Be Not Afraid
Have mercy on me, God, for I am treated harshly;
attackers press me all the day.
My foes treat me harshly all the day;
yes, many are my attackers.
O Most High, when I am afraid,
in you I place my trust.
I praise the word of God;
I trust in God, I do not fear.
What can mere flesh do to me?
Is there anyone of us out there who can honestly say that in the last ten days, he or she has not experienced some kind of fear or anxiety? Even if your spiritual life is deep and anchored in Jesus, your circumstances have changed dramatically, and you can’t go to Mass or hang out with friends or run errands to distract yourself all day. If you haven’t been praying daily and your sacramental life is not up to speed, you may be feeling especially anxious or wonder where God is in all of this?
The answer is – He is right here with us in the middle of the fray, but we do have to turn to Him, acknowledge His Presence, and ask for help. Three steps:
Turn to God
Acknowledge that He is God and we are not
Ask for Help
The spiritual battle is real, and the battleground is our souls. We either pick God, or we pick the enemy. The enemy wants to distract us and keep us focused on: the news, social media, fear, worry, anxiety, false sadness – ANYTHING but God. The enemy uses our old thoughts and temptations to keep us from leaning into Jesus moment by moment. The enemy uses anything he can find to lure us away from our One True Love.
The ONE PERSON who will never disappoint us, never leave us, never betray us. The ONE PERSON who sacrificed his whole life for us. The ONE PERSON whose love for us is so great that it overcame death so that we might have life eternal with Him.
If we are in the grips of temptation or distraction by the enemy (who is the Devil in case that wasn’t clear), what must we do to return to our dearest friend and Savior? First, we must name the temptation out loud so we can face it. Once we name it, then we can pray and ask for help.
Then going forward, we can look for the places and be aware that the enemy is looking for ways to distract us from God.
I have been sober for 32 years, and there is much wisdom in Alcoholics Anonymous (did you know a Sister was involved at the very beginning of AA and was inspirational in much of the writings?) One of my favorite AA sayings is “Name it and Claim it.”
This expression applies to naming whatever the enemy is luring us into currently. So, if fear and worry are what is keeping you from focusing on Jesus, then right now stop and get a piece of paper and write down your biggest fear at this moment.
It might be fear of Coronavirus, fear of economic failure in the US, fear of losing your job, fear that we won’t be able to go to Mass anytime soon, fear for your children or aging parents, fear of the unknown, or perhaps you are restless and bored, stuck in your house and can’t see then end in sight, or you are overwhelmed with children at home, or your spouse is driving you crazy because you are together more than usual.
Whatever the fear or worry is – write it down and then tell a trusted friend or family member. Say it out loud. That’s naming it and claiming it. Then call on Jesus and Mary. Give them this fear and ask them to take care of it for you. It’s very helpful to pray the Jesus Prayer and the Memorare:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus, I trust in You.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection,
implored your help or sought your intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother;
to you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful.
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in your mercy hear and answer me.
A few more helpful hints to reduce fear anxiety and worry, none of which are from God, but are from the enemy who is trying to lure you away and keep you on edge.
Stop watching the news – information overload unsettles your brain and heart
Detach from your phone – addiction to devices unsettles our souls
Pray daily – this must happen in order to stay grounded in Jesus (best book on daily prayer is Into the Deep by Dan Burke)
Add structure to your day, make a schedule, and stick to it. Especially pray at the same time each day and pick a time to pray as a family
Make a gratitude list – write it down
Pray the Rosary with your family or a friend, can be in person or by phone or video
Do something creative – anything where your brain is engaged, and you lose track of time ( I am painting and writing)
Read a book with spiritual content
Connect with a friend by phone or video conferencing
Watch a funny movie – laughter is good for the soul
Taking action helps all us when we are anxious or uncertain. So what is a concrete action that we can do to help at this time? Pray a Novena. Here is a Novena for the Coronavirus:
And another Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (aka Our Mother of Perpetual Help):
Either Novena can be started on any day.
Why pray a Novena? We are opening ourselves to God, joining in prayer with the Church Militant, and we are making a conscious choice for God and therefore stomping on the enemy.
Remember, Jesus is with you right now; you just have to open your heart to Him. Call out his name, ask for help, and ask Mary to pray for you. We are never alone. Our Majestic God loves us and takes care of us even when we can’t see it, even when things seem hopeless. Lean into Jesus, as John the Beloved Disciple did. Lean into Jesus and listen to His words in the daily Gospel. Let Jesus’ words be a balm for your soul in these difficult days.
“ I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.
(16)They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.
(17)Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
(18)As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.
(19)And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.
(20)“I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, (21) so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
(22)And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, (23)I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.
(24)Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Cover Photo: Our Lady of Perpetual Help painted by Nancy Ewing