In honor of (and preparation for) the canonization of Pope John Paul II, I recently completed reading his book ‘Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way’ in which he talks about his spiritual journey and those that inspired him along the way.
A couple of excerpts struck me as valuable lessons, which I write below:
About Fear’s effect on Being an Apostle:
These words were actually spoken by Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, a mentor to Pope John Paul and recounted in the book. they are worth reflecting on in one’s own spiritual journey.
“The greatest weakness in an apostle is fear. What gives rise to fear is a lack of confidence in the power of the Lord.” Wow, think about that. Could I lack confidence in the Lord by my own fears? I hope not! This is a powerful message to contemplate. He continues,
“The disciples who abandoned the Master increased the courage of the executioners. Silence in the presence of the enemies of a cause encourages them. Fear in an apostle is the principal ally of the enemies of the cause.”
I think this observation comes from the experience of those in communist Poland during the time of Soviet oppression. In my words, I think of this as intimidation of the state, the enforcement tool of totalitarian society. There’s more:
“Use fear to enforce silence is the first goal in the strategy of the wicked.” Indeed, this is what sinks the ‘silent majority’ in any society, even those not oppressed by totalitarianism. Those commonly held beliefs and moral standards that most people hold can be overrun by bully tactics simply because people don’t speak up. We see this today.
Pope John Paul puts it this way, “We have to bear witness to the truth.” In my words, we must have courage over fear to speak up. This is our duty as witnesses of the Lord.
“Rise, let us be on our way.” (Mark 14:42)
John Paul writes about these words of Jesus this way: “When His hour had come, Jesus said to those who were with him in the Garden” – Peter, James and John – ” ‘Rise, let us be on our way’. Not only He must “be on his way” to fulfill His Father’s will: they, too, must go with Him.”
I would add, we all must view this message of Jesus as directed to us as well.
John Paul thought this message was especially important to the bishops of the Church. He adds, “Even if these words indicate a time of trial, great effort, and a painful cross, we must not allow ourselves to give way to fear. They are also words of peace and joy, the fruit of faith.”
“Rise, and do not be afraid!” (Matt. 17:7)
John Paul observes “God’s love does not impose burdens upon us that we cannot carry, nor make demands of us that we cannot fulfill. For whatever He asks of us, He provides the help that is needed.”
I have often contemplated this thought during times of trials in my life. No matter what I face, I think God has given me the ability to overcome it.
Concluding with this message we should all take to heart, ” ‘Rise, let us be on our way!’ Let us go forth full of trust in Christ. He will accompany us as we journey toward the goal that He alone knows.”