Fear and Faith

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Who among us has not been afraid at some point in our lives? Fear is, you might say, one of the basic human emotions. We are in good company. Throughout the Scriptures, people are being greeted with the words "Fear not," or similar sentiments. Today's Gospel passage places the words in Jesus himself. "Do not be afraid; just have faith." (Mark 5:36c)

Fear tends to paralyze. When we find ourselves in a situation that needs action, fear keeps us from taking the necessary steps to extricate us from the peril. Like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, we tend to do nothing to escape the situation. When pain strikes, we sometimes fail to go to the doctor for fear that we will learn of a fearful disease. When we are in need of absolution from sin, we sometimes fail to confess the sin because of fear that the confessor might be harsh or uncompassionate.

There are two stories related in the Gospel today. One is of a woman who is hemorrhaging. She has used her life savings trying to find a cure, but nothing has helped. She approaches Jesus with fear. She knows that she is ritually impure and that anyone who is touched by her or who touches her will incur the same ritual impurity. So she approaches Jesus surreptitiously, hoping to go unnoticed. Jesus realizes that healing power has gone out of him. He could have ignored the situation. However, he wants her to confront her fear and assures her that it is her faith that has saved her.

Jairus and his wife approach Jesus with another fear, one that all parents would understand. Their daughter is on her deathbed. It is in this context that Jesus counsels faith rather than fear. Now we know that children sometimes die and that parents are forced to endure the pain of grieving a dead child. So Jesus is not suggesting that faith will always cure deathly ill children. He is, however, asking these parents to confront their fears, to admit them and deal with them rather than avoiding or repressing them. Only by confronting them can they get through them.

As I said at the outset, we all know fear. Like any human emotion, it is neither good nor evil. Dealing with emotions rather than pushing them aside is the response of a faith-filled person.

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