33rd Sunday C – Love Doesn’t Fear Change
Does Jesus’ description of the end times in this gospel passage suggest it might be happening? As I write this, Russia has intensified its missile attacks on Ukranian cities and Putin is threatening nuclear attacks. Hurricanes have done terrible damage to Florida and neighbouring states and islands. Forest fires are spreading as never before and many places are parched from drought or destroyed by floods. Gigantic icebergs are melting and the seas are rising, threatening coastal cities around the world and islands in the oceans. A street preacher holding a sign reading, “The end is near!” might have a point.
Our planet has always been a place where monumental disasters occur. They seem to strike more often now. As well as that, each person faces their own disasters: the loss of a loved one, a serious medical diagnosis, job loss, the breakdown of a relationship…. Fear and anxiety abound. The sacred scriptures tell us in many places not to be afraid. And Jesus himself, knowing what lay ahead of him, tells us time and again not to fear. I think the message there is not to succumb to being afraid and not to let fear determine how we see and act and live.
Our age has been called the Age of Anxiety. Danger hides everywhere. Danger and bad news are not options. Fear, however, is an option. The bravest and most successful warriors in history experienced fear and anxiety, but they didn’t succumb to it. They focused on something bigger than the danger: their eyes were on the prize and the glory of victory. For Christians, followers of Christ, the great reality in life is God’s love – Romans 5:5. The deep conviction that we are loved by God trumps every danger but doesn’t shield and protect us from feeling fear and being anxious about things.
The 12th century Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that love is sufficient unto itself and is its own reward. It needs no apology, excuse or explanation and is its own purpose. For believers it is the most ultimate, deepest and highest reality there is. Augustine said, some 800 years earlier, that love is our deepest identity – we were made for love…. We know God by loving God…. These Christian giants spoke of a love that gives selflessly because it comes selflessly from God. This love is awakened in us through a prayer that is silent and gazing and feeling God’s love. Bernard speaks of it happening in an instant while at prayer, and it leaves a permanent mark. (On Loving God, St. Bernard, chapts , 5,9 & 10.)
Fr. QQ – 11/10/2022
In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love – 1 John 4:18