Jesus Helps Us Overcome our Fears
2nd Sunday of Easter (B)

Jeremiah R. Grosse
Reproduced with Permission

There are very few things in life that have the power to disable a person the way that fear does. Fear of others can make a person a prisoner in their own home and fear of the dark can prevent a child from getting to sleep. However, the greatest fear in the lives of many people is the fear of the unknown.

It was this fear of the unknown which drove the apostles to take refuge behind the locked door of the Upper Room. Two days earlier they saw their Master put to death by the Romans and they were terrified that it was only a matter of time before the Jewish leaders came after them as well. “We devoted three years of our lives to spending time with Jesus and now He’s gone. What are we going to do?”

Suddenly Jesus came and stood in their midst and now they are experiencing a new type of fear. Fear that they are actually seeing a ghost. Jesus attempts to calm their fear by showing them His hands and side. How can this be Jesus? We saw Him being taken down from the Cross and placed in the tomb. Sure we heard some wild story from the women that they went to the tomb to anoint His body and the tomb was empty, but that just didn’t sound right. Then we heard from Cleopas that he and his companion were walking along the road to Emmaus when they met someone who had told them all about how the Scriptures needed to be fulfilled regarding Jesus and they finally realized that it was Jesus when he broke bread with them, but by that point He had disappeared from their sight. We also heard from Mary Magdalene that she was by the tomb this morning and met a man she thought was the gardener, but it turned out to be Jesus. Mary said that she recognized Him immediately once he mentioned her name. This all sounds too good to be true! Yet, in spite of all this good news they were still afraid.

It was fear that lead Pharaoh to order the slaying of all the male children under the age of three. Fear that a liberator would be among those children and he would lose his workforce. It was fear that leads King Herod to order the beheading of John the Baptist. Fear that his guests would not respect him if he went back on his word to Salome. It was fear which led Pontius Pilate to allow Jesus to be nailed to the Cross even though he found Jesus to be innocent. Fear that the people would tell Caesar that he was disloyal and he would lose his position as Governor of Judea.

In the classic Frank Capra film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, it was fear which lead the main character, George Bailey, to consider taking his own life after he discovered that the Building and Loan was missing three thousand dollars due to his Uncle Billy’s negligence. Fear of going to prison and fear of being disgraced in front of his friends and neighbors. It was this same fear which led him to the conclusion that everyone would have been better off if he had never been born.

Jesus understood very well what impact fear had on his disciples. On numerous occasions He would tell them, “Be not afraid” because He knew that fear would drive them to do things that they would otherwise not normally do. The Letter of St. John tells us that God is love. God is also perfect and we know from the Scriptures that perfect love casts out fear.

Fear is not liberating, it is enslaving. Jesus did not call us to be slaves, but His friends. When Jesus entered the Upper Room on the first day of the week He said to His disciples, “Peace be with you”. That greeting of peace calmed their fears and the disciples went from being anxious and scared to rejoicing because they are with the Lord. Jesus breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who will be with them even after Jesus ascends into Heaven. It is the Holy Spirit who will sustain them in their peace and allow them to go out and bring this same peace to every nation upon earth.

It is the Holy Spirit who will teach us all things and enable us to live in the freedom of the children of God. It was the Holy Spirit who gave Peter the power to be able to proclaim the Good News to all the Jews present in Jerusalem at that time and allow each of them to hear Peter in their own language. No longer were these disciples scared and cowering behind the locked door of the Upper Room. Now they were ready to proclaim the Good News to everyone that they come in contact with. This is the power of God working in the lives of these disciples. It is this same power which enabled Peter to face martyrdom after having denied that he even knew Jesus. This power of God transformed Saul of Tarsus, who had been present at the martyrdom of Stephen, into Paul who would bring the Good News to the gentiles and spread the faith through Asia Minor and parts of Europe. He brought hope and love where fear and discord had existed.

We are made in the image and likeness of God and by virtue of our baptism we have the very same power of God at work in our lives as well. The Holy Trinity has made their dwelling within us and has transformed us from slaves to those who are free, alive, and over whom death no longer has any power.

George Bailey is given the gift of being able to see what life would be like had he never been born. There is no three thousand dollars missing, no police or bank examiner after George; however, there is no Mary, no Zuzu, and even his own mother does not know who he is. The Building and Loan went out of business after his father died and his brother, Harry, never became a war hero because George was not there to save him from drowning in the ice as a young boy.

George comes to realize that he truly has had a wonderful life. He overcomes his fear and is even willing to face jail time rather than end his life. In fact, the very people he thought would turn on him end up chipping in to make up for the three thousand dollar shortfall.

In a few moments we will gather around the altar on this Second Sunday of Easter and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. At the end of the liturgy we will be sent forth to bring that same transforming power of God to all those who we will meet today. This is what God asks of us so that we may live out our Christian life and continue His saving work in the world.