Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have the opportunity to give witness to something these days, and I wonder if we’re doing it with the Christian boldness it demands.
Twice this week, St. Paul talks about bearing witness boldly. He asks the Ephesians to pray for him, that he will “make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel.” He tells the Philippians about his expectation and hope that “with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”
That boldness contrasts with the spirit of fear that seems to be driving many people these days. This spirit comes out in fear of death; it comes out in fear of sickness; it comes out in the political realm. But there seems to be more than just these specific fears, some of which, in their own ways, are legitimate. In the midst of this and that particular fear, we seem to be experiencing a pervasive spirit of fear. One characteristic of this spirit is its voracious appetite. It’s never satisfied with one object. Having found one object, it seeks another, and then another, always looking for more areas to inhabit. It pushes relentlessly until our whole lives are bristling with fear.
Well, if a spirit of fear is dominating the world, then that’s one of our great opportunities to bear witness: to approach the realities of the current situation — like the possibility of sickness and death, and whatever else causes fear — with a boldness that’s rooted in Christian faith. As St. Paul tells the Ephesians (and us): our real battle is against principalities and powers — let faith conquer fear.
Now, let me be obvious: the Christian boldness I’m talking about does not mean that we should ignore the precautionary measures that have been set in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Not at all! Christian faith calls us to care for our health and the health of others.
What I mean is that we should approach these measures, and the real possibilities of sickness and death, with a Christian spirit of joy and trust rather than a worldly spirit of fear. To paraphrase St. Paul, our battle is not with precautionary measures but with the spirit of fear that envelopes and invades them.
St. Paul told the Thessalonians not to “grieve like those who have no hope.” He didn’t tell them not to grieve! But he encouraged them to grieve differently from the world, in a way that bore witness to their faith in the resurrection.
Similarly, today, we should not “take precautions like those who are dominated by a spirit of fear.” That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take precautions! But I would encourage us to take them differently, in a way that bears witness to the boldness of Christian faith in the face of sickness and death.
When we bear witness to the faith boldly, we offer the world another way of living. How is God calling you to bear witness boldly these days?