There is a healthy fear and an unhealthy one. The fear that makes us run when a gang of thieves approaches us is a healthy fear. But the constant fear of death that turns into anxiety and paralyzes us is an unhealthy one. In the Eastern Church, fear is a capital sin. In our Roman Catholic Church, we say that fear is a ground for the capital sins, but it is not by itself a sin, because we don’t have immediate control of it.
Fear of death summarizes all the unhealthy fears. For example, fear of losing one’s reputation is a form of death. When you fear losing your reputation, you may resort to lying and compensate by being judgmental and critical towards others, and/or by proudly showing off your accomplishment. Another example is always running to accomplish more, which leads to more anxiety. This fear is linked to the sense of the brevity of our life. We have little time and we want to use it somewhat selfishly to fulfill our wish list.
The disciples locked in fear in the upper room were afraid of being crucified like Jesus. Crucifying was the most horrible death. And the followers of political messiahs had been crucified with their leaders. They had seen it happening in the last decades before Jesus started his ministry. Wouldn’t you be afraid too? We tend to judge them because they had heard Jesus had appeared to some of them; so, we think they should not be afraid. But Jesus had not appeared to Pilate or the high priest. The disciples, then, had good reasons to fear.
At the Pentecost, they will have the courage to face even the crucifixion. They will learn that Jesus doesn’t save us FROM death or suffering, but that he saves us THROUGH death and suffering. The way to conquer fear is not to avoid death and pain, not to run away from it, but to walk through our death and suffering with Jesus.
Neither resignation nor rebellion are fruitful ways to cure anxiety and fear. We must continue to follow Christ, with eyes fixed on our goal, eternal life, receiving in our soul the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Pentecost. Jesus knows that we are afraid and anxious. Peter, who was one of the disciples locked in fear that night, urges us later to cast all our anxiety on Jesus because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7) And nothing is impossible with him.
HAPPY EASTER SEASON!