Friday, December 26, 2014

Ceasing to be afraid of fear


Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,
Often anxiety can be paralyzing but in this extraordinary albeit brief reflection, Sr. Wendy Beckett reminds us that by its very nature it can also direct us to God in a powerful way.  Experiencing our fragility we can learn to reach out to the Beloved and step out of our narrow self-focus and learn to have Jesus alone the source of holiness.  God can work through all things, including moments of trial and turmoil.

Worry is a canker. And it’s self-regarding. Whereas all our real life is in Jesus. The function of anxiety is surely to alert us to our dependence on him and to the fact that he alone matters. It is a most useful feeling. It says: You are fragile, unrealized, not in charge of your life, in danger of…therefore turn wholly to Jesus. The feeling may or may not diminish but the direction out of self’s narrowness into his love has been conquered. We have to go on and on until finally we live out of self, in him…

The great thing to grasp is that to feel “relaxed/happy” or to feel anxious is unimportant. Feelings only matter as an occasion for love. Happy, secure feelings prompt us to praise him; sad, anxious feelings prompt us to express our faith and pray for him to be all in all to us. The feelings themselves tell us nothing about our “state” which is God’s secret and God’s work. We don’t base anything on ourselves but only on him, on his goodness, knowing, as Paul says, in whom we have believed. Why are we anxious? Let’s will to have Jesus as our holiness. Gradually even the feeling vanishes, but that is unimportant.

We can feel that growing in love should make life “easier”—that there is some failure in our fear, temptation, struggle. Not so. In fact the tempest may blow more severely as we near the harbor. Jesus could never know a psychic respite, as the Gospels show. But our attitudes change. We cease to be afraid of fear; we open our arms to the will for the Father to give us whatever he will, knowing, in Jesus, that he gives only “good things.”

–Sister Wendy Beckett, from “Spiritual Letters” (Orbis Books)