Overcoming fear; lighting a candle in the dark

In these troubling times, it is important to remember the words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid.”

Dec 02, 2016

By Anil Netto
In these troubling times, it is important to remember the words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid.”

Over the last couple of weeks, many have displayed exemplary courage and witness for the cause of truth and justice, especially during periods of darkness.

If darkness descends on the land, then we must pray for courage and wisdom.

It is heartening to see hundreds, if not thousands, taking a stand for what they believe in — namely the principles of justice, integrity, “freedom to captives.”

In many cases, it is the women who are at the forefront, reminding us of the women who stayed at the foot of the cross when most of the male disciples had fled. Women, who intuitively felt that something was out of order, was not right and did not augur well for the human family.

Their ‘Women for Maria’ march and actions in solidarity with Maria Chin Abdullah have not been in vain and, probably, hastened her release on Monday.

Still, we remember all those detained without a fair trial. This basic right is something close to our hearts, especially as Jesus himself was denied a fair trial on the eve of his execution.

We need special qualities from above if we are to stand up for truth and justice.
Specifically, Isaiah 11:2 in the first reading points to these special qualities which come from the Lord, which all of us must claim as our own. These include the “spirit of wisdom”, the “spirit of counsel” and the “spirit of knowledge.”

Leaders are supposed to rule with justice and fairness and integrity. We run into all kinds of problems if there is a lack of wisdom and justice in those who rule over us. If that happens, we will find that, instead of justice and freedom, we will find deception, corruption, injustice.

We are, therefore, asked to exhort God to endow leaders with certain specific qualities.

In Psalm 72 this Sunday, we pray to God for leaders with “fair judgement” and “saving justice.” This is so that they “may rule your people with justice, and your poor with fair judgement.”

If we have such leaders who win God’s favour, then “uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.”

How do we know if we have such leaders? Well, just evaluate for ourselves: do we have uprightness in the land? Do the people feel we have “peace in plenty” — or is there a creeping restlessness and insecurity about the future?

We can tell if we have the right kind of leaders. Psalm 72:12, such leaders would “rescue the needy” and “the poor who has no one to help.” These leaders would indeed take “pity on the weak and the needy.”

That seems to be one of the key tests of a leader who rules with uprightness and justice.

The slain archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, shows us how we should witness to the cause of truth and justice. He spoke up for the tortured and the disappeared in that land. His voice grew even more powerful in strength and stature and wisdom as darkness descended in the land. Indeed, he put into practice Jesus’ words “Do not be afraid” and told us how, as Church, we should be deeply concerned about the trampling of basic rights to liberty and dignity.

“For the Church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The Church, entrusted with the earth’s glory, believes that, in each person is the Creator’s image and that everyone who tramples it offends God.

Romero believed the Church must express solidarity for those who suffer oppression.

“As holy defender of God’s rights and of his images, the Church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers.

“They suffer as God’s images. There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image.

Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being abuses God’s image, and the Church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom.”

This is why we must heed the words of Jesus “Do not be afraid” and continue to remain in solidarity with all those who suffer violations of their basic rights to freedom and dignity.

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