without fear

As a child spending Easter at my grandparents’ farm I learnt a lot about resurrection.

My grandmother would get me out of bed for the Easter morning sunrise following the ancient belief that the sun dances to celebrate the resurrection. Then just before breakfast my grandfather would bring chocolate eggs in from the henhouse. After having witnessed the cosmic effects of the resurrection of Jesus in the dancing sun it didn’t seem too surprising that the hens were also affected!

In recent FFF reflections we have reflected that the resurrection of Jesus was not a simple resuscitation of a corpse as happened to Lazarus. Poor old Lazarus had to go through death again as an older man. Jesus was not just brought back from death, but rather passed through death to the totally new reality of life for which we have been created.

The resurrection of Jesus is a cosmic event bridging heaven and earth. As the Easter Proclamation (Exultet) announces at the Easter Vigil: “O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.”

Early on that Sunday morning as the women came from the tomb with news that the body of Jesus was not there, it seems the disciples of Jesus were literally all over the place. The women meet Peter and John who on hearing the news immediately run to the tomb, and gradually as this new day passes through morning to afternoon others receive the news in a variety of places, in their homes or on the road as the two on their walk to Emmaus.

The scriptures record that over the next few days many people encounter the risen Jesus, including one group of over 500 of his followers.

We know that Jesus was not simply resuscitated because he did not look the same (he was not recognised by his closest friends), he could pass through locked doors, but he was not a ghost since he still ate food.

Within a few days, as the authorities react to the news of the empty tomb, the followers of Jesus began to fear for their own lives and a week later (according to the timeline in the gospels) we find them in a room with doors closed and locked.

While we might initially think their situation was similar to our 2020 lockdown reality, it is important to understand the difference: the disciples had locked their doors from the inside motivated by their fear. Our COVID lockdown is imposed from outside of ourselves. The disciples were not in lockdown. They had locked themselves up because they were fearful.

The disciples were huddling together with a fear that, while understandable, was not consistent with a real and felt experience of the risen Jesus who greets us with the words: “do not be afraid.”

I’m thinking about a couple of situations that I’m feeling a bit of fear about at the moment. You might like to take a moment to call to mind one or two of your own present anxieties.

As I write this Easter reflection I see with greater clarity that while the negative situations I face are real, the fear I feel is really my own choice.  Because Jesus is risen and alive and present, I now have an alternative, a hope-filled way through my fears. This path involves accepting the fact that I am not locked down but I have instead allowed my fears and anxieties to lock me up.

As yesterday’s Dominion Post proclaimed “Jesus is not under lockdown!” And if we stay with Him, we can live the same freedom.

The disciples of Jesus grew to appreciate this fact so that when it comes to Pentecost fifty days after the resurrection, they are in one place but there is no mention of closed or locked doors. During those fifty days they had moved around a bit, from Jerusalem to Galilee, a thirty hour walk (thanks to Google maps for that info) and back again to Jerusalem for Pentecost. This indicates that they were not in lockdown or even lockup but beginning to live with a growing appreciation of what it meant to be in relationship with Jesus who was even more alive and present than he had been before his death.

Most of us spend most of our lives failing to accept the life and freedom that is ours as Christians. We make the mistake of following Jesus as we might a wise historical hero or teacher, forgetting that we are being invited and enticed into an intimate relationship with Jesus who is God alive and seeking to be in love with us.

Let’s savour Pope Francis’ words of hope from the Easter Vigil Mass last year.

Often what blocks hope is the stone of discouragement.Once we start thinking that everything is going badly and that things can’t get worse, we lose heart and come to believe that death is stronger than life.  We become cynical, negative and despondent.  Stone upon stone, we build within ourselves a monument to our own dissatisfaction: the sepulcher of hope. Life becomes a succession of complaints and we grow sick in spirit.  A kind of tomb psychology takes over: everything ends there, with no hope of emerging alive.  But at that moment, we hear once more the insistent question of Easter:Why do you seek the living among the dead?The Lord is not to be found in resignation.  He is risen; he is not there.  Don’t seek him where you will never find him: he is not the God of the dead but of the living (cf. Mk 22:32).  Do not bury hope!…

…The women, remembering Jesus, left the tomb.  Easter teaches us that believers do not linger at graveyards, for they are called to go forth to meet the Living One.  Let us ask ourselves:In my life, where am I going?  Sometimes we go only in the direction of our problems, of which there are plenty, and go to the Lord only for help.  But then, it is our own needs, not Jesus, to guide our steps.  We keep seeking the Living One among the dead.  Or again, how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead, digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts and dissatisfactions, without letting the Risen One change us?

Dear brothers and sisters: let us put the Living One at the centre of our lives. Let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the current, the sea of our problems; the grace not to run aground on the shoals of sin or crash on the reefs of discouragement and fear.  Let us seek him in all things and above all things.  With him, we will rise again.

 

Lectio Divina: using the Gospel of Easter Sunday morning.
Simply take 20 minutes, relax, press play and pray.

 

Thanks to Billy, & Wilson & Jessica  for the The Empty Tomb LEGO art below:

21 Responses to "without fear"
  1. Father John, loved your column. Many many thanks for all your guidance during this lent and Easter. Count with all nine of us support through our prayers. God bless you!

  2. Thank you for your daily reflection. I personally have experienced an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety after having very a traumatic experience a few years ago. It was then I felt God’s presence. As I lay there, I can clearly remember the song “Do not be afraid, because I will give you rest” . This calmed my mind, heart and soul and gave me reassurance I was not alone which gave me the strength to face the challenges going forward. God Bless

  3. Thank you Fr John for guiding us to this Easter Sunday. May you be blessed and enjoy this day for God is with you. Happy Easter!

  4. Thanks John,
    Great reflection for Easter Sunday. ✨
    Have appreciated your contribution though Lent.
    God Bless
    Denis

  5. Thanks be to God for this day and for you John have a wonderful Easter and the children with their amazing LEGO art. God Bless all.

  6. RITE-OF-PASSAGE ……

    Thank you, Father John, for carrying the lamp-light for us all on our devotional journey through the Lenten Season to the Easter Celebrations and for making such a difference in our lives.

    “How far that little candle throws his beams!
    So shines a good deed in a weary world”.
    (William Shakespeare) +

    Virginia

  7. Thank you. I have appreciated the levtio divina sessions. I don’t feel as if it has meant anything at the time, but I am often aware afterwards of something I must do. This morning after listening I went into my study to listen to the news and found myself writing a poem.

  8. Last year I celebrated Easter at a family gathering of about 100! This year, all alone, I felt as though I was part of another wonderful community of believers – Father John and all who have written in this “Reply” space as well as all those who watched and prayed the liturgy of Holy Week, courtesy of You Tube in Wellington and Christchurch! Thanks be to God that we were able to be present virtually at our Easter Triduum. Thanks be to Father John for his insightful and prayerful messages! May our Risen Lord bless each and every one of you! Happy Easter!

  9. Food For Faith has been such a blessed touch stone through lent, I am missing attending mass so much. Thank you for being my spiritual guide and mentor, there was no normal Easter Tridium during lockdown, this website has enabled me to celebrate the resurrection of Our Savior with my new virtual community. With deepest gratitude,

  10. This Easter has been such a blessing to me personally, I have been able to focus my attention, thoughts and mind on the entire events as they unfold. Usually Easter is spent running between Family and the Services at Church. So to be still and have Church come to me has been amazing. Thank you Father John for your beautiful reflections.
    A very Happy and Blessed Easter to you all. Now off to hunt for my Easter Egg!

    • “To be still and have Church come to me has been amazing” Jane says.
      This too has been my experience over this Lenten season.
      Thankyou Father John.

  11. Thank you John for the ‘food’ you’ve shared with us over the Lenten season. I’ve found your Lectio Divina offerings over this last week to be such a beautiful, meaningful and graced time each day… to be still and reminded that God is right here. May the light of Christ shine brightly into you this Easter.

  12. Bless you Father John for another wonderful reflection beginning with the childhood story. So powerful thank you! And thank you for continuing on while we are still in lockdown. Christ is risen indeed!

  13. Thank you Father John I appreciate the time you have taken on these beautiful Reflections. May all have a Blessed Easter. I look forward to your continuing FFF in our time in our bubbles. God Bless

  14. Thank you Fr John for these wonderful reflections through Lent to this day. I have read & re-read , reflected & shared. I was deeply touched by yesterday’s reflection on The Sign. The Christian Way starts with the Sign of the Cross. If ALL Christian’s participated we’re on the way to unity which Our Lord Jesus so fervently prayed for.

  15. I do hope you will continue with the guided meditations and comments on podcasts. I find listening helps me understand better.

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