Fr John’s Letter – 21st June 2020

Dear Parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s 

‘Do not be afraid’

These words of Jesus are found at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading. Did you know that these same words are found about 365 times in the Bible? This is worth reflecting on. 

Jesus is speaking to his disciples. We know from reading the Gospel accounts that the disciples were fearful on many occasions. This is normal human behaviour. But fear has a way of working its way into the depths of our minds and hearts. We can find ourselves being fearful of fear. 

But was Jesus speaking about fear in general, or about a particular kind of fear? I think there is a deeper teaching here. At the root of a healthy Christian life is a deep sense of the love of God; unconditional, unchanging, eternal. To recognise it, to be convinced of it, is often a lifelong process. No words can describe those moments when we sense within us, however briefly, that we are loved by God. Someone once called it a ‘resurrection moment’. In these moments, we realise that this is what eternal happiness is; to bask in the love of God.

But there are also moments, perhaps too many, when we convince ourselves that we are not worthy of love, that God does not love me. I am not speaking about moments of sadness or depression, but that deep, gnawing fear that I somehow don’t make the grade, that I am simply not good enough, that I am not going to make it. In short, I am not lovable.

It is this dark shadow that Jesus speaks of; ‘Do not be afraid’. Words may not be enough to reassure us. No wonder these words are repeated so many times in the Scriptures! But if we allow ourselves to hear these words of Jesus time and time again, then slowly we begin to move towards the light. What is the light telling us? That we are loved unconditionally. We are not required to earn it, make ourselves worthy of it. We are asked simply to receive it and believe it.

The next time we find ourselves under this shadow, let us repeat these words of Jesus gently; ‘Do not be afraid’. We are loved, cherished and precious to our Father God. In the end, this is all that matters.

God bless you all,

Father John