Be not afraid: Fear is the opposite of faith

Being a parent is never easy and before you begin to wonder where I’m going, this isn’t a confession.

Since the birth of my nephew fifteen months ago I’m a changed man. I didn’t realise becoming an uncle could be such hard work, especially on the occasions when the grandparents are babysitting and the child has the run of the house.

I’ll be honest, on my mornings off I like to lie on in bed. In badness one of my other brothers now opens the door of my bedroom, abandons my nephew, then closes the door. At this point I close my eyes and mutter a silent prayer hoping I’ll be left alone. This never lasts long as I hear the noise of my room being dismantled. Then when he is fed up with destroying my prized and most personal possessions he begins to look for the biggest and heaviest object he can carry. This is the prelude to what I fear most. I wait in silence and then before you know it any chance of my getting back to sleep is shattered. Life has become more complicated now that our nephew can walk. He began with a few steps, progressed to a prolonged stumble which was usually broken by whatever he fell against. He fell so often I thought I would buy him a crash helmet for his birthday.

On a more positive note he now plays out in the nearly concreted back yard and even though he has more toys than you can imagine he insists on poking about the drains. More often than enough in the space of five minutes he’s up to his eyes in muck. As I was leaving I tried to say goodbye to my nephew and he ignored me and continued to clean out the gutters instead. His mother lifted him up and asked him to give me a hug. I got myself geared up for this display of affection but failed to notice the tennis racket which he duly wacked me with instead.

This week’s gospel reminds all us of the need to be watchful, waiting patiently and expectantly for Christ’s return. Jesus will come again to bring to completion the reign of God’s Kingdom. Yet we can live with the wrong expectations especially when our main attitude towards God is one of fear. If we become governed with fear then we will come to dread God’s presence. Ron Rolheiser explains: ‘Fear of God in its healthy sense is basically love’s fear, fear of not living with the proper reverence and respect before the one we love, namely, fear of violating love’s proper boundaries. But that is not fear of hellfire, as we commonly understand this. Fear is the opposite of faith and a sign that something is wrong in our love. We aren’t afraid of what we love and of what truly loves us.’ If we can learn to appreciate how much God loves each and every one of us then hopefully our relationship with God will change. God understands and appreciates our fears, weaknesses and failings. What God asks of all of us us is to open the door of our hearts and let him enter to heal our hurts and strengthen us.