Pope Francis began his homily by saying, “Fear is not a Christian attitude, but rather an attitude of a caged animal without freedom.” The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision telling him not to be afraid. To go on speaking and not to be silent, for he was with him. Pope Francis described fear as an attitude that can harm, weaken and diminish. In his homily he emphasized that a fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus.
Pope Francis explained, “This is why Jesus says to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to speak.’ Fear is not a Christian attitude. It is an attitude, we could say, of a caged animal, without freedom, who does not have the freedom to look ahead, to create something, to do good… no, always: ‘No, but this is dangerous, there is something else, something else…’ And this is a vice. It is the fear of doing evil. A person who is afraid does nothing, doesn’t know what to do. He is focused on himself, so that nothing bad will happen.”
Pope Francis encouraged the faithful to ask for the grace of courage, so as not to become fearful. The pontiff continued, “There are fearful communities that always go on the safe side: ‘No, no, we aren’t doing this… No, no, this can’t be done, this can’t be done.’ It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden.’ Everything is forbidden because of fear. And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick.”
Pope Francis stated that fear must not be confused with fear of the Lord, a grace that allows the faithful to experience awe in adoration.
Pope Francis continued by describing the true meaning of joy which is the opposite of fear.
“Christian joy is not simply enjoyment, is not a fleeting cheerfulness,” he explained. “Christian joy is a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And having a heart that is always joyful because the Lord has triumphed, the Lord reigns, the Lord is at the right hand of the Father, the Lord has looked upon me and called me and has given me His grace, and has made me a Son of the Father… That is Christian joy. A Christian lives in joy.”
Continuing his homily, Pope Francis said that it is the lack of joy in Christian communities that causes it to become sick. Perhaps it would be a fun-loving community but it has grown sick with worldliness, because it does not have the joy of Jesus Christ. And thus, when the Church is fearful and when the Church does not receive the joy of the Holy Spirit, the Church is sick, the communities are sick, the faithful are sick.
Pope Francis concluded with this prayer: “Lift us up, O Lord, to Christ seated at the right hand of the Father… raise our spirit. Take away our every fear, and grant us joy and peace.”
Courage is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which is received when one receives the Sacrament of Confirmation. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Courage (fortitude), Counsel, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord (Awe), Thousands of Catholics will be confirmed this spring. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are what guide a Catholic Christian throughout his/her life. Without the Holy Spirit as our advocate we are afraid and uncertain about the will of god in our lives.