The root of all sin is fear: fear of each other, fear of facing ourselves, fear of loneliness, fear of getting into trouble or fear that others are controlling our lives. Perhaps at the heart of our fear is a belief that God is not really looking out for us or a fear that there is no God. Globally we can see that fear is tearing our world apart. The rising tensions this past week between the US and Iran is one of many examples of this.
In the Gospel Jesus gives his farewell address to his disciples at a time in their lives where they were consumed by fear. They were wondering how they will get on once Jesus leaves them. In responding Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” He promises to send them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit who will teach them everything. It was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the disciples in the Early Church were able to resolve the tension over how ministry to the Gentiles (non-Jews) was to be exercised.
This is how the Holy Spirit works. It is not there to deliver us from all our fears but rather to help us face our fears. It is in exercising the gift of the Holy Spirit that, rather than allowing life’s problems to overwhelm us, we find creative solutions. This Sunday we are being invited to honestly face ourselves and ask the questions: what are my fears? How do I behave when I am fearful? How do these fears affect my relationships with others?
Jesus extends to his disciples the gift of peace. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It speaks of completeness, fullness or a type of wholeness that encourages us to give back. It is basically saying ‘don’t give in to fear’ because fear causes us to turn away from others and shut down.
One way of combatting our fears is to look at the promises that are contained in all our readings – the promise of divine indwelling, the promise of the gift of peace, the promise of the Paraclete, and finally, the promise of the New Jerusalem. All this reminds us that God always keeps his promises. The heart of these promises is that God will always be there to take care of us. God’s deepest desire is that we don’t give in to fear.