Late Saturday night a week ago, about 11, every dog in my neighborhood started going nuts. It lasted most of the night. My dogs were convinced there were invaders just outside the windows, and it was their job to drive them away.
This continued most of the night. I got out of bed several times over the course of the night, took my brightest flashlight, and made sure everything was okay. As far as I could see, it was. I would get the dogs settled, just get to sleep, and it would start all over again. I even began wondering if we were going to have an earthquake, since dogs will become very agitated before an event like that. All night, dogs were barking for as far away as I could hear.
Finally, about three in the morning, I gave up, got dressed, put the dogs on their leashes, and took them outside. Bright flashlight in hand, I took them to see if we could discover the source of their agitation.
I was more than a little bit shocked – and the dogs were scared into not only silence, but into retreat behind me – when we came around a tree and were face-to-face with something glowing white in the flashlight beam and hovering about three feet off the ground.
When the pups saw it, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear.
Well, it wasn’t a ghost… and it wasn’t Jesus walking on the water, either. It was nothing more than a part of a white plastic bag that was caught in a thick spider web and so appeared to be hovering in the flashlight beam in front of us. The way it diffused the light made it seem to glow.
Certainly, it’s not the same as seeing a miracle, but in that moment of encountering something both unexpected and unknown, there was a brief moment of terror that must have been very similar to what the disciples felt when they saw Our Lord walking on the water.
Jesus calls us to a trust in Him that drives out fear. Notice that as long as Peter was not overcome by fear, he – with Christ’s help – did the impossible. He walked on water. But when he began to fear, he began to sink.
There are many things in the world today that can drive us to fear, and fear can drive us to hate. There is no room in the life of the Christian for hate.
The 24-hour-news-cycle has killed journalism, but it has also created fear in many people. There are commentators of all political stripes calling on their listeners and viewers to fear. Fear the other guy. Fear the other party. Fear the lunatics waiting always just out of sight. Fear. Fear. Another terrorist bombing. Fear. And now a word from our sponsors.
When Father Angelo first came to Our Lady of Lourdes, he spoke several times about what a waste of time television can be. Now, Father, I have to admit: I still watch Star Trek every single chance I get. But, I decided I was going to stop watching so much news. Father spoke mostly about shows like American Idol. There’s no real danger of me ever watching that… not even accidentally.
But I did tend to watch a lot of news, and that’s kind of a reality program… even if it is one of the less believable ones.
I know that I really don’t need to see the news every day… not in the way I need to breathe, or in the way I need to pray, or in the way I need to read Scripture. So I decided that, in the spirit of obedience, I would watch considerably less news, and never watch any 24-hour-news channel or political commentator except for those who are authentically Catholic first and commentators second.
In all honesty, I have to say I have been much happier for it. I don’t know if ignorance is necessarily bliss and I am not advocating burying your head in the sand and ignoring everything; I’m simply suggesting that it might be a good idea to be selective about sources of information you allow into your life. And, I can say firsthand it has been a great relief to not constantly feel like I have to worry about every nutcase with a rocket launcher on the other side of the world… because, they’re crazy. And they’re on the other side of the world.
So much in the world today makes it seem as if we are in a tiny, wooden boat… huddled in with others… taking on water… and in danger of being lost in a storm. But that’s the world talking. It isn’t God talking. Our Lord does not call us to fear. Quite the opposite: Jesus calls on us to take courage… to be not afraid.
Fear is an emotion. Sometimes we find ourselves afraid; sometimes, it is even for good reason. Not every real danger is on the other side of the world. However, we don’t have to respond in fear; we don’t have to respond in weakness, not when Christ calls us to strength and courage.
We are called to a faith that endures not only in the face of difficulty and fear, but that is strengthened by difficulty and fear. Christ will never abandon us as long as we remain faithful to Him and put our trust in God. If Christ is with us than nothing can overcome us… not fear, not difficulty… not even death itself – for none of these is greater than Christ.