Do Not Be Afraid

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
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It was 3 months ago that Pope Francis stood in a totally empty St. Peter’s Square on a rainy day and delivered an extraordinary blessing and prayer, which was livestreamed to the world, to end the coronavirus.  He used our gospel story today of Jesus in the boat calming the stormy seas to deliver his message which was heartfelt, simple, and challenging.  In his remarks, Pope Francis stated that what was hard to understand in this story is Jesus’ attitude.  “While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he (Jesus) stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first.  And what does he do?  In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father.”

You have to give the apostles some credit for the little faith they had; after all, they did follow him onto the boat.  But then they panicked when the storm came and they woke Jesus up.  Even Jesus doesn’t like to be awakened from a nap, and he admonishes them about being afraid.  Then, out of his loving concern, calms the wind and sea for them.  There was no shipwreck; Jesus brought calm, and the apostles were in awe.

Even though the apostles woke Jesus up, perhaps it was Jesus who was trying to wake the apostles up, and perhaps that’s what he’s still trying to do with us.  He was waking them up to their need for faith in him, trust in God, and affirmation that his presence among them, and us, always means life, not death…even in the midst of storms.

There’s no doubt that these last couple of months have been an awakening for us:

  • We have had to critically slow down our whole lifestyle.
  • We have had to learn to respect other people’s health by following careful behaviors and protocols.
  • We’ve become much more aware of the effects our harmful actions have had on our planet and that earth, our common home, now has a chance to heal.
  • And, sadly, we’ve been awakened once again to the injustices in our society to whole groups of people.

We have woken up to our own storms and to a whole new world that is very unpredictable and scary. How do we respond as Catholic Christians?  Would Jesus say to us: “O you of little faith”?  Could we trust enough to realize that we don’t place our lives in God’s hands, but rather, our lives are in God’s hands?

That rainy day in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis finished his message with this sincere and challenging prayer: “Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort to our hearts.  You ask us not to be afraid.  Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful.  But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.  Tell us again: “Do not be afraid.”  Amen.