A child in His mother’s arms… (artist unknown)
YES, we must find joy in the midst of this present darkness. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, ever-present to the Church. Yet, it is natural to be afraid of losing one’s security, or fearful of persecution or martyrdom. Jesus felt this human quality so intensely that He sweat drops of blood. But then, God sent Him an angel to strengthen Him, and Jesus’ fear was replaced by a quiet, docile peace.
Herein lies the root of the tree which bears the fruit of joy: total abandonment to God.
He who ‘fears’ the Lord is ‘not afraid.’ —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City, June 22, 2008; Zenit.org
THE GOOD FEAR
In a rather significant development this spring, the secular media began to discuss the idea of stockpiling food and even buying land for the coming economic crisis. It is rooted in genuine fear, but often in a lack of trust in God’s providence, and thus, the answer as they see it is to take matters into their own hands.
Being ‘without the fear of God’ is equivalent to putting ourselves in His place, feeling ourselves to be masters of good and evil, of life and death. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City, June 22, 2008; Zenit.org
What is the Christian response to this present Storm? I believe the answer does not lie in "figuring things out" or in self-preservation, but self-surrender.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
In this abandonment comes the "angel of strength" that each of us needs. In this resting upon the shoulder of God next to His mouth, we will hear the whispers of what is necessary and what is not, of what is wise and what is imprudent.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD. (Prov 9:10)
He who fears God feels interiorly the security of a child in the arms of his mother: He who fears God is calm even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed to us, is a Father who is full of mercy and goodness. He who loves God is not afraid. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City, June 22, 2008; Zenit.org
HE IS NEAR
This is why, dear brother and sisters, I urge you to cultivate an intimacy with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Here we find that He is not so far away after all. While it may take a lifetime to gain an audience with a president or even the Holy Father, it is not so with the King of kings who is there for you each moment of the day. Few, even in the Church, understand the incredible graces which await us there at His feet. If we could only catch a glimpse of the angelic realm, we would see angels bowed continuously before the Tabernacle in our empty churches, and we would be immediately moved to spend as much time as possible with Him there. Approach Jesus then with the eyes of faith, despite your feelings and what your senses tell you. Approach Him with reverence, awe—a good fear of the Lord. There you will draw upon every grace for every need, for the present and the future.
In coming to Him in Mass or in the Tabernacle—or if you are at home, meeting Him in the tabernacle of your heart through prayer—you are able to rest in His Presence in a most tangible way. This does not mean that human fear ceases immediately, just as Jesus prayed three times His prayer of abandonment in the Garden before the angel was sent to Him. Sometimes, if not most times, you have to persevere, the way a miner digs through layers of dirt and clay and stone until he finally reaches a rich vein of gold. And above all, cease to wrestle with things beyond your strength, and abandon yourself to God’s hidden plan presented to you in the form of a Cross:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not. (Proverbs 3:5)
Abandon yourself to His silence. Abandon yourself to not-knowing. Abandon yourself to the mystery of evil which seems to confront you as if God did not notice. But He does notice. He sees all things, including the resurrection which will come to you if you embrace your own Passion.
INTIMACY WITH GOD
The sacred writer continues:
…knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10)
The knowledge spoken of here is not facts about God, but an intimate knowing of His love. It is a knowledge born into a heart which surrenders into the arms of the Other, the way a bride surrenders to her groom that he may plant within her the seed of life. The seed God plants in our hearts is Love, His Word. It is a knowledge of the infinite which in itself leads to an understanding of the finite, a supernatural perspective of all things. But it does not come cheaply. It only comes by laying down upon the marital bed of the Cross, time and time again, letting the nails of suffering pierce you without fighting back, as you say to your Love, "Yes, God. I trust you even now in this most painful circumstance." From this holy abandonment, the lily of peace and joy will spring.
He who loves God is not afraid.
Can you not see already that God is sending you an angel of strength in these times of the Great Storm—a man dressed in white, carrying the staff of Peter?
"[The believer] knows that evil is irrational and does not have the last word, and that Christ alone is the Lord of the world and life, the Incarnate Word of God. He knows that Christ loved us to the point of sacrificing himself, dying on the Cross for our salvation. The more we grow in this intimacy with God, impregnated with love, the more easily we will defeat every kind of fear. ——POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican City, June 22, 2008; Zenit.org