Why Are You Afraid ?

by Pope Francis

When evening had come… (Mk 4:35).

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For weeks now, it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets, and our cities.

It has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by. We feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away.

We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the gospel story of the calming of the storm, (Mk 4:35-41), we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.

We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us needing to comfort the other. It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities.

The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? (Mk 4:40) Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you.

This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing.

It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.

It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.

We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives.

This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people—often forgotten people—who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time.

These are the doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves.

In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: That they may all be one (Jn 17:21).

How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility.

How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer.

How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”(Mk 4:40) Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation.

We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars.

Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them.

Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith.

We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love.

In the midst of isolation, when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet with others, and we are experiencing the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: Christ is risen and is living by our side.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our craving for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring.

It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity.

Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? (Mk 4:40) Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace.

Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid; yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: Do not be afraid (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

—Excerpted from the homily given with the Urbi et Orbi blessing, an extraordinary blessing normally only given on three occasions: upon the pope’s election and at Christmas and Easter. March 27, 2020