The pope finds a "hidden message" in the Bible to show we must fight to keep fear from paralyzing us.
Each year, Pope Francis releases a message for young people in the context of local or international Youth Days.
In the years of his pontificate, Francis has released seven, each a gem of advice and counsel for youth in the difficulties so characteristic of that time of life, as well as for those not so young.
In the message of 2018, we find advice particularly pertinent for our day.
The Holy Father speaks of how people face many fears, and says that when doubt and fear flood the heart, discernment is necessary. He says there is a key first step to this process.
The first step in overcoming fears is to identify them clearly, so as not to find yourself wasting time and energy by being gripped by empty and faceless ghosts. And so, I invite all of you to look within yourselves and to “name” your fears.
Questions to ask ourselves
He provides 3 basic questions to consider:
- What do I fear most in this specific moment of my life today?
- What blocks me and prevents me from moving forward?
- Why do I lack the courage to make the important choices I need to make?
Don’t be afraid of facing fear!
The pope says that we have to face fears honestly, recognize them for what they are, and “come to terms with them.”
Then, with a consoling observation, he notes that:
The Bible does not ignore the human experience of fear nor its many causes. Abraham was afraid (cf. Gen 12:10ff), Jacob was afraid (cf. Gen 31:31; 32:7), and so were Moses (cf. Ex 2:14; 17:4), Peter (cf. Mt 26:69ff) and the Apostles (cf. Mk 4:38-40; Mt26:56). Jesus himself, albeit in an incomparable way, experienced fear and anguish (cf. Mt 26:37; Lk 22:44).
An obstacle even to faith
The pope points out an interesting insight: that often the obstacle to a greater faith in God is actually fear.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (Mk 4:40). In admonishing his disciples, Jesus helps us to understand how the obstacle to faith is often not skepticism but fear.
Discernment helps us to identify our fears, and then to overcome them, the pope said, “opening us to life and helping us to calmly face the challenges that come our way.”
For us Christians in particular, fear must never have the last word but rather should be an occasion to make an act of faith in God … and in life! This means believing in the fundamental goodness of the existence that God has given us and trusting that he will lead us to a good end, even through circumstances and vicissitudes which often bewilder us.
Yet if we harbor fears, we will become inward-looking and closed off to defend ourselves from everything and everyone, and we will remain paralyzed. We have to act! Never close yourself in!
The Bible’s hidden message
Finally, Pope Francis finds a subtle message in the Bible:
In the Sacred Scriptures the expression “do not be afraid” is repeated 365 times with different variations, as if to tell us that the Lord wants us to be free from fear, every day of the year.