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Center for Action and Contemplation
Be Not Afraid
Be Not Afraid

What Do We Do with Our Fear?

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Father Richard believes that we must learn to name and to live with our fears instead of merely denying them or projecting them onto others: 

Our age has been called the age of anxiety, and I think that’s probably a good description for this time. We no longer know where our foundations are. When we’re not sure what is certain, when the world and our worldview keep being redefined every few months, we’re going to be anxious. We want to get rid of that anxiety as quickly as we can. I know I do. Yet, to be a good leader of anything today—a good pastor, manager, parent, or teacher—we have to be able to contain and hold patiently a certain degree of anxiety. Probably the higher the level of leadership someone has, the more anxiety they must be capable of holding. Leaders who cannot hold anxiety will never lead us anyplace new.  

That’s probably why the Bible says “Do not be afraid” almost 150 times! If we cannot calmly hold a certain degree of anxiety, we will always look for somewhere to expel it. Expelling what we can’t embrace gives us an identity, but it’s a negative identity. It’s not life energy, it’s death energy. Formulating what we are against gives us a very quick and clear sense of ourselves. Thus, most people fall for it. People more easily define themselves by what they are against, by whom they hate, by who else is wrong, instead of by what they believe in and whom they love.  

I hope you recognize from this common pattern how different the alternative is. We might catch anew the radical and scary nature of faith, because faith only builds on that totally positive place within, however small. It needs an interior “Yes” to begin, just as the “Yes” of Mary began the entire process of salvation. God needs just a mustard-seed-sized place that is in love—not fear—that is open to grace, that is thrilled, that has found something wonderful.  

CAC teacher James Finley shares how Jesus is a model of how to say Yes in the midst of our deepest fear:  

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat blood because he was afraid [Luke 22:44]. It is possible that he was infinitely more afraid than we could ever be. But the difference is: Jesus was not afraid of being afraid, because he knew it was just fear. . . . We are afraid of fear because we believe that it has the power to name who we are, and it fills us with shame. . . .  

Jesus invites us to discover that our fear is woven into God’s own life, whose life is mysteriously woven into all the scary things that can and do happen to us as human beings together on this earth. This is liberation from fear in the midst of a fearful situation.  

[1] Adapted from James Finley, Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2002), CD.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2001, 2020), 32–33. 

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Paul Thompson, Untitled Sunrise (detail), 2021, video still, New Mexico. Jenna Keiper, Moonrise I (detail), 2020, photograph, Washington, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Playing with the light found within night, in these images we find beauty and rest even in moments that might feel eerie and dangerous.

Story from Our Community:

Throughout my daily walk, I contemplate one of the morning meditations I read. Sometimes clear meaning finds a way to bubble to the surface; other times, it takes a little bit longer. It’s not up to me to determine the spiritual timeline. It’s up to me to have faith. Spending quiet time with God each day opens up a pathway to insight and direction that exists beyond my ego. If that’s the only revelation from my daily walk, then I’ll rest with it and be grateful.
—Terry L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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