The Cure for Our Fears, Real and Imagined
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 18, 2022
There is a tension between real and imagined fears. Imaginary fears—or those only partially based on reality—are irrational. Jesus feared the Cross in the Garden, and His fears were realistic. In His anguish at the prospect of the Crucifixion, He prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me.” We need not deny fears anchored in reality, but we must place our anxieties in service of God’s positive or permissive will. So Jesus concludes, “…nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Lk. 22:42)
Like Jesus, we tremble at the prospect of the Cross. Yet recent events demonstrate that many of our fears are disproportionate and irrational, making us vulnerable to organized scare tactics. (Never disclose your age to the Google search engine. They will forever spook you with medical pop-up ads, with graphic warnings that range from nail fungus to earwax buildup.)
(We saw irrational (and somewhat comical) fear of the Cross on Good Friday. The altar boys prepared to sanitize the wood of the Cross with Clorox wipes during the reverencing. Yet the 99.9% Clorox disinfectant rate failed to provide the necessary confidence. The 0.1 percent failure rate was a Cross too heavy for many to bear. We noticed an innovative way of reverencing the Cross. Many kissed their fingertip first and then touched the Cross. The safe toss of a kiss was a thoroughly modern expression of fear disguised as love. Husband and wives, take note. Young men and women, be advised. As you toss those antiseptic kisses, we may be on the dawn of a new era of Victorian chastity!
Of course, we must be prudent and reasonable when facing unpleasant realities. Some of our fears are rational, but we often exaggerate the danger and extinguish love in fear. Here is an example from the Gospel:
[Jesus] told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ (Lk. 12:16-19)
The rich man wanted to enjoy his retirement. Who would blame him?
We have similar fears. We have been on a national spending spree for decades, rolling up an immense national debt. Social Security and Medicare owe us years of benefits, greatly exceeding our tax deposits. Inflation is accelerating, depleting our savings—or perhaps setting the scales of justice aright. (“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” H. L. Mencken) If the rich man of the parable is our guide, we’ll need many more barns for grain storage before we retire.
Jesus takes a dim view of our lack of charity. Jesus concludes the parable with this warning: “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Lk. 12:20-21)
The Cross of suffering that Jesus requires of us is the Cross of love, obedience in freedom, and generosity in imitation of Him:
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Lk. 12:32-34)
Authentic love is costly and painful. Ask any mother called upon to change diapers in the middle of the night or any soldier who goes into battle defending his country. Jesus in the Garden feared the Cross, and we also fear the Cross in its many forms. Imitating Jesus, faithful and true Christians love and care for one another in every life situation.
Jesus promises, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn. 8:32) The Resurrection sheds new and glorious light on the truth of every promise He makes in the Gospel and throughout our lives:
Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. (Mt. 6:22-31)
The Cross helps us confront our fears; the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life help us overcome them. The work of Christian love God planned for us—however great or humble—is indispensable. We have our Christian duties as assigned. Fortified by the graces of the Sacraments, let’s resolve to serve one another with confidence, love, and generosity.
Be of good cheer. Christ is risen!
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Posted by: Cinciradiopriest -
Apr. 19, 2022 9:52 PM ET USA
Thank you for this reflection Fr. Pokorsky. Faith in the bodily resurrection should have kept our Churches two years ago. Increase our faith O Lord.
Posted by: cmaloney2007 -
Apr. 19, 2022 7:02 PM ET USA
As I finished the Evening Prayer of the Hours, I asked Our Lord for guidance on a particular intention. Then I read your article, which provided the guidance I was seeking. God bless you, Father, and thank you.