‘Do not fear, I will be with you’—Christmas 2017
Homily by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, International President of Aid to the Church in Need (Dec. 14, 2017, second week of Advent), offers hope to the suffering Church.
“DO NOT FEAR, I will be with you:” these are the words of the Lord to his servants in the Old Testament, and he repeats them plainly and with a far more consoling presence in the New Testament.
“Do not fear, I will be with you:” these are the words spoken by God to Moses when Moses, called to fulfil a difficult mission, attempts to back out of it, to say he is not capable of it, to protest that the obstacles are simply too great. How is it possible for him, a miserable shepherd, to confront the pharaoh of Egypt and tell him to set Israel free? The Lord simply tells him, “I will be with you.”
Later, when Joshua is called to set himself at the head of this wandering people and conquer fortified cities, he is given the same assurance: “Do not fear, I will be with you.”
On several occasions, the Apostle Paul, faced with insurmountable difficulties and terrible opposition in Corinth, while in prison and when called to face his death, is permitted to hear these words: “Do not fear, I am with you.”
This is what changes everything, and this is what we are waiting to hear at Christmas – that the Lord will come to our aid and remain with us. And this is precisely what he has done – he has come “to be with us”. To “be with” is the deepest desire of love; it is the only thing that matters – to be with the one we love, to be with the one who loves us. All the rest is secondary. It does not matter if our situation does not change, just as long as the one we love is with us.
This is precisely what the Lord promises us, and gives us. He does not change the things around us, but he places himself in the midst of them and therefore – since he is there – interiorly everything has changed.
God did not provide Moses with armies so that he could carry out his mission, but instead he was with him, and since this was the Lord, impossible things became possible. The same thing happens with us. The Lord will not change the external circumstances, but he is present among us, and so everything changes. We now know why the Lord, in coming to us, did not choose a life of triumph, but a humble life, the life of a little one, of one persecuted and, ultimately, one condemned to death and executed. He wanted to place himself among us, in every human situation and especially the most difficult ones.
The deep certainty of our faith, that Jesus is with us in a particular manner when our life is most closely conformed to his cross, is the source of an extraordinary strength and confidence, so that those situations that would otherwise have been a source of endless desolation have now been lit up with joy.
Let us give thanks to the Lord, who has come to be with us, and let us ask him that we may also be given the grace to say to him, “I am with you.” Our Savior has come to be with us, and he asks us in turn to be with him, in obedience to his will, to his teaching in life, to his grace. In particular, during these times of confusion and dismay, he calls on us to be with him, and hence with the constant Magisterium of the Church across the 2000-year span of her pilgrimage through history, with the unbroken “Traditio Ecclesiae” illustrated by the Fathers, the Doctors and all the Saints; to be with him in ensuring that her doctrine may be for us, not indeed a museum exhibit, but life—something translated into our daily living and leavened by our actions—that it may be a missionary impetus for our Foundation. Only in this way can we be sure of being “with him,” with the Lord and not with ourselves, with our own narrow viewpoints or with the spirit of the world.
Being “with Him!” This is the only thing that matters! And it matters little whether this should be accompanied by honor and applause, or by marginalization and humiliation. With Him – with Him who has promised us, “I will be with you until the end of the world.”