Fr. Scott A. Haynes
Julius Caesar once remarked that even the shouts of his enemies were music to his ears, but, on the other hand, he was terribly afraid of thunder. When it vaguely looked like a storm was brewing, he began to shiver and shake and crawl underneath the covers. Peter the Great, considered by many to have been the greatest czar of Russia, was terrified to cross a bridge. He would tremble in his boots whenever he stepped onto a bridge. King Louis the XV, of France, was so afraid of death the he ordered the subject of death “off limits” in his presence. The mighty Stalin was constantly in fear of being poisoned or killed. He had 8 bedrooms which could be locked up like safes in a bank. Nobody ever knew in which of these bedrooms he slept on any given night.
On his return visit to many parts of the world, President Herbert Hoover was asked by a reporter what, in his judgment, was the prevailing mood of the peoples in the lands he had visited. He remarked:
"The dominant emotion everywhere in the world is fear.”
God has an answer to our problem of fear. The answer to our fears, the solution to our worries lies in the simple understanding of God’s presence. We find that answer in the Introit of today’s Mass:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?"
King David, who penned these words in Psalm 27, knew the meaning of the word fear better than most. His life consisted of one vicious attack on his life after another. For years he was the number one fugitive in Israel, always hiding from the wrath of King Saul. Later on, his life was threatened by the revolt of his own son Absalom. We may not have people plotting to kill us like King David did, but we each have troubles of our own. To whom should we look for help in our worries and woes? Scripture advises us:
"Put not your trust in princes: in the children of men, in whom there is no salvation." (Ps 146:3)
We must make the Lord the stronghold of our lives. If we give in to fear we are crippled. The famous WWII General Patton learned that. During World War II, a military governor met with General George Patton in Sicily. When he praised Patton for his courage and bravery, General Patton replied:
"Sir, I am not a brave man. . . The truth is, I am an utter craven coward. I have never been within the sound of gunshot or in sight of battle in my whole life that I wasn't so scared that I had sweat in the palms of my hands. Therefore, I learned very early in my life never to be guided by my fears."
Just as General Patton controlled his fears and refused to be guided by his fears, we must see our life in a much larger perspective. There is nothing so dark and gloomy as fear, nothing so unsettling than being afraid. When we are intimidated by people, or discouraged by circumstances, God’s presence provides a defense against these frightening circumstances. It is not said merely that the Lord gives light, but that He "is" the light of salvation; nor that He gives salvation, but that He is our salvation.
God’s presence is the holy light which chases away the shadows of despair. It is in the darkness that our fears take on the horrible shapes of monsters. That is true whether we are four or forty. We live without all the facts, we live in the dark, so our fears become all the more fearsome.
Because every day our future is unknown, how then can peace reign in our hearts? It is by shining God’s light into our darkness. It is by perfect trust in His Providence over us. Often we run ahead of God instead of following Him. He leads us into the valley of the shadow of death, and we would rather not follow.
Whenever you are troubled in spirit, fearful over the circumstances of your life, turn to today’s Introit in your hand Missal and be comforted by these consoling words:
"The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?"