We often hear the words “nothing to fear but fear itself” of Franklin Roosevelt from his 1933 inaugural address. Here they are in some context, not just the often-quoted ones.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Perhaps you are feeling that feeling of fear this week. It can be said that the opposite of love is hate, but that is not true. The opposite of love is fear. The dread of the unknown, the thing which causes us to flee from our rational mind and move towards primal instincts; instead, we flee, hide, or curl up in the fetal position and wait for the worse to happen.
Fear is a big topic in scripture. How often are the words “Be Not Afraid” quoted in the bible; too many to count. Scripture mentions the word fear 500 times in the New American Bible, the one used in our Church today. We are told not to fear but to love God and one another, yet it is hard sometimes to do so.
The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the country is instilling fear in the hearts of many. The multi-varied advice and frequency of changes in direction have added to the concern of many. By the time you read this reflection, the situation will likely have changed again. So what can we do?
Well, I think this is a time, and even an opportunity to renew our apostolic nature. One where we go into the world, not running away from the crisis, but activity getting engaged in helping others. At the retreat center where I work in California, our center is CLOSED and will remain so for the near future. And while we are doing our best to keep our workers safe, following guidelines, we are also redirecting our ministries. Starting next week, we will be broadcasting Mass from our Chapel to thousands of retreatants who have come to rely on their visits to Mater Dolorosa. Our Centering Prayer group will be an online, video-based meeting beginning this Sunday. We are working on a new web site with our weekly reflections available to all: the priests here, and the laity who support the ministry are involved in these efforts. Our kitchen will move from cooking meals for visitors to preparing meals for the needy in the Los Angeles area.
I say this, not to pat ourselves on the back for any of this. No, merely to say that we can all redirect our efforts in some way to help others. We can all make a telephone call to those who need reassurance, donate some money to those who have lost their job, support our neighbors and, of course, pray for a swift end to this pandemic. God Bless us all.
Prayer in the Time of the Coronavirus
Most Reverend José H. Gomez
Archbishop of Los Angeles
Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.
Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.
For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.
In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another
and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.
We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.
Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.