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