There have been many times in my life when I have let fear get the best of me. In days like we are living in I am sure there are plenty of people who know fear to be a regular reoccurring theme. All it takes is a little nightly news.
Some may be wondering, “Is this it for our country?” Or perhaps “Will things ever get back to normal?” Or even, “Are we experiencing the end times?” I wish I knew the answers to these questions. With a world-wide pandemic, floods, locust swarms devastating crops and food supply from East Africa to Pakistan, as well as Argentina, social unrest, etc., one certainly wonders. The Lord does tell us that no one knows the hour, nor the day when the end will come, yet there are certainly signs all around us. We also know that according to scripture, there will be an end of this world and tribulations that come toward the end. The Lord warns us about these tribulations in the three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). So what are we to make of all this. Again, I wish I knew all the answers to these questions, because it is frightening to think about.
Jesus gives us great comfort in this weekends readings for Sunday Mass when He says to us in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, “What can separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39). I suppose if you think about it, this passage does not promise that we will not experience, anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or the sword, but rather that these things cannot separate us from the love of Christ. In a certain sense the Lord is trying to encourage us not to be afraid. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of John, “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
What these passages encourage in me is a desire to seek the Lord all the more and to be ready for whatever comes. I think that only He can get us to that level of trust in Him that we need. Only He can help us arrive at the peace that we are ultimately seeking. Jesus is our constant and our savior, not ourselves. I think we so often forget who we belong to. We are God’s children, and He wants to take care of us, which ultimately means that He wants to bring us to participate in the fullness of divine life in heaven. To get there all of us have to suffer and to die. “In the world you have tribulation,” but these tribulations and sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us in heaven. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Heaven and the fullness of life that we will experience with God makes the temporary sufferings in the life look like nothing, and I would say completely worth going through if that means bringing us closer to Christ.
All of this helps me to put things in perspective. Yes, even for me, to think about the end of the world is not fun, or to think that we might be that generation that experiences the apocalypse. Again, I make no claim to know, and I do not speak of any of this to engender fear, but rather to dispel it. The Lord reminds us 365 times in the bible, “Do not be afraid.” This means that everyday of the year there is nothing to fear. If we know that we the one belong to is the master of all time and space, if we repent of our sins against Him and turn to Him with great confidence and trust in His mercy, then we have confidence in His promises of eternal life and love. Nothing can separate us from His love. It is always there for us, always ready for us to respond in kind, always desiring us to turn to Him. Without Him, we have nothing and we do not have peace in the face of tribulation, but with Him, with His love and with His promises of heaven, we can remain always at peace and always ready for whatever comes.
So my advice in the midst of troubled times would be to turn to the Lord and to His love, which is always there and to entrust again and again your life and your heart to Him. He may not take away the physical pain or tribulation, but will keep your heart at peace knowing that His love will see you through.