Think about those times in your life when you have felt inspired to something really great. Where does that inspiration come from?
The Holy Spirit. God inspires us to do great things with our lives.
----Matthew Kelly

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Not Letting Fear Be the Motivator

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What is your first reaction when you meet someone who is "different" than you? I'd wager that 9 out of 10 times, it's fear. When I was growing up, any time I met a disabled person (whether it be physically or mentally disabled), I was scared. I didn't know what to say or do. I was also quite a bit anxious with some fear mixed in when, for 3rd grade, the school I attended went through integration. I was taken out of my white, middle class world and thrown in with a whole bunch of kids who were "different".
You're thinking, "yeah, well, that was when you were a kid", and that's true. As an adult, I know some people who are frightened when they see someone with a disability, and I can't say for sure whether or not I would be one of them. Since I work with disabled children, I don't have that fear any longer. I know people who, when they see a person of color, will automatically think the worst of him/her. I can definitely say that, when I meet a woman with a hijab (I hope I'm using the correct term!), my initial reaction is fear, but then I calm down and am interested. (I'm interested to the point where I really want to ask questions, but realize that it's probably not socially acceptable to walk up to a stranger and bombard her with questions about her beliefs & customs in the middle of WalMart.) Then I'm able to see Christ in that person.
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In today's Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33), Peter's fear makes him sink as he's walking on the water. He yells out "Lord, save me!", and Jesus reaches his hand out for Peter to grab. In the homily last night, Father focused on our fear of anything different than how we are.
When we feel fear and anxiety, we are refusing to see God in others' lives...in how they look and in what they wear. He urged us to not let fear be what motivates you; see Christ in everyone we meet. Fear is what takes us down. When we have those feelings, picture God's outstretched hand pulling us up and seeing Him.
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I have friends who are protestant, or are agnostic, but I'm not afraid of them. Why then, does the fear creep in when I meet someone who is Muslim? If I met a Muslim who did not cover her head, I wouldn't know she is Muslim; therefore, I wouldn't have any fear or anxiety at all. It's the outside appearance that causes the fear and anxiety.
Our society is such that we have been programmed to look at the outside of the person first. What they're wearing or how they're acting causes our first impression. The media has a huge part in telling us how we should conceive those first impressions. What would society be like if the media reported on the inside of people, not the outside? How much nicer everyone would be to each other!
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I wonder...do some non-Catholics feel anxious when they meet a priest for the first time who is wearing a collar?  I wear a miraculous medal necklace and a bracelet with a St. Benedict medal every single day. Still, I'm not easily identified by looking at me as Catholic because my miraculous medal is a very small part of the necklace (it's in a cross) and isn't easily detectable as such. But, if it were, I wonder how differently I would be treated.
The nuns (or "sisters" as we are now supposed to refer to religious who work in communities and aren't cloistered) who wore their habits...were people fearful of them? (I'm not talking about anyone who attended Parochial School!) What about the sisters who continue to wear their habits? Do they feel it? I have to say, I've never thought about that until just now. A cradle Catholic, being around it my whole life, there is not one ounce of fear or anxiety when I see them "out and about".
With the abuse scandals, do non-Catholics have that anxiety when they see a priest? Do they pull their children in closer to them out of fear? I think as Catholics, we may think it's silly, but think about it. How is that any different than many of our initial reactions to seeing a Muslim woman?

I challenge you to say a quick prayer "Lord, save me" the next time you come across someone who is "different" than you. Ask God to allow you to see Him in that person. If everyone did that, the world would be a much nicer place in which to live.

4 comments:

  1. A good post, Mary. You are so right. If only everyone would look inside first.

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    1. It's so difficult, though, isn't it?

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  2. Interesting post, Mary. I wonder if along with fear of what many don't understand, we should include distrust, anger, misconceptions, steeeotypes, chagrin and more. How differentvthe world would be if folks not only saw Christ in them, but practiced tolerance and forgiveness.

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