am writing this column, people in Texas are still in the grip of Harvey. So much water dumped on them in a couple of days has created so much devastation and havoc. The fourth largest city in the nation, Houston, has become paralyzed because it is still raining over there. Catholic Charities is assessing the situation and asking us to wait for them to tell us what assistance people may need. Right now we can make donations by going to the website of Catholic Charities, Chicago.


Sometimes I wonder whether this constant turbulence is reflective of the larger situation in the nation and the mood of the citizens.  Things are not rosy in Washington DC and the nation seems sorely divided. The two sides on the political spectrum are unable to talk to each other or compromise. Many people are uncertain about their economic future. The mood on the streets seems to be somber.

It is not coincidental that a few weeks ago the Sunday’s gospel described a scene where the disciples were helplessly tossed about in a storm. It was about three or four in the morning and the morning light had not yet broken in. Seeing Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost. As Jesus drew closer to them, He assured his followers: “Do not be afraid. It is I.” Fear kept the disciples from seeing straight.

We also live in a society that constantly preys on our fears. In his book, The Culture of Fear, Barry Glassner asks: “Why are so many fears in the air and so many of them unfounded? Why, as crime rates plunged throughout the 1990s, did two-thirds of Americans believe they were soaring? How did it come about that by mid-decade 62 percent of us described ourselves as ‘truly desperate’ about crime – almost twice as many as in the late 1980s, when crime rates were higher?” Every election year, politicians play on our fears even more for their own political gain.

Some years ago a university in Germany conducted a little research. It asked students to identify the emotion that they experienced most frequently. The results surprised the researchers. The most common emotion that people experienced, according to the research, was not love or anger or hate. It was fear. Whether we are children or grown-ups, we all have our fears. Some of us are afraid of the dark; others are afraid of the future and the unknown; some others are afraid of failure. We are afraid of what people think of us. We are afraid of getting old. We have so many fears.

God put fear into us to keep us safe. Without fear we will put ourselves in danger. The total lack of fear is risky and it is called temerity. On the other hand, we cannot allow fear to keep us from living our lives fully. We cannot become paralyzed by fear. Courage is not the lack of fear; it is the ability to face our fears and do what must be done.

For us believers the source of our courage is the assurance of God’s presence with us. When we read the Bible we find God calling many individuals to do extraordinary things for Him. For instance, God calls Moses and asks him to tell the Pharaoh to free the people of Israel. When Moses objects that he does not know how to speak, the Lord pledges to go with him. That is the assurance that God gives to all those He calls. This God will not allow us to face the storms of life alone.

Do you know what sentence occurs most often in the Bible? It is this: “Do not be afraid; it is I.” These words and their equivalents appear in the Bible not just a hundred or even two hundred times. They appear 366 times. It is as if God assures us that He is with us once for every day of the year and an extra once for each leap year. We have nothing to fear.

I know many of us are concerned about many things. We have enough reasons to worry. Thinking about our huge parish, from time to time I too worry about certain things. However, over the last eight years, God has given me unmistakable proofs of His continued presence with us. He constantly surprises me by solving problems when I go to Him in prayer. I invite you to rely on His unfailing support. Take all your burdens to Him in prayer. As long as Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he was fine. Once he turned his gaze to the wind and the waves, he began to sink.

Let me leave you with the words of Scripture:

But now the Lord who created you, says, “Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up – the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel... Others died that you might live; I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me and honored and I love you. Don’t be afraid for I am with you. (Isaiah 43: 1-5)

Storms will always rage and winds will not die down. Even though many things around us cause fear, we rest in the assurance that the Lord is with us, within us.

Let us pray for one another! 

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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