Opening the Word: Goodbye to fear

Turn on the TV right now, or look at the news scrolling across your mobile device, and tremble in fear. Be afraid because the political world is falling apart. Be afraid because terrorism lurks around every corner. Be afraid because the economy will collapse. Just be afraid.

Easter is the antidote to this anti-gospel of fear, of this world weariness that is the preferred rhetoric of the politics of sin and death.

The hope that we have on Easter is not because we Christians are unaware that there’s something to be afraid of. We’re not hopeless optimists, unable to perceive the darkness of sin and death.

We heard on Holy Thursday about the trembling that gripped our Lord and Savior. We watched with our beloved Jesus through that restless night as he gave his will over to the Father, as he prepared for trial.

We contemplated the sufferings of our Lord upon the cross, the sufferings inflicted by a world that hated the light. A world grown accustomed to the power politics of the darkness.

We looked into this suffering, this horror, and saw a mirror reflecting our own preference for the shadows. Our refusal to love. Our sin.

But our vigil did not end with the darkness. As the sun rose that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran to the tomb. They ran to see the body of a dead man.

But as the first rays of light infused the created order, “there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone and sat upon it” (Mt 28:2).

The silence of dawn was broken by the words of this angel testifying, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Mt 28:5-6).

The women run. They run in fearful hope. Could it be true that death has been slain? Could it be true that Christ, the hope of the world, has arisen?

Their run does not last long. For the risen Lord interrupts their early morning jog: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10).

Jesus and the angel alike invite the women to be not afraid. He’s not simply soothing their fear. They worry that they too might be punished by the powers of the world for loving unto the end.

No, Jesus is proclaiming that fear itself is dead.

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As St. Paul will later proclaim, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).

When Jesus dies upon the cross, when he is raised from the dead, death itself dies.

And we Christians, those of us baptized in Christ Jesus, are now dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Our king, the source of all our hope, is the crucified and risen Lord: “Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!”

The gift of Easter is not that we Christians deny the existence of darkness. It’s still here. It’s still trying to win out.

But we should not have fear of this darkness. For the world, after all, is not a tragedy. It is a comedy.

And it’s time to celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Goodbye, fear.

The Lord is risen.

Timothy P. O’Malley is the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.