“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” — 1 John 4:18

Again, I am sorry I post so infrequently. This is the season of my life right now.

I wanted to share briefly an insight I gained recently was particularly powerful personally. I went to a Penance service last week in Omaha, Nebraska and the priest who presided preached on a portion of this familiar parable of Jesus:

A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

Fr. John argued that while there are many plausible interpretations as to why the priest and Levite chose to pass by the victim on the opposite side of the road, there is one common theme underlying all of them: fear. Maybe, he said, it was fear of being ritually contaminated by contact with an ‘unclean’ bloodied body, or maybe they were simply afraid of assuming the responsibility of being drawn into another’s complicated tragedy. Regardless, he said, it was fear that prevented them from choosing love for their neighbor.

Then he said (as I later recorded in my journal),

And isn’t it the case that so often lurking behind our sins is some hidden fear. Fear of failure, of being a failure, of being rejected. Fear of commitment. Fear of others’ disapproval, or of not getting others’ approval. Fear that who you are, who others are, or even who God is just isn’t good enough.

Fear of not measuring up to others’ expectations. Fear of missing out on happiness, of being hurt, being alone, being ignored. Fear that if we don’t do this thing we know to be wrong, we won’t get what we think we really need. Fear of criticism, change. I could go on all night.

So many things we are afraid of, which is undoubtedly why God says again and again in Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”

He was silent for a few moments. A powerful silence. And then he said, “Now in the silence of your conscience, as you prepare to confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what fear hides behind your sins. Especially your habitual sins. Ask Him to help you name that fear. Then give it to Jesus, and trust His perfect love to cast it out.”

That Confession was, for me, one of the most powerful and decisive of my life. The priest gave me 131 to pray often.

Lord, my heart is not proud
Nor are my eyes fixed on things beyond me
In the quiet, I have stilled my soul
Like a child at rest on its Mama’s knee
I have stilled my soul within me

Israel, come and hope in your Lord
Do not set your eyes on things far beyond you
Just come to the quiet
Come and still your soul
Like a child at rest on its Daddy’s knee
Come and still your soul completely

5 comments on ““There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” — 1 John 4:18

  1. Maureen says:

    Tom
    No apologies. It’s good to hear your profound insights. Yes fear paralyzes body mind and soul.
    It keeps one from being who God has called them to be.
    Thank u always for your inspiring thoughts and words.
    “ Jesus I Trust In You”

  2. Katy says:

    “He was silent for a few moments. A powerful silence.”

    When another person gives us time for silence (that priest, that night in Omaha…but also a spouse, teacher, parent, friend), he shows a magnanimous trust: both in God’s ability to be with us and in the hunger of our restless hearts. Thanks be to God, our hearts cannot stop hungering for love. Though we protest from calloused hearts conditioned by years of fear (the ways you mentioned in italics above); our hearts nearly jump out of our chests on evenings like that, making us move as though we’ve never been afraid. Reminding us of the good that has never left us (Keating once said this, and I’ve never forgotten that line). As the deer longs for running water, so my soul longs for you, My God.

    A man fell victim to robbers, and is left for dead. But he wakes up and sees someone *with* him. I fall victim to robbers, left for dead, living on fear. But I hear someone say “Ask the Holy Spirit to help you name that fear”, and in naming the fears, I come to see that they are not, in fact, me. I look up in wonder to see Someone with me in that place, Someone who still knows who I am. And the communion that happens here is the best thing in the world. Salvation. I’m reminded of Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday: “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.” Communion in this place of fear…is everything.

    A priest friend shared that once after he had confessed his sins, the priest said nothing. For a whole minute. Which is a terrifyingly long time. And he became frantic inside. But the reason the priest did this was to magnify and clarify fears, lies, concerns, hopes that were present in the heart of my friend. “He was silent for a few moments. A powerful silence.” My friend has always remembered that confession. It’s a wonderful thing to be around people who trust silence. For really, they trust God and they trust me, and have such reverence for allowing that communion to take root.

    Thanks, as always, for your candid and honest sharing. There’s just no static between your experience, your heart, and this page – your sharing and your words remind us again of how good it is to be with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thank you!

    • Wow, that is exquisite. How clearly these words reveal the power of silence to open us to what is, to the good already given, and to the reality of who were are before God. Silence is such a vulnerability, as you share here. And an act of trust. Of communion. Powerful. Thank you, Katy, for taking my work so seriously. God bless you!

  3. Sr. Angele Marie Sadlier says:

    Thank you for sharing this so humbly. I plan to use this during a retreat day with Lay Carmelites, trusting that you won’t mind. With grateful love, Sr. Angele Marie

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