how do we respond to fear?

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Fear. Courage. Love.

How do we respond in the face of fear?  The terrorist actions in Paris, in Elizabeth 2015-08-13Beirut, in so many places in our world are intended to strike fear into our hearts. And they do a good job of it. Most of us do feel fear, which is absolutely a healthy, natural response to the possibility of one’s world imploding in a split second. We’ve seen many responses in the news and social media coming from a place of fear and playing on that same fear in others.

Fear is a powerful weapon wielded generously by terrorists, politicians and bullies alike, and designed to make us feel small, powerless and insignificant. But just as violence unleashes more violence, so too, acting out of fear simply breeds more fear.  This self-sustaining cycle continues until innocent people are paralyzed and those who—out of their own deep pain, shame, woundedness—are manipulating others using fear tactics, are left to continue wielding more fear and violence.  That is their goal.

While fear is a natural human emotion, choosing how we respond to fear is a God-given gift that we call free will.  It is possible, in the face of fear, to respond with courage. We are called by Love to resist the temptation to give into fear and hatred.  We are called by Love to another way.  This week I was struck by comments I read by former ISIS hostage, Nicholas Henin:  they fear our unity more than our airstrikes.  He continued:

Central to their world view is the belief that communities cannot live together with Muslims, and every day their antennae will be tuned towards finding supporting evidence. The pictures from Germany of people welcoming migrants will have been particularly troubling to them. Cohesion, tolerance – it is not what they want to see.

There are many examples of people those who choose a different response, one of whom is Francis of Assisi. He lived in a time of great discord and enormous conflict.  His prayer, which I learned by heart as a child, comes not out of an easy place but out of a tumultuous place. As I was reminded by my colleague, Brother Curtis Almquist, recently, when Francis prays to be made an instrument of peace, it is because he is living in a setting where there is no external peace.  Likewise, Francis knew first hand the power of hatred and injury and darkness, while still calling himself and others to sow love, to embrace pardon and to cling to light.  May we cling to this prayer in our time of fear and tumult, responding to God’s call to live life another way:

     Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
       Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
       where there is injury, pardon;
       where there is discord, union;
       where there is doubt, faith;
       where there is despair, hope;
       where there is darkness, light;
       where there is sadness, joy.

     Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
     to be understood as to understand;  to be loved as to love.

     For it is in giving that we receive;
     it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
     and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Hope to see you Sunday!