An Easter Message from Father Aveni
Out of all that we encounter in our lives, it is fear that tends to be the largest obstacle that separates us from so many of the good things of life. Fear of failure and criticism can hold us back from pursuing dreams, justice, truth and faith. Fear of change prevents us from taking chances and growth. Fear of rejection restricts us from truth in relationships. Fear of what might happen doesn’t let us experience what might happen. We can be misled (especially by persuasion of society or people in our lives) by fear that prevents us from witnessing to the truth and making sound moral judgements. Fear is one of the strongest deterrents that binds us and limits our freedom, and fear is often of a perceived possibility as opposed to a true possibility.
At this unique time in our community and our world, there are real fears that are heavy on our minds; being exposed or potentially exposed to the Covid-19 virus, a loved one who is suffering from the virus, the economic impact it has and will continue to have on my (family) life, access to needed medical and psychological treatments…the list goes on. Fear in itself is not bad, as prudence and right judgement is a gift of the Holy Spirit that also uses fear to help discern. Fear obviously is not a new emotion in the present Corona laden time we are in. Fear has been in existence from the beginning.
We hear the phrase “Do not be afraid” not once but twice in the Gospel of Matthew at Easter. Both the angel and the Risen Lord say “Do not be afraid” to the women at the tomb so that they do not become discouraged from spreading the Good News due to fear. There are so many other first greetings Christ could have said to these faithful women, there were probably a number of things these women wanted to know, but He chose “Do Not Be Afraid!” a phrase he had probably used with them before. For Christ, better than anyone, knew how the destructive nature of evil uses fear to lure his victims. It was ultimately fear of change and fear of the Romans that lead the Pharisees to have Jesus arrested and crucified, though the Risen Lord shows us that not even the power of death can hold back God’s divine plan and love that God has for His People. Fear had prevented generations of people from responding to God’s invitation to be in His life. Fear was the first emotion the first man and woman experienced after eating the fruit, fear of the loving creator who they had not feared before. Knowing our human nature, it seems Christ couldn’t greet those women with any other words than “Do Not Be Afraid.”
In our journey of Lent, we have taken more time in prayer, fasted from those things that bind us, and reached out in charity to those in need. This year in these extraordinary circumstances we are also experiencing the added penances of a serious pandemic and Stay at Home Advisory. Hopefully we came though it unharmed but not unchanged. If we really want to be honest, we emerge from Lent into Easter stronger from the journey. This Easter, Christ breaks the particular barriers of the pandemic and greets us with the same words, “Do Not Be Afraid!” Do not let fear let us fall back to our old habits or restrict us from strengthening our relationship with God. We Know Better Now! We no longer have to fear, for the Risen Lord – our Way our Truth and our Life, “has our back!” So may the true courage and freedom that is only found in this Risen Lord, dispel the darkness and all fears that restrict us, so that we may bask in the Light of Christ’s Glory and in this new life that He has won for us, even if it is after May 4th.
Christ our Lord has truly Risen!