June 22, 2009

Fear Factor


12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 4: 35-41 "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?"



Three months ago, I visited an alumnus of Ateneo de Zamboanga in Western Mindanao Medical Center. He was diagnosed with cancer, fourth stage. After anointing him with oil, he politely asked me, “Father Willy, answer me. I am 38 years old and dying of cancer. Two years ago, I was a very healthy person. But two years ago, when I started attending the mass and became close to God, it was then that I was diagnosed with cancer. I can’t understand, now that I am close to God; it is also now that I got a cancer. Where is His promise of protection and care?”

I paused for a moment and said, “It is unfair to God to conclude that your closeness to Him has something to do with your cancer. Maybe God knows that you will have cancer that He decided to bring you closer to Him. He knows you will need Him now, more than ever.”

Our gospel today brings us to a realization: Storms (life’s ordeals, hardship, sickness) and fear are parts and parcels of our lives. The setting of our gospel was frightening. Jesus and his disciples were caught in the middle of a perfect storm: “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up; and it is evening.” (Mark 4:37). Fear ruled the disciples’ hearts. They panicked and sought the help of Jesus. Only to find out that Jesus was sleeping in a cushion. Imagine the frustration of the disciples when they saw Jesus sleeping. They woke him up, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He simply woke up, rebuke the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet, be still.” And there was a great calm. Jesus asked them, “Why are you afraid?” Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:38).

When Jesus said to the sea, “Quiet, be still.” I have this feeling that those words were also intended to the disciples and to us. Each time we are asked to “cross the other side” or each time a storm comes to us, fear will always be there. But this fear is pretty much normal. Fear is a basic survival instinct in response to any danger. Even Jesus, in his humanity, have experienced fear but he learned to conquer it, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.” (Matthew 26:38). In our gospel, Jesus is giving us his secret antidote against fear: 1. Be quiet 2. Be still.

When Jesus said, “Be still….”It means to relax, not to panic and have faith that God will surely help and protect us. God is with us. He said, “Be still and know that I am you God.” (Psalm 46:10). On the other hand, “Be quiet” means go to your room and pray. Allow God to talk to you. Listen to Him and be consoled. A child can sleep soundly in the arms of his mother or father because he knows his protected. Jesus could sleep in the middle of the storm, because He knew that his Father in heaven would protect him.

Storms will always be part and parcel of our lives. Face it and it will make you strong. Fear will always be there every time we are asked to cross to the other side. Take courage. Be not afraid. Not all crossings have storms along the way. But if ever a storm comes to meet you and fear rules your heart, do not forget the antidote, bring God with you and listen to his words, “Quiet, be still.” Then with confidence say, “With God at my side, I can. I will.”

"Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence." – Pope John Paul II


- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ
Our Lady of Pe├▒afrancia Parish, Zamboanga City
June 21, 2009

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