It comes at us 365 times. God really, really wants us to be at peace.
Many people probably think the most common phrase in the Bible has something to do with “don’t” or “thou shalt not” or maybe “love one another.”
Actually the most repeated advice throughout the Old and the New Testaments is, “Do not be afraid!”
You might already be familiar with a few Scripture verses where this loving exhortation is made: When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, for example, announcing that she would be the Mother of Our Savior. Or when Joseph heard these words upon learning that he was to be the earthly father of Jesus: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
As Jesus was about to be born in Bethlehem, another angel appeared to the three kings (the wise men) with the same encouraging words.
When Zechariah was told that his wife would conceive a child in her old age, “he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. / But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (Luke 1:12-13)
In fact, there are many, many times beyond these Christmas verses when the Bible encourages us to not be afraid.
At the Transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. / But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” (Matthew 17:6-7)
All together some form of Do not be afraid is repeated 365 times throughout Scripture!
So many of our daily worries big and small revolve around some kind of fear of what will happen. Anxiety consumes much of our energy: Will he be okay on that trip? Will she have a car accident? Can I ever forgive my sibling? Am I doing what God wants of me in this situation? What will the medical testing tell us? Will his addiction get worse? Am I making the right decision? Will I really see my loved ones in heaven? Endless questions swirl in our heads, and to each God reminds us to turn to Him in prayer and trust.
In Revelation 2:10, we’re encouraged, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
In Deutoronomy 31:6 we’re encouraged to put our trust in God, that He will not abandon us when we put Him first in our life: “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
In Psalm 27:1, we’re reminded that no earthly disappointment can destroy us: “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?”
In Jeremiah 1:8, we read, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
In Matthew 10:28, we read, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Luke 12:7 tells us, “But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
In John 6:20, we read that when the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water, He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
St. John Paul II began his papacy with the crucial reminder, “Be not afraid!” This saint of our times constantly urged us to accept the peace Christ offers us, and to trust always in His love and mercy.