Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them,
that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death,
that is, the Devil,
and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.
Hebrews 2: 14-15
This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, which I was surprised to see is today’s second reading, fills me with hope.
Fear of death does not need to enslave us. That is the message of Christ’s death and resurrection.
I see so much fear in our world.
Here in Honduras I hear the fear of gangs and crime that people in the big cities express (and that is found in the US State Department warnings about travel to Honduras – and also El Salvador). I hear it in the concerns of people around me about crime, violence, poverty, and more.
I have noted that fear in what I have been reading about the presidential campaigns in the US, especially expressed in fear of the Other – Syrians, Latin Americans, and more.
But I recall the beautiful essay of Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation, “The Root of War is Fear.”
At the root of all war is fear: not so much the fear men have of one another as the fear they have of everything. It is not merely that they do not trust one another; they do not even trust themselves. If they are not sure when someone else may turn around and kill them, they are still less sure when they may turn around and kill themselves. They cannot trust anything, because they have ceased to believe in God.
But today in the Gospel (Luke 2: 22-40), Simeon tells Mary that her Son is the Light of the nations but that he is also a sign of contradiction that will cause a sword to pierce her heart.
How can we go beyond the fear of death, how can we be freed from that fear?
Perhaps it means taking seriously the words that the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp wrote from a Nazi prison, especially the words he italicized:
The fate of mankind, my own fate, the verdict awaiting me, the significance of the feast, can all be summed up in the sentence surrender thyself to God and thou shalt find thyself again. Others have you in their power now; they torture and frighten you, hound you from pillar to post. But the inner law of freedom sings that no death can kill us; life is eternal.
But i also think it includes loving, for “love casts out far.” (1 John 4: 18)
Lord, free us from the fear of death and bring us to love.