Do Not Be Afraid

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”  John 6:19–20

On October 22, 1978, Pope Saint John Paul II was inaugurated as the 264th pope of our Holy Church. During his homily, the Holy Father said, “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power.” The phrase “Do not be afraid” was repeated over and over again throughout his pontificate. In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, which was written as a preparation for the new millenia, the Holy Father explained the following: “When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16).

This exhortation against fear is repeated throughout the Bible numerous times. It is found in the Old Testament over a hundred times in some form and in the New Testament over fifty times. Again and again, God wants us to conquer fear, worry, and anxiety. He wants us to trust in Him in all things and place all of our hope in Him.

What is it that you fear the most in life? For some, fear comes on a daily basis. Perhaps you face financial insecurity, poor health, a broken relationship, psychological difficulties, etc. There are numerous things in life that can easily tempt us to fear.

In the Gospel passage for today, Jesus walks toward His disciples on the water during a turbulent time on the Sea of Galilee. The wind was blowing, and the waves were concerning. And though these fishermen had spent many nights on the sea, Jesus chose to come to them at this moment, not so much to help them get to shore but to teach all of us that no matter what “storm” we face in life, He will be there in ways that are truly miraculous. Certainly, none of the disciples ever expected to see Jesus walking on the water in the middle of the night while the waves were crashing upon their boat. But Jesus did this and spoke those words, “Do not be afraid,” because He wanted us to know that no matter what we struggle with in life, He is always there, coming to us in love, and will see us safely to the shore of His peace.

If fear is something you struggle with on a personal level, then turn your eyes to the reality of the Redemption. The Father sent the Son into the world to save you. Jesus did not only come to teach, or to inspire, or to help. He came to save. To redeem. To destroy death, fear, sin and all that keeps us from the Father. His saving act changes humanity forever. If you understand that and believe it, then nothing can steal away your peace and fill you with fear.

Reflect, today, upon this powerful little phrase: “Do not be afraid!” Imagine yourself in the boat with the disciples at night, being tossed by the waves, surrounded by darkness. And then see Jesus coming to you speaking those words. Know that He speaks them to you in the darkest moments of your life and that He will never leave you. Hope in Him and let His saving act of the Redemption transform your life forever.

Jesus, my Redeemer, I thank You for coming into this world to save us. Thank You for the gift of the Redemption of the world. When I am tempted to fear and turn my eyes to the difficulties of the world, give me the grace I need to turn to You in hope and trust. Enter the storms of my life, dear Lord, and lift my burden of fear. Jesus, I trust in You.