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“Then the angel said to the women in reply, ‘Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.’ …. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’ ” (Mt 28:5, 10).
Twice within five verses of the Gospel of St. Matthew during Easter liturgies celebrated this week, we hear Mary Magdala and the other Mary encouraged by an angel, then by the risen Jesus, “Do not be afraid.”
Depending on which version of the Bible you have at hand, there are 20-something, 30-something and even more citations in Scripture encouraging followers of Christ to “not be afraid” of the situations they are encountering or may encounter on their pilgrimage of faith.
Do not be afraid. Those prophetic words speaks volumes to us today as we continue on our respective faith journeys, wondering what awaits us as we try to live out Pope Francis’s consistent message that all baptized Christians embrace the Lord’s call to be “missionary disciples” and “spirit-filled evangelizers.”
For us, it could include welcoming immigrants or refugees who are looking for a new life in America after leaving their homeland where persecution, hardship and even death for Christians and others has, sadly, become the norm.
It could include making a concerted effort to step outside our comfort zone and dialogue with people who have differing viewpoints—whether they be political, religious or of a different culture or ethnicity.
Who knows, a simple conversation could change minds—and hearts—if we “are not afraid” and allow the Spirit to work through us, and we share what is important in our life and listen—really listen—to what is important in theirs. We may surprise each other, and realize we’re not so different after all. It could lead to a fruitful relationship where building bridges, not walls, is at the heart of future conversations.
The question may be: Can we make the time to step outside our regular routine to do something so simple, but potentially profound and life-changing for the parties involved?
In today’s world, where a “me-first attitude” is often prevalent for people living hurried lives, simple gestures of welcome and solidarity, when supported by faith in Jesus’ resurrection, proclaim the value of life, Pope Francis told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square on April 17 before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer.
Being “men and women of the resurrection, men and women of life,” Pope Francis said, according to a Catholic News Service story, involves making “gestures of solidarity, gestures of welcome, increasing the universal desire for peace and the aspiration for an environment free of degradation.”
On the Easter Monday public holiday, thousands of Italians and tourists gathered to join the pope for the Easter‑season Marian prayer, which begins in English, “Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.”
The Holy Father told the crowd that the message of the angel to the women at the tomb, “Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead’ ” (Mt 28:5-6), is directed to believers today as well.
Christians, he said, are called “to proclaim to the men and women of our time this message of joy and hope.”
Hope and joy. Unfortunately, they are replaced by a life of fear and uncertainty for so many persecuted Christian communities, brothers and sisters who desperately need our prayers.
As we continue our Easter celebration marking Christ’s death and resurrection for the next several weeks, we would do well to ratchet up our petitions for so many around the world facing harrowing challenges.
In his Easter message, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged the faithful “let us not be afraid” because we may feel unworthy of Christ’s love.
“Let’s allow ourselves to be taken—even seized—with Easter joy. As we proclaim on Easter Sunday, ‘Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining,’ ” the cardinal said on April 16.
“Welcome the love of God into your life,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Share it with those around you, especially the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers. In this way, we proclaim with Mary, ‘I have seen the Lord’ ” (Jn 20:18).
Through our actions and prayers, may we lead all our brothers and sisters to see the Lord in each of us.