“Do Not Be Afraid” by Mother Louise Kalemkerian | July 22, 2020
These past months of the virus have been up and down for me, emotionally and spiritually. I find it hard to concentrate. My moods waver. I find myself going through the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—many times each day. I know I’m not alone in this. And I confess to being afraid for what the future holds.
At the same time I know that throughout the Gospels, Jesus again and again comes with a simple message: do not be afraid. Sometimes he says this himself, and sometimes he sends a messenger. At his conception, the angel said to the Virgin Mary, “Do not be afraid.” At his birth, the angels announced to the shepherds in the field, “Do not be afraid.” This is, no doubt, meant as a sweet comfort. But it is also a teaching, and a command. Christ even goes so far as to fundamentally juxtapose fear and faith: “Do not fear, only believe.”
When I was asked to write this reflection, I realized that today, July 22, is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, first witness to the Resurrection. When Mary first realizes she is speaking with none other than her risen Lord, Jesus tells her not to hold onto him. Rather, he sends her away, instructing her to go to the twelve and tell them the Good News. Here is the primary act of personal faith, of personal casting out fear, that Mary displays. To cling, to grab too tightly, is not love. It is fear. Fear that the one you love may leave, fear that unless you possess the object of your love you will enter into despair, fear that your world is collapsing around you. So Mary does not cling.
I had never thought of Mary Magdalene as the patron of the fearful. I had never imagined she might have been afraid as she went into the Garden that Easter morning, or her fear as she left to inform the cowering disciples that Jesus had risen. Still, she carried out Jesus’ command, and lived into and through her fear as she became the Apostle to the apostles. And without knowing what the future held.
Her example is an important one for me in this time. I’m going to focus on not being afraid. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.