Be Not Afraid
Homily for Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
Preached on April 19-20, 2014 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings for the Easter Vigil: Genesis 1:1-2:2; Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11; Exodus 14:15-15:1; Exodus 15:1-2, 304, 5-6, 17-18; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4; Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Ezekiel 36:16-28; Psalm 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4; Romans 6:3-1; Psalm 118:11-2, 16-17, 22-23; Matthew 28:1-10
Readings for the Day: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9
The first words spoken in the Gospel according to Matthew came from the mouth of an angel who had appeared to Joseph in a dream (cf. Mt. 1:20). Joseph had just found out that the virgin whom he was going to marry was already with child (cf. Mt. 1:18). He had feared the scandal that would break out in their small village when that secret got out (cf. Mt. 1:19). It was then that the angel appeared and told him, “Be not afraid” (Mt. 1:20).
Those were the same words spoken yet again by another angel in the last chapter of this Gospel (cf. Mt. 28:5). This time, there was an earthquake and the celestial stranger had come to open the stone-sealed sepulcher (cf. Mt. 28:2). The women did not know what to make of it and the guards feared for their lives (cf. Mt. 28:4, 8). It was then that the angel told the women, “Be not afraid” (Mt. 28:5).
Later, the women met Jesus on their way and He reassured them with the same words: “Be not afraid” (Mt. 28:10).
From the beginning of this Gospel and all the way to its very end, the Lord calls everyone to abandon fear and to embrace faith. Throughout the Sacred Scriptures, He repeats the same unwavering message: “Be not afraid.”
Be not afraid of the dark. The Lord only has to say, “Let there be light” and there will be light (cf. Gen. 1:3). Be not afraid like Adam that you will end up all alone in the world. The Lord will make sure that you are somebody to someone (cf. Gen. 2:18, 20, 22-23).
Be not afraid like Abraham to give up what is dearest to you in this world. The Lord will provide you with a future greater than any that you can ever imagine (cf. Gen 22:17-18). Be not afraid like Isaac that there is nothing to offer to the Lord. “God [Himself] will provide the sheep for the sacrifice” (Gen. 22:8).
Be not afraid when your enemies have cornered you, just as Pharaoh and his charioteers had routed the Israelites to the shore. The Lord will open up a way for you, even if it means that He will pave a highway right through the sea (cf. Ex. 14:21-22, 29).
Be not afraid when the Lord seems to have abandoned you. He has promised never to forsake you (cf. Is. 54:10). Be not afraid when everything falls apart. The Lord will piece it all back together (cf. Is. 54:11-12).
Be not afraid of thirst and want and hunger. The Lord will provide for you richly (cf. Is. 55:1-2).
Be not afraid of not fitting in with the crowd. The Lord has given you wisdom and the commandments of life to know what it is that pleases Him (cf. Bar. 4:4), to show you how to dwell in enduring peace (cf. Bar. 3:13).
Be not afraid of asking for forgiveness. The Lord will take even the most hardened heart and replace it with one that is new (cf. Ez. 36:26).
Be not afraid of death. Christ has been raised from the dead and “death no longer has power over Him” (Rom. 6:9). By virtue of our baptism, “we have died with Christ, [and] we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rom. 6:8).
Be not afraid to live for Christ who died for you (cf. Rom. 6:11).
Someone once claimed that the reassurance “Be not afraid” appears in the Scriptures at least 365 times, one for every day of the year. Whether that is true or not, it really does not matter. It would be enough even if the Lord had said it but once, because everything that He has done for you and for me already speaks for itself.
So, whatever our fear is on this first of days or on our last day or on any other day in between, His message to us is the same: “Be not afraid.” Nothing, not even sin or death, is bigger than Him.
Be not afraid then to go out to that fear-filled world and proclaim this Good News of consolation from Him who left us these very last words in the Gospel according to Matthew: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).