Lent is a wonderful time for us to learn or to re-learn the story of our salvation, which is at the heart of our Baptism. How does one go about telling a story, however, that spans several millennia and encompasses 72 books (and thousands of pages) of Scripture? Actually, the entire story of our salvation can be summarized and captured in three words: rescue, restoration, and reassurance. During Lent, I invite you to join me in reflecting on these three aspects of our story. This week, we conclude with reassurance.
Oh, to be fearless! I have a fascination with fictional characters (not just superheroes) who seem to be fearless. Two characters stand out from my childhood. The first is Sheriff Andy Taylor from the old Andy Griffith Show. He was the “sheriff without a gun” and always seemed to be at ease in any situation, while his sidekick Deputy Barney Fife was always trembling! The other character is Glinda, the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz, who alone seems to have no fear of the Wicked Witch of the West! I always envied the ability of such characters to laugh in the face of danger.
Of course, these characters are fictional. It is human nature to experience fear. However, there have been some real people in my life who have embodied this type of fearlessness, including my mother Veronica, who recently passed into eternity. I’m sure you can think of people in your life who have modeled such fortitude that being with them always brought you some degree of reassurance.
Reassurance—along with rescue and restoration—completes the three R’s of the story of the salvation we find in Jesus Christ. Few words are spoken more often in Scripture by God (or angels) than the words, “Do not be afraid,” or some variation thereof, such as, “Fear not,” “Be not afraid,” “Do not fear,” or, “Peace be with you.” Although we have been rescued and restored, we continue to experience fear of “the enemy.”
Not only does Jesus rescue us from sin and restore us to wholeness in relationship with our Father, he also reassures us of his ongoing presence, as captured in the last words he spoke before his Ascension into heaven: “And behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we can always be assured of God’s presence in our lives. The Spirit, in turn, provides us with the gift of fortitude, a disposition of courage and strength grounded in the confidence of Christ’s victory over all that threatens to harm us. Likewise, Jesus gave us the Eucharist so that we can physically encounter/receive him in our earthly life. Even Jesus’ “nickname,” Emmanuel, means “God with us”—we are not alone!
When children are afraid, they run to their parents for reassurance. I don’t know about you, but I still get afraid of a number of things in this world. It is reassuring to know that we are not alone and that the Lord is near to all who call upon him!