The flurry of articles coinciding with the start of year four of the Iraq war has exposed a problem much closer to home than car bombs and IEDs.
Americans are frustrated, fearful and angry. It may be a "confusing and dangerous time" in Iraq, as many reports noted, but the same is true for the United States.
The reasons for our anger and fear are countless: The war itself, abortion conflicts, budget deficits, troubled youth, immigration, stem-cell research, sex abuse, the growing income gap, even the painfully slow recovery of New Orleans and Mississippi.
Too many of us feel backed into a corner, put upon, trapped. It doesn't seem like as a country we can do anything right these days. We distrust the leaders we have, and we distrust those who would replace them.
In a painfully divided country, it is fear and anger and confusion that unite the left and right, the rich and the poor, the races and the ethnic groups.
So on this, the one year anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, it may be an opportune time to pay tribute to the pope whose first words to the world in 1978 were "Be not afraid!"
Pope John Paul was many things, but what he did masterfully was embody the confidence of one who lived in the Spirit. He was the epitome of the word "trust," and because he was so resolute in his confidence, he gave us the courage to trust.
In his bestselling book, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," Pope John Paul explained what it meant to not be afraid: "Have no fear of that which you yourselves have created! Have no fear of all that man has produced, and that every day is becoming more dangerous for him! Finally, have no fear of yourselves! Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God."
"The power of Christ's cross and resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear," the pope explained.
On this anniversary, it would do us all well to reflect on the powerful witness of the Polish pope. He survived two totalitarian systems and an assassin's bullets. He was not motivated by thoughts of revenge, though he had much to be vengeful for. He was not motivated by thoughts of anger, though he had much to be angry about. In the darkest of times, he did not lose hope or surrender to fear.
To not be afraid, to not be frustrated and angered by events that seem swirling out of our control, we must turn to the cornerstones of our faith.
We must continue to pray -- for our families, our communities, our nation. We must pray for our enemies as well as our friends.
We must seek to practice charity in little ways: Writing letters to soldiers who are in harm's way. Helping unwed mothers. Teaching the uncatechized. That which most troubles us should become a spur to action, doing little things well even when we cannot seem to impact the big things. We must turn ever more resolutely to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation.
On this anniversary of the death of Pop John Paul, servant of the servants of God, it would do us well to meditate on his example. "Be not afraid," Jesus told us, "Just have faith" (Mk 5:36). Catholics must set the example, not restless in our discontent but assuring others through our words and deeds that we have indeed been redeemed and have confidence in the promises of Christ.