In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses the twelve apostles: He tells them not to fear. Why? Because this is Jesus’ fundamental message to all His followers: Be not afraid! Many people throughout history have taken great solace in the comforting message of Jesus. He has conquered the world! Sin and death have no more power! If we die with Him, we will rise with Him! No message could give more hope in the fallen world.
However, there is a tendency for us to take Jesus’ words out of context. We hear ‘do not be afraid’ and we apply this assurance to our own wants and desires; Or it leads us to believe that all problems we are facing will go away. While in God’s time, all His enemies will be placed under Jesus’ feet, victory is for those who reside IN HIM.
Thus, the statement of Jesus to not be afraid comes with a condition. We have nothing to fear, if we are living in Him. If we read the whole of the Gospel, we realize that its demands are hard. We must be willing to forsake everything, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. For all of us, this is a journey that is scary at first. We are constantly inundated with a world oriented towards personal gains, pleasures, and distractions, all of which we like. To leave those often good things for the sake of the Gospel is uncomfortable and takes faith. But if we do this, we will be different, and being different means that some will ridicule us. Yet, being different also means that others will notice us, and that is how evangelization begins.
So Jesus is telling us that there is no need to fear, if we are doing His will by giving Him our lives for Him and His Kingdom and holding onto nothing for ourselves. Just as God takes care of the sparrows, He will take care of us, His beloved children, who are worth infinitely more. Not even those who kill the body can take away the life that God has given us.
But the end of the gospel today does give us something to fear. Jesus tells us that if we deny Him in this life, He will deny us before our Heavenly Father. There is nothing scarier than that. Jesus is reinforcing that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Sheepgate. He is the Vine that we must be attached to. If we live in Him, we have nothing to fear, but if we do not, there will be Hell to pay.