By James H. Kroeger, MM
What is the opposite of “faith” in the sacred scriptures? Many responses are possible: doubt, disbelief, mistrust, uncertainty, hesitation, skepticism, apprehension. You might even assert that the antonym of “faith” is “fear.” To be afraid often means doubting God is really with us or thinking his designs for our salvation will somehow be frustrated. Today’s Gospel reveals the character of the fearful, “doubting Thomas.”
Is the assertion that “fear” is the opposite of “faith” really valid? A look at some biblical passages reveals how faith requires overcoming our fears, our difficulties in believing; we can look to several New Testament examples.
Models of Faith. When the angel Gabriel is sent by God to the town of Nazareth and speaks to Mary, he says: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor…. You are to conceive and bear a son.” Mary expresses her fully human doubts: “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” Gabriel assures Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you….” Mary responds: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:26-38). Mary moved from fear to faith, surrendering totally to God’s loving design for her.
Joseph, betrothed to Mary, has a dream and hears the angel say: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).
When the resurrected Jesus appears to the women, he commands them, saying: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers…” (Mt 28:10). When Paul had a vision in Corinth, the risen Lord addressed him: “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10).
An Invitation to Believe. The evidence is overwhelming. To be called by God and to encounter the living Lord means moving from fear to faith. This is Jesus’ invitation to Thomas and to us.
Fear is the enemy of faith, because fear paralyzes us, immobilizes us. Fear can frustrate God’s plan for us; it tempts us to forget God’s abiding presence. Fear is anti-Gospel; it can be a temptation or tactic from the devil.
Realistically, we all must face our fears just like Mary, Joseph, the women, Paul, and Thomas did. We analyze them. We accept life’s realities and realistic dangers; we are not naïve. We search deeply, exploring fear’s origins (our background, insecurities, laziness, pride, fear of failure or embarrassment, etc.). And, in spite of all these circumstances, we still commit ourselves radically to God.
A Formula of Faith. Let us respond like Thomas and proclaim our faith in Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” We are challenged to become fearless witnesses, authentic evangelizers, and joyful, faith-filled proclaimers of the Gospel.
Our motto of discipleship becomes the “4-F” approach: Forget Fear, Find Faith!
Divine Mercy Sunday
Most merciful Lord and Savior
for love of humanity
you took up your cross
to reveal the boundless forgiveness
your Father has for us.
I come before you now
in my hour of need
asking only that your presence
might give me the strength and courage
to do what is right and
say what is just and good.
May I be a true mirror of your grace
to all who hunger for your truth
and thirst for justice and peace.
All glory and honor
to your Resurrection,
my Lord and my most merciful God!
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.