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A Leaven In The World… “Fear Is Useless”

March 19, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

Lent is about death. The Lord’s death, of course: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat.” He Himself in His human nature must be the seed of future glory for all of mankind.
Fear is mankind’s most instinctive response before the vast and uncharted waters of death. In the journey to Calvary we live a precursor of our own demise. We accompany the Lord in our traditional prayer of the Way of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent and particularly on Good Friday and, doing so, we meditate also upon the penalty of Adam’s sin, which must be visited upon all the children of the first parent. The loss of original friendship with God cannot be repaired unless the veil of this mortal flesh be ripped away. Death is the question posed to all which demands an answer.
Accompanying an elderly parishioner dying at home midway through the Lenten journey, shortly after the rejoicing of Laetare Sunday, brings tears of empathy and compassion. One cannot but grieve seeing a spouse of over 70 years attempting to say a final goodbye to her life’s companion this side of the veil. The family gathers around the bedside of a dying husband and father, seeking the casual words of commonplace conversation to avoid the obvious alternative of wordless weeping.
Another parishioner must go to the doctor because of a worrying symptom, fearing cancer. There are times when the most compassionate words of a pastor are to remind his flock that we all must die. Truth is the ground of compassion. The Lord is the Truth and compassionate Love incarnate. And He died.
But the Lord did not simply die of old age after a full lifetime spent enjoying His Father’s blessings in this world. The beauty of the world reflects the Creator’s beauty so powerfully that we often part from it with sorrow and regret. No, the Creator Himself had barely tasted of the fruits of His own labor when He was cut down in the flower of youth. God Himself died a criminal. Think of the abject and cruel torture of the electric chair and you gain a small notion of the disgusted reaction to a man dying on a cross in first-century Palestine.
Salvation was born not simply of death but of a death the most repugnant and evil that could be invented in the mind of those created in the Life-giver’s own image and likeness.
Silence enables the encounter with the Lord and with Life in the death watch that is Lent. Passiontide is upon us once again and our stunned silence in the face of the Lord’s appalling suffering, the result of our complicity in evildoing witnessed through the power of sacred liturgy, must be at times our most profound and compassionate response.
Perhaps a bad visit with the doctor is the most fearful experience for most today. The fevered alacrity with which vitamins, medications and perhaps even exercise, are embraced after resulting medical mortality reminders give witness to the desire for life uninterrupted.
Our minds go to the promise that the One who died the ignominious death on the cross came “to give us life and life abundantly.” But, yet, He died.
We cannot drown out the noise of death in which we are immersed. We hear every day of more deaths: children in schools, the unborn in the womb, domestic violence, suicides, and murders of all kinds. The obituaries will never die from the newspapers because death is as certain a reality as taxes.
Our days are either built upon denial or acceptance of death’s eventuality. Fear or resignation. Without a hearing for the voice of the One who died on the cross, this is all we have left.
Or faith. The One who died as a common criminal after a life of loving miracles and compassion told us that He came to give us faith, and that with it we might have an alternative to the grip of paralyzing fear in the face of the unknown beyond life’s borders. “He who believes in me has eternal life,” He said. And He went on to tell us, “And I will raise Him up on the last day.”
Our encounter with Him must be our occasion for this faith if we would have any hope of life. Death is true because it is real. Everyone who has ever lived has died, and thus it is reasonable for us to accept that this must be true for each one of us as well. And being true for us it demands of us a response. Fear, or resignation, or faith.
In the challenge posed by Lent we must journey deep within ourselves and come back again with honesty. Are we resigned? Doing nothing but to simply wait for demise’s eventuality? Are we fearful? Grasping at idols and consuming mindlessly food, drugs, sex, things in a futile attempt to avoid the facts?
Or will we arrive at faith? Faith is a place awesome in grandeur. Because it is a place where we meet God, it is deeper than the netherworld, higher than the sky. It touches the eternal because it embraces God. But faith is simple, too. It is as accessible as the next opportunity for silence, and the watchfulness, awareness, and prayer thus accommodated.
Robert Cardinal Sarah reminded us again recently with a talk in Toronto that God is embraced and encountered within each of us, aided by silence. He told us that our dignity, identity, and vocation are affirmed when we have the courage and perseverance to seek the luxury and gift of silence. This is the way out of fear and into the trust to which the Crucified One invites us.
When we encounter God within we encounter within us also His eternal life. This is indeed that seed which only by dying yields for us the life unending of our hopes.
The Lord Himself addressed our fears, and with them the greatest source of all fears. He did so through His life and death. Our fruitless ruminations upon what lies beyond the waters of Lethe invite their forgetfulness and dreams but can never yield the fruit of faith.
A trusting faith is born of friendship. Friendship with the Lord is born and grows in the intimacy of silence. Silence has become a luxury in a world riled with the anxiety of rejecting God.
“Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.”
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
On Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism

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