1 John 5:5-13
Real fear is at the least unnerving. More often, stomach knotting, hand freezing fear is debilitating and can give rise to spontaneous, maybe irrational, actions which can be valiant or destructive in nature, often with life changing consequences. The news abounds with reports of teenagers "caught in the act" who lash out violently from fear; of soldiers and police and firefighters who, despite great personal fear, perform feats of heroism; of politicians and business executives who fear losing power, position and wealth and choose to lie and cast blame on others rather than admit to their own corruption, greed and criminal behavior.
Today’s reading from the First Letter of John contrasts the relationship between love and fear. "Love has no room for fear; rather, perfect love casts out all fear". But, knowing the human condition, can we really take this literally and believe that love and fear cannot co-exist? Or does John mean that natural human fear is the result of imperfect love? Or, then again, is it our inability to understand and accept the totality of God’s love for us that leads us to fear?
John refers to the fear that results from the certainty of punishment but for people sincerely trying to live abiding in the love of God, situations giving rise to natural human fear are much less threatening. When we know that we remain in God and God remains in us, then we, like Paul, realize that ultimately nothing can separate us from the love of God. Ultimately, we have nothing to fear.
However, even beyond the obvious fear of violence, there is much to fear in our country today with the worsening economy. Jobs have been lost which can lead to severe family tension; endowments have plummeted in value leaving much good work that depended upon them vulnerable; retirement incomes are at risk. But for people rooted in the love of God and trying to live in the awareness of that love, any fear will be overshadowed by the confidence and trust in the love that we know and believe God has for us.
Cathy Anthony is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.