By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, April 11, 2011

Faith or fear?

Why do we fear? At first glance such a question seems silly. There are many things that fill us with fear, usually circumstances that are beyond our control, and before which we know ourselves to be powerless. Fear touches each of us. Nevertheless, the question is legitimate in the light of Sunday's Gospel passage from St. John (cf. John 11: 1-45). When we consider what that passage recounts, the question that springs to the mind and heart is: "Why should I ever be afraid of anything?"

It is the astounding narrative of the raising of Lazarus. Although he is dead a full four days (!), nevertheless Jesus restores him to life and calls him forth from the tomb. This is our God who has drawn near to us and remains with us. He has power over all things, even death, and he is here. This is enough for us - to know that Jesus is here. Think of the disciples when they were caught in a storm, terrified. Jesus came to them and gave them the one reason that suffices to calm fear: "It is I." (Cf. Matthew 14:27)

Very pointedly, Jesus poses a question to Martha, who is grieving the loss of her brother Lazarus. The same question is directed at us: "Do you believe?" Faith or fear? In the face of difficulties where we are powerless, do we choose to believe or to fear? Martha's answer is very beautiful and moving: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."

To make this act of faith, which dispels all fear, we need the Holy Spirit. St. Paul teaches that no one can acknowledge Jesus as Lord unless by the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Cor 12:3). In the second reading of the Mass the Apostle affirms that this same Spirit of God dwells in us. Promised long ago through the prophet Ezekiel (cf. first reading) the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon the Church at Pentecost and is now poured into our hearts through the sacraments of the Church. The mission of the Spirit is to unite us to Jesus, to his love and to his power. Therefore, why be afraid?

Faith or fear? If you are facing something particularly difficult right now, ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to renew your act of faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In him there is no room for despair. There is only hope. In the words of Saint Paul (cf. Romans 15:13), may he fill you with peace as you believe in him.