“Do not be afraid…”
Throughout history, Christianity has been characterised as the religion of fearful, feeble-minded weaklings. This is particularly evident in our own day, where the criticisms of Nietzsche have become embedded into the modern social imaginary.
Nietzsche’s hatred for Christianity is, in my reading, more of a disappointment in the witness that so many of us Christians do not act as though what we profess to be true, really is so.
So often we lack the courage to really act out of that place of encounter with the Risen Christ. In the face of this constant failure, we have before us two options. The first is Nietzschean – to forcefully assert our power and create our own morals, or, to heed the words of Christ in this Gospel.
Here we encounter Jesus instructing his closest followers to not be afraid in the face of what seem to be some incredibly fearful circumstances.
The words here seem to prefigure the fates that await these men. With the exception of Judas who betrayed Jesus, and of John, the beloved disciple, each of these men, and countless Christians in their wake, men women and children have given their lives for the sake of their faith.
This act of martyrdom is perhaps the most potent moment of Christian witness. It is not a testimony to a kind of stoic stick-to-itiveness exhibited by this rag-tag group of believers. It is instead the attitude exemplified by the Good Thief, who upon seeing the result of our sin (the crucified LORD) courageously steps forward and pleads, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Point to Ponder
Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it.
So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.
– Pope St John Paul II, Inauguration Homily, 22 October 1978