Wednesday January 9, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Week After Epiphany
Reading (1 John 4:11-18) Gospel (St. Mark 6:45-52)
In both of the readings today, we hear about fear. We see the disciples in the boat as they see Jesus coming across the water, and they are terrified. They think that there is a ghost and they begin to cry out. At the same time, Saint John talks about fear in the first reading. He tells us that fear has to do with judgment, and that if we are afraid our love is not yet perfect.
We see that, in a way, there are a couple of different types of fear. That is, there is the fear of standing before God on the Day of Judgment and wondering what our sentence is going to be (and there could be good reason to be concerned about that, on one level). But the point Saint John is making is that if our love is perfected we have no reason to fear the Day of Judgment because we love God. All that Heaven is going to be is loving God, and if we are perfectly loving then we do not need to fear because we know the direction we are going to go.
Of course, the fact that we fear tells us that our love is not perfect; there is still selfishness there. So that is what needs to be worked out. We need to continue to grow in that love for God. Just as we talked about yesterday, that is not about feelings; it is about true love. It is getting rid of everything. That is why Saint John tells us that our relation to the world is just like His [Jesus'], at least that is what it is supposed to be because we want to get rid of everything that holds us down, everything that is selfish, so that we can love God perfectly.
Then we have the other kind of fear, which is simply a lack of trust in God. The apostles, rowing against the wind, suddenly see Jesus coming across the lake and they are terrified because they think that they are seeing a ghost. It is not a fear of judgment in this situation, but it is just a fear of the events that are surrounding them. But once again, they fail to look to God. Instead, they just become afraid and they start yelling and hollering. It is all about the self. All that they needed to do was to turn to God. Even without knowing that it was Jesus coming across the water, they turned to themselves. They became afraid for themselves. They did not turn to the Lord.
The lesson for us, then, is that in the face of any fear that we have, we need to bring it to the Lord. We need simply to give it to Him. On one level, we can see that it is Jesus within whatever the situation is that we are dealing with. On the other level, we need to see that it is just about us. And we do not have to be afraid; God is in control of everything. He is in charge of it all, and we have no need for fear. But our fear tells us that the selfishness is still there and that we are not loving God with our whole heart and soul and strength. What we need to keep working toward, then, is to get rid of the fear - which is to get rid of the selfishness - so that we can love God as He has commanded us to do.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.