January 8 1 Jn. 4:11-18 Mark 6:45-52
Love Casts Out Fear
One of the common emotions that all of us face is fear. It is an emotion that we can’t turn off at will. Some fear is warranted if we feel a serious threat to our well being. In the gospel today the apostles are in a boat that is being tossed by the wind and waves. Who wouldn’t be afraid under those circumstances? Jesus approached the boat walking on the sea and calmed the storm. Of course the apostles were shocked by the power that Jesus demonstrated. But they were especially grateful that Jesus came to their rescue.
In the letter of John in today’s reading, John expounds on the virtue of love as a description of God. “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God, and God in him.” What a beautiful picture of the encompassing power of God’s love. To be godlike is to become a loving person in all circumstances of life.
But John goes on to connect love and fear in a unique way. He says that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” By that criterion, I think we can all say we do not have perfect love since we all have fears at times: danger, health, persecution, rejection, etc.
However, it seems that John is really trying to encourage us not to fear punishment, especially eternal punishment. If we remain in God and are striving to be holy, John is saying we should not fear separation from God since we are saved by the blood of Jesus, and our place is assured in heaven. When the love of God embraces us we should not fear the harsh trials of life. Paul the apostle wrote, “For those who love God all things work together unto good according to God’s purpose.” Romans 8:28. In the permissive will of God we sometimes have to endure trials and rejection, but the power of God still surrounds and protects us. In that sense our love of God will cast out the fear which tries to cripple us.
We expect God to act on our behalf even if we endure persecution and death. Many martyrs went to their deaths singing the praises of God and forgiving their murderers because they believed God would come through on their behalf in the next life. While the martyrs may have had fear of pain, they did not have fear of punishment, at least not from God. So they had courage and boldness to face death and yearn for perfect union with the God of love in paradise.
Fr. Michael Salvagna, CP