Poets, philosophers, and mystics alike all have warned that fear ultimately leads to the deadening of the soul and disconnection from the human family. Several years ago, Pope Francis warned that wherever there is fear, there will always be someone who will manipulate it to their own good. "Because fear, besides being good business for merchants of weapons and death, weakens and destabilizes us, destroying our psychological and spiritual defenses, anesthetizing us to the suffering of others and, in the end, making us cruel."
We find ourselves in the midst of a fear-ridden country with some people shouting of the coming calamity (because of the calls for racial justice and equality, because of increased immigration) and other societal changes that are happening do to our changing demographics, and yet Jesus who found himself in a not too dissimilar geopolitical situation (think the Roman occupation of his native country) called his followers not to fear but to have faith; to not to give into fear!
We too are called to not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear and allow it to turn us into cruel people who think of ourselves first and only, and leave the less fortunate to fend for themselves and to exclude them from our democratic debate and seek to exclude them from our communities, our schools, our churches and our public spaces. Pope Francis has said that mercy is the “best antidote” to fear! And in the same speech, he called for us to partner that mercy with courage.
We need courage to do the right thing in the face of fear which causes communities to want to build walls to keep people out instead of bridges, and fear makes peoples choose open conflict rather than embrace and welcome the differences of others.
In a very real way we are called to “walk towards our fears” and not run from them. Walking towards our fears takes courage, but we must not forget that we do not walk that journey alone -- we walk with Christ!
Our discipleship calls us to be courageous in these difficult and divisive times, and as Pope Francis has recently said, we are to “be a sign of mercy!” So let us be living signs of mercy to all those who are targeted or mistreated or threatened because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, their gender or because of where they were born or who they love or what their social status is or what their nationality is. These realities cause fear in some people who are unable and unwilling to accept people who do not look like them, people who are “other than themselves.” They cannot accept that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and is deeply and passionately loved by God just as they are!
And as disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to stand up and fight against those persons and movements that espouse social, political or religious ideologies and principles that deny or demean the God given human dignity of every woman, man and child on this planet.
Not until we have done this will we have truly lived the great commandment of Jesus, to love our neighbor as ourselves. We must ask ourselves, what personal biases am I being called to walk towards or to sit with and name? Let me pray to draw courage in facing my own biases, with the Holy Spirit guiding me. May each one of us “be a sign of mercy” for those in need.
May the mercy of God be upon you all. Amen.