The Pope is fifty years old as a priest. I am writing this column from Rome where Cardinal Sin and I are attending the festivities, marking that jubilee in his priesthood.
When he was elected Pope in 1979, as soon as he appeared on the balcony of the Basilica of St. Peter, this Pope greeted the world with: “Be not afraid.” At that time that he said those words, coming from a robust pastor with a youthful smile, the message carried a message easy to understand. Seventeen years later, he still says that message of hope and courage. The body has weakened due to a bad fall a few years ago. The message is still strong. “Be not afraid.” Stay confident that the future of the Catholic Church is bright. Keep on believing that God is constant and we have nothing to fear.
His message is not his own. His message is the message of Jesus. That message will outlive all Popes. “Be not afraid.”
John Paul was like the angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel’s message was: “Be not afraid. Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary to be your wife.”
Actually, Joseph was not afraid to take Mary to be his wife. What Joseph was afraid of was that he would be the foster father of Jesus. If Joseph had to take Mary as his wife, he also had to accept Jesus as the son of Mary. Since he knew who Jesus was and he knew that to be the foster father of Jesus he would have to carry on a very personal and intimate relationship with him, Joseph became tearful of the challenges and demands that the relationship might require of him.
It was the same fear that Peter felt on the first Holy Thursday when the Lord wanted to wash his feet. Peter refused because he knew that after Jesus washed his feet, the Lord would say, “Do the same.” And Peter was not prepared to do the tasks that would be demanded of him.
Joseph and Peter were of the same kind. They wanted to be blessed but they were afraid of the demands.
It is the same with us. We can be lumped into the same basket as Peter and Joseph. We want to be blessed by God, and yet we are afraid of the demands that the blessing will ask of us. We want to go and have peace with God, and yet we hesitate to do so because we are afraid that goodness is so addictive. We do not want to make the first move, otherwise, the demands might be too great and way beyond what we are willing to give. Everybody wants to go to Mass but nobody wants to be challenged. Everybody wants to listen to a homily, but nobody wants to act after the homily.
Joseph was ready to take Mary, but he was not ready to take on the responsibility of being the foster father of Jesus.
Peter enjoyed having his feet washed, but he was afraid of Jesus’ demand for him to do likewise.
If you have the same fear; if you are to make a leap into the dark; if you are afraid to do good because you are afraid to do more good after you have done good; if you are afraid to be a friend of God because you are afraid of the demands that friendship with God entails – talk to Peter, talk to Joseph and tell them, “I know what was in your heart. You were afraid of the demands. I admire you because you had the courage to accept the responsibility that comes with doing good. Help me be like you. I know the demands ahead of me. I know what will be asked of me. You know me too. Help me answer the Lord’s call.”
DO NOT BE AFRAID
Jesus Our Light