In today’s Gospel, the angel commands Joseph to “Be not afraid” to take Mary into his home as his wife because it was through the Holy Spirit that the child had conceived.  An angel told Mary to “Be not afraid” as she was about to become the mother of Jesus. God told Abraham to not be afraid as he left the land of his forefathers to go to “a land that the Lord would show him.”  He told Moses to not be afraid as He was sending him to speak to Pharaoh on behalf of the enslaved Israelites.  He told Joshua to not be afraid to lead his people into the Promised Land. Throughout the Old Testament, there are countless examples of the Lord exhorting prophets, heroes and heroines, and the people as a whole to “Be not afraid,” as they faced all kinds of obstacles and challenges.  In the New Testament, we find Jesus pretty much doing the same thing.  Time and time again, He commanded the people to whom He was ministering to “Be not afraid.” As a matter fact, the phrase “be not afraid” is the most common phrase found in the Old Testament. It is also the most common phrase found in the New Testament.  We are commanded to “be not afraid,” many more times than we are commanded to love one another.  Certainly we need to consider this fact as we ponder the Lord’s message to us.  He understands us as beings who are very much fearful of the unknown.  He knows that we must overcome our fear if we are to fulfill the mission He has given us and find true peace. He knows that if we do not face our fears we will not be able to truly love ourselves, others or Him.  We might say that He understands that living in fear is not living at all.  And so, at least partially in order to help us conquer fear once and for all, He sends to us His son as a babe in swaddling clothes in a manger. So my dear friends, “Be not afraid!” That is the message of this Fourth Sunday of Advent and of the Lord throughout salvation history.

AuthorCathy Remick