Catholics Courageous: Weekly Message for 10-11-2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

I will not fail you or forsake you … Be strong and of good courage … For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:6-9).

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14).

In Evelyn Waugh’s extraordinary novel, Brideshead Revisited, Lord Marchmain, a lapsed Catholic, approaches death and has “no strength other than his own solitary struggle to keep alive.” Observing this, Charles Ryder comments to the doctor: “He’s got a wonderful will to live, hasn’t he?” The doctor, however, disagrees. “Would you put it like that? I should say a great fear of death.” Perplexed, Charles responds “Is there a difference?” “Oh dear, yes,” the doctor replies. “He doesn’t derive any strength from his fear, you know. It’s wearing him out.”

Fear, an aversion of one’s whole being to danger, is a natural emotion. We should be afraid of some things. But because of Original Sin’s effects on us, we tend to fear the wrong things, or to fear in the wrong way. Fearing the wrong things, or fearing in the wrong way, saps our strength because it’s an attempt to live alone, under our own power. We don’t want to lose what we think we have. We don’t want to surrender our spurious control, even to God. Therefore the fear of death is a summary of all our fears.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Letter to the Hebrews puts it like this. “[Christ] himself partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). In other words, our participation in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection through Baptism means that we no longer live for ourselves, and we no longer die for ourselves. “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

If we live in fear, we derive no strength from our fear. It wears us out. But when we share it with the Lord, when we open our fear to his powerful and loving presence, something begins to shift. “Courage,” the old saw says, “is simply fear that has said its prayers.” What am I most afraid of? What, perhaps, is wearing me out?

And what might it mean to bring that fear trustingly and determinedly within the power of God’s loving care?

In Christ,

Fr. John Pietropaoli

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  1. Thanks Fr John
    Great reflection “will to live” vs. “great fear of death” and then your reminder from Romans “ whether we live or die we are the Lords”

    Thank you
    In Christ

  2. Father John, I really like how you pinpointed that fear as an emotion takes our strength from where it should be going–happiness with Jesus by trusting in Him

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