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The Antidote to Fear
A Reflection on John 16:29-33
Christ is risen! Alleluia! This is the traditional Easter greeting of the Church and the traditional response is the joyous affirmation that, “He is risen indeed,” or “He is truly risen”! This is the greeting not just of Easter Day, but of the entire Easter Season. In these four words are the antidote for human fear. With this declaration, St Cyril of Alexandria writes; “We put on the joy given by God so that we can rejoice and say, “Where is your victory, O death?”” (As quoted in Oden, Ancient Christian Devotional)
On Easter Day, in giving this greeting, I am sure that you would have gotten a smiling, “Happy Easter” or even a “He is risen indeed” in return. During the Octave or first eight Days of Easter, you may have gotten a smile and a polite nod with the other person thinking that your timing was just a bit off. However today, if you use that greeting, you are bound to get quizzical looks at best, or even a frown, with a stepping away and an “are you crazy” type of expression. The world has moved on from Easter Sunday. It has lost that moment of peace and joy and submerged it in a million other cares, worries, concerns. Joy is dead and buried, fear reigns. Yet, we should not, cannot, give in to fear. Christ is risen, He is truly risen. This is real! We cannot let go of this joy during the Easter season or any other season for the rest of our lives. It is our Pascal joy! This is the joy that empowered the Apostles and every Martyr which followed them.
Throughout the Easter season at Mass, we pray in the Preface for the Eucharistic Prayer,
“Therefore, overcome with paschal joy, every land, every people exults in your praise and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts, sing together the unending hymn of your glory, as they acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy …” (The Roman Missal, 3rd Edition)
With this Paschal joy, the joy of our redemption and Salvation, we prepare ourselves for Christ’s physical arrival on our altar! We announce, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” and rightfully drop to our knees as the King is here, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. God is here and awaits our “amen” to infuse us with His divinity so that eternal life becomes possible. This is the source of our Christian joy today and every day. Of what can you be afraid? We have read from the Acts of the Apostles all through this Easter Season. This joy, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, who’s coming upon the Church we are preparing to celebrate this coming Sunday, is the joy that filled the Church and it spread the good news of salvation like a wildfire in a dry forest! How often in the readings from the Acts of the Apostles have we heard the words?
Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them. Acts 5:14 (NABRE)
… for [Barnabas] was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Acts 11:24 (NABRE)
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. Acts 2:41 (NABRE)
The power of the Holy Spirit, the witness of the peace of Christ, and the joy of the Gospel is powerful!
Anxiety, war, famine, the latest pandemic, the dropping of the stock market, the death of so many innocents is sadly not going to go away. As St Peter reminds us in Sacred Scripture, “The devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. (1Pet 5:8 NABRE). Yet, we cannot let the fear of what we cannot control possess us. Remember, nothing can harm our immortal soul. That is in Jesus’ loving hands.
The Lord tells the disciples in the Gospel: “Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone,” (John 16:32 NABR). Fear drives us away from God and makes us think that we only have ourselves to depend on. But we don’t have to be afraid. God is with us; He can carry us through any tragedy. Jesus tells us today that even as all abandon Him in His passion, His joy is not lost for, He says, “the Father is with me” (John 16:32b NABRE). He is telling us the same today. Remain in my joy for I, the Lord, will never abandon you. He tells us “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me,” (John 16:33 NABRE). So, do not let fear reign in your heart but instead let the Peace of the Lord be always with you!
Look, Jesus did not promise that we would not have trouble in this fallen and sinful world. That should be rather obvious from a simple glance at the headlines in the news. But as He told the disciples, “Take courage, I have conquered the world,” (John 16:33b). Take courage, do not be afraid, eternity in heaven awaits! Take courage, nothing can harm your soul. Take courage, Christ is risen, alleluia!
Let that thought permeate every moment of everyday. Next time you are discouraged or feel the touch of anxiety and fear, repeat the Easter mantra, Christ is risen alleluia! Then let God’s presence, peace, and joy fill your heart. For on the Cross, Christ, our mighty Warrior, has conquered the world. Of what can we possibly be afraid?
Now, with the peace that truly surpasses understanding and vanquishes fear, go, and announce joy, the Gospel, to the world. This is the antidote to fear in our and every other life. It is the life-giving medicine, the antidote to fear, so many need!
Lord, Give the fullness of peace and joy to your faithful people. May peace and joy rule us in this life and possess us in eternal life. Christ is risen, alleluia! Amen
Cyril of Alexandria as quoted in Oden, Thomas C., and Cindy Crosby, eds. Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle B. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011. Print.
New American Bible. Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
The Roman Missal: Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II. Third Typical Edition. Washington D.C.: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.