On October 22, 1978, St. John Paul II was inspired by the Holy Spirit to urge Christians to conquer fear.
Throughout his 26-year pontificate, one of St. John Paul II’s most used phrases was, “Do not be afraid” (also phrased “Be not afraid”).
Was that planned? How did it come about?
John Paul II reflected on that phrase in the book Crossing the Threshold of Hope, and explained that it was the Holy Spirit who inspired him to say those words.
When, on October 22, 1978, I said the words “Be not afraid!” in St. Peter’s Square, I could not fully know how far they would take me and the entire Church. Their meaning came more from the Holy Spirit, the Consoler promised by the Lord Jesus to His disciples, than from the man who spoke them.
He then continues the reflection and explains why he would often return to the phrase during his many years as pope.
The exhortation “Be not afraid!” should be interpreted as having a very broad meaning. In a certain sense it was an exhortation addressed to all people, an exhortation to conquer fear in the present world situation … Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God. When pronouncing these words in St. Peter’s Square, I already knew that my first encyclical and my entire papacy would be tied to the truth of the Redemption. In the Redemption we find the most profound basis for the words “Be not afraid!”: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (cf. Jn 3:16).
Christians should not be afraid of any storm that may buffet them, for they have their hope in Jesus Christ, who came to save the world from darkness.
For St. John Paul II, nothing should take away our hope in the Lord. When we know that God is in control, and that he is love, our fears disappear.
Peoples and nations of the entire world need to hear these words. Their conscience needs to grow in the certainty that Someone exists who holds in His hands the destiny of this passing world … And this Someone is Love.
God is love, and if we truly understand that, we no longer have fear of the “present world situation,” even if it grows darker.
God is love and he is in control.