Fear is a funny thing. Not funny ha-ha, but funny odd. It does funny things, has a funny effect on people. Fear can be a great motivator; some say the greatest motivator. Fear can also paralyze. And fear is a thread that runs through our readings today.
In the first reading from 1 John 4, St. John says this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” Now, we all have fears. Some folks are afraid of spiders, some of public speaking, some heights, some the dark…the list goes on and on. In the Gospel reading from Mark 6, we see that fear filled the disciples as they saw Jesus walking on the water in the middle of the night. They thought that they were seeing a ghost. Probably a valid fear on their part. I don’t believe that these are the fears to which St. John refers. He speaks of fear having to do with punishment.
There are a couple of particular fears that I think correlate well to St. John’s words. One is a fear of intimacy. This has catastrophic effects on our relationships, both with other humans and with God. How can we truly love someone if we’re afraid to share our lives with them? If we’re constantly afraid of getting hurt, we’ll never experience true love. Think of Jesus on the cross. Don’t you think that hurt? The other is fear of punishment, or of judgement, and this causes such damage to our relationship with God. If we’re living out our faith based only on fear - fear of damnation, fear of hell, fear of divine reprisal - then we’re missing the boat. As we grow more perfect in love, these fears are all cast aside. Today, let’s strive to be fearless lovers - of God and of our brothers and sisters on earth.
Father, you know how imperfect our love is, how great is our fear. Help us today to give our fears to you, that we might be fearless lovers today. Amen.