At the Mass for the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at which Pope Francis beatified Pope Paul VI, Pope Francis spoke some extraordinary words about conquering fear in our lives by recognizing what causes that fear. He stressed that God is the center of our lives and alone the Lord of all creation. He stressed that in the face of any sort of power in this world, it is the Lord alone who is the sole power. The Holy Father said that because of the centrality of God in our lives, there is a newness to be discovered each and every day. Because God surprises us many times, we have a tendency to be fearful of those surprises. However, the surprises are meant to enhance life and enable us to face God more closely and this alone gives life.
Pope Francis said, "God is not afraid of new things! That is why He is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: He constantly makes us "new". The Christian who lives the Gospel is ‘God's newness’ in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this ‘newness’"! The Pope's words are fascinating and worthy of much reflection – "God is not afraid of new things!" Our first reaction might be that God is not afraid of anything. He is all powerful and it is through Him that the world and everything came into existence and continues in existence as subject to Him. This certainly is the absolute truth. However, God's power is not in His infinite ability to do anything but in His infinite love! Precisely because "God is love" (1Jn 4:8) God cannot be fearful for "there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear" (1Jn 4:8). It is love which is the antidote to fear for love and fear cannot exist together.
Jesus knows well our fears both of the old and of the new. One of the things that He stresses over and over again in the Gospels is the need for us to recognize the centrality of God's love within
our lives in order that our fears might be cast away. Many times the disciples are distressed over things which are very real and frightening. At these times, Jesus assures them that they should not be afraid because He is with them. Many times the disciples worry about what is going to happen in the future and their worries are well-founded. Again, Jesus assures them that they should not worry because He will be with them and the Holy Spirit will always guide them even in the most difficult of times. He tells His disciples that if they seek God first and make Him the center of their lives, all the things they need will be given to them. He says, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” (Mt 6:34) and in times of persecution they are not to worry about what to say as "it will not be you who speak, but the spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mt 10:20).
The words of Pope Francis concerning God's lack of fear of new things makes clear that God is not only unafraid of them but tends towards them. This is easy for us to understand from our human perspective. We are always looking for new things and new things bring us a certain joy. We look forward to and anticipate receiving new things and sometimes the anticipation supersedes the joy of actually getting them. When we think of material things such as a new home, car, iPhone or whatever else, there is always an enjoyment of the novelty which they bring. In the more important gifts of life such as a newborn baby, an enduring relationship of love, or an insight into ourselves, newness reawakens the joy of life in a deeper sense. When God created us, He created us from nothing and brought newness to life. Newness is of the very essence of God, not in the sense of novelty but always in the context of pure love.
Jesus’ message to us is one that is filled with newness. God's infinite love is revealed in
His beloved Son taking our human nature and becoming one of us. God did not fear to do this but did so out of love. The newness of the Incarnation transforms the very nature of humanity for it becomes
the place where God Himself dwells. Jesus continually urges us not to stand in fear before God even in our limitations and sinfulness. He reminds us that He did not come to call the just but to call sinners (cf. Lk 5:32). He tells us that we cannot pour new wine into old skins as it will be destructive (cf. Mk 2:22). In the Eucharist, He gives us a “new covenant” which is that of His very Body and Blood (cf.Mt 26:29) which we celebrate upon the altar and receive as our food for life. He gives us a “new commandment” which is to love one another as He has loved us (cf. Jn 13: 34). It is in this new commandment that truly we are able to cast out all fear and to be touched by the love of God which makes us new.
Jesus reminds us after His Resurrection and Ascension that He makes all things new (cf. Rev 21:15). Only in Jesus Christ do we find the joy of life as God touches us and surprises us each and every moment of our lives. We do have nothing to fear because the love of God will never let us down. The more we come to know the Person of Jesus Christ the more we come to know who we are and what really matters. In the words of Pope Francis, "Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavor to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi. . . . . . That is why we Christians look to the future, God's future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.” We should have no fear because God, who is love, is always with us and makes all things new each and every day!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
November 7, 2014