We hear twice, in ten verses, "Do not be afraid". First it is the earthquake producing, lightning-like angel of God who tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary these four simple words. And then the resurrected Jesus says those same words to them as they run to tell the disciples what it is that they have witnessed....Do not be afraid.
Being afraid is part of being human: it is an instinctual response, one of self-preservation. There are things we should, with good cause, be afraid of in this world. Being cautious around things that make us afraid is not something about which we should be embarrassed. I don't think the lightning-clad angel, or Jesus, are talking about that with this four word phrase. I don't think we are supposed to throw all caution to the wind at all times. I believe we are being nudged in the direction of not letting fear get in the way of faith. We cannot allow being afraid to block us from being open to God's presence in our lives. Fear can shut us down, but we need to move beyond the blocking out reflex and, perhaps, allow the fear to be just one component of our journey, keeping us cautious but not shut down. Perhaps utilizing that fear as a heightened awareness allowing us to better perceive how God is immersed in our lives and always and lovingly with us is a way to turn that natural reflex into an asset that can make us better vessels for God's work in the world.
The fear can be there, so long as it doesn't block us from doing what we must.
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.