I have been afraid many times in my life. Fear has been a constant companion for many years. I spent sixteen years living daily with fear. During my law enforcement career, I honestly cannot remember a single day that I was not afraid. Quite literally, the next call may be your last as a police officer. I was a SWAT operator for twelve years. I lost count of the number of operations I was part of. The fear of those operations cannot be overstated. I worked undercover as a narcotics detective for many years. Fear was a daily companion.
Fear is a reality. We cannot do away with it. So if we cannot do away with fear, we have to learn how to function even when we’re afraid. One time, my wife and I were discussing something and she made a comment about me seemingly never being worried or afraid. I said something along the lines of being shot at and in fear of my life so much that the little things didn’t bother me anymore. Once you get used to the idea that you are going to die and there’s really not much you can do to stop it, things come into perspective for you.
Fear is powerful. We are witnessing this in our world today. I’m not that old but I ain’t no spring chicken either. I mean, I’m pushing 50. I cannot remember a time in my life when the whole world seemed gripped by a single fear like we are now. Well, almost the whole world. I also cannot remember a time when we have witnessed such weak and feckless leadership. That weakness and fear and lack of leadership corrupts everything.
Even the Church.
Some you reading this will immediately say to me that I need to be more sensitive or submissive and that I don’t understand the decisions that are being made and blah blah blah. I understand perfectly the decisions that are being made by our leaders. What I don’t understand is why they are making those decisions.
I’m referring to our Church leaders, not the governmental leaders. Anyone with half a brain knows what the government is doing. They are doing all within their power to control us. They don’t care one whit about you or me as individuals. They don’t care at all about the people of their country. They care about extending their own power and control and wealth and they will do whatever it takes to get more of all the above. They will happily sacrifice all of us toward that end.
I’m not talking about government.
I’m talking about our Church leaders.
Never have I seen, never would I have imagined, that the Church would cower in fear before anything on this earth. Never would I have imagined that the Church would just lie down before the State and say, “Yes, master.” Never would I have imagined that the Church would close her doors to the faithful and tell us it’s for our own good, that it’s the “morally responsible” and “pastoral” thing to do.
But that is precisely what we’re witnessing in the Church today. Our leaders have bowed to fear. Our leaders have bowed to the god of safety and comfort. Our leaders have bowed to the State. Never should the government tell us as the Church what we can and cannot do, when we can and cannot worship, how we can and cannot worship. Never should we give in to fear. Yet, here we are.
Our Lord told us,
“I have said these things to you, than in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I’m reminded of St. Athanasius. When discussing the Incarnation of Christ, he said this,
“For being above all, the Word of God consequently, by offering his own temple and his bodily instrument as a substitute for all, fulfilled in death that which was required; and, being with all through the like (body), the incorruptible Son of God consequently clothed all with incorruptibility in the promise concerning the resurrection. And now the very corruption of death no longer holds ground against human beings because of the indwelling Word..”(underline mine)
What could we possibly fear?!
I wonder what our Lord would say to us now, as we cower in fear before a virus. I wonder what our forefathers in the faith, like St. Athanasius, would say to us now, those who didn’t run from disease or war or martyrdom but embraced suffering for the name of Jesus and went to their death singing with the joy of their salvation. Did you know that, once upon a time, Christians were known for going into disease ridden places to care for the sick even though they knew it would cost them their lives? Have we considered that Jesus touched lepers to heal them, knowing that leprosy was a death sentence in the ancient world?
How dare we cower in fear before anything in the world?
Have we forgotten the words of Jesus, who reminds us,
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Let us remind our bishops and priests that their responsibility is not to keep us safe. Your responsibility, fathers, is to lead our souls to heaven. I don’t care if I get a little sick on the way. I don’t expect to make it out of this stage of life unscathed. I’m not afraid of getting sick. I’m afraid of going to hell.
Souls are at stake.
For the bishops and priests, I want you to know that your sheep are looking for a shepherd, one who will lead without fear. We want men and fathers who will lead us to Jesus, not cower in fear before the god of safety or submit to the whim of government. Fathers, you will answer to God. Please remember that. Christians, brothers and sisters, pray for your bishop and priests. Pray that they will no longer be afraid but stand. Pray for your own soul that you will be faithful. Pray for the souls of the bishops and priests that they will also be faithful.
Stand up and speak out. Be faithful, even if no one else will. Our Savior is with you. He will not fail us. Be not afraid.