Love Conquers Fear

Water was not only a symbolic element for the Israelites, but it was also an integral part of society at the time of Jesus. After all, many of Jesus’ followers were either fishermen or dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihood. The local economy was heavily influenced by this industry as well. So, it is natural that many scenes reported in the Scripture take place in or near bodies of water.

One such scene takes place after the miracle of Jesus feeding of the 5,000, and we hear about it in Mark’s Gospel: “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida…. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. But at once he spoke with them, ‘Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!’” (NAB MK 45-50) The disciples were afraid, perhaps afraid of the unknown, perhaps afraid of what they saw, the threat of the sea, or whatever else, but Jesus tells them not to be afraid.

There will always be unknowns and there will always be various threats to our safety, to our emotional or financial stability, to the integrity of our relationships, etc. What overcomes this fear is our trust in God, a trust fully founded in love. God loves us with an incomprehensible and infinite love, and if we are able to live in that love, we will live without fear. In John’s First Letter, we hear, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” (1JN 4:18) That is true of judgment and in all other aspects of our lives. Love conquers even our fears.

Jesus, I trust in you. Increase my trust and increase my love. Take away all my fears and doubts, as my faith grows ever stronger in your love and care for me. Allow me to abandon myself entirely to you, laying all my fears at your feet, and leaving them there as your trusting child. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

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Do Not Fear the End

The Gospel of Luke (21:5-11) describes a scene when many people had gathered near the Jerusalem Temple, and were admiring its grand beauty.  Jesus uses the moment to prophesy about the future destruction of the temple, when “there will not be left a stone upon another stone….” (NAB, LK 21:5) He then goes on to describe what is to be expected before the end, when the final judgment comes. Revelation adds light to when this will happen and describes the occasion of that final gathering of the faithful as when “the time to reap has come, because the earth’s harvest is fully ripe.” (RV 14:15) Jesus provides an incredible and terrifying list of signaling events: wars, famines, destruction, plagues, insurrections, and a host of natural disasters.

Knowing all this is to come, however, Jesus lovingly reminds us, “Do not be terrified.” (21:9) It is a constant theme in Scripture: “Do not be afraid.” Various biblical translators indicate that the phrase “do not be afraid,” or some rendition or form of it, occurs about 365 times in the Bible! Perhaps God wanted to give us a daily reminder to not fear the things of this world, to remember that we belong to a family and a Kingdom that will never die and will never end. It seems reasonable for us to be fearful when the world is in such turmoil, with violence, injustice, and death at every corner, but we have a surpassing force in Jesus Christ that is greater than any power, principality, authority, or dominion on earth.

Father, strengthen my faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Give me the power and light of your Holy Spirit to see beyond the darkness of this world, to know that you are always here, that you are always in control, and that you always love me with an incomprehensible love, a love through which only an infinitely merciful and just God can overcome the evils of this world. Amen.

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