Pilgrims gathered under a blazing sun in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday to pray the Angelus prayer at noon with Pope Benedict XVI. In his remarks preceding the Angelus, Pope Benedict said that worldly fears can be overcome through trust in God.
Speaking of today’s Gospel, the Holy Father said the scriptures invite us to reflect on the difference between human fears and the fear of God.
Fear, he said, is a natural dimension of human life. While we overcome the imaginary fears of childhood, others emerge that are founded in reality.
These fears “must be faced and overcome with human commitment and trust in God.”
However, the Holy Father said, there is a deeper fear that exists today, an “existential fear, which at times borders on anguish and which stems from a sense of emptiness that is tied to a certain culture permeated by widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.”
He said the Scriptures speak clearly of a different kind of fear: the fear of God that is the beginning of true wisdom.
"The fear of God defined by the Scriptures as the beginning of true wisdom coincides with faith in God, with respect for His authority over life and the world. To be without this ‘fear of God’ is equivalent to putting ourselves in God’s place, to feel ourselves to be a masters over good and evil, life and death.”
The Holy Father continued, “Those who fear Him have the security of a child in the arms of his mother. Whoever fears God is at peace even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed, is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Whoever loves Him is not afraid: as the Apostle John wrote, ‘In love there is no fear.’ On the contrary, perfect love casts out all fear, because fear assumes punishment, and those who fear do not have perfect love.”
He said that those who believe need not fear anything, since all things are in the hands of God, who does not allow evil and what is irrational to have to the last word. The only Lord of the world and of life is Christ, the Incarnate Word of God who loved us even unto sacrificing himself, and dying on the cross for our salvation.
The Holy Father said the more we grow in this intimacy with God, steeped in love, the more easily we conquer every form of fear. Jesus exhorts us not to be afraid.
“We are reassured just as He reassured the Apostles, as he did with St. Paul in appearing to them in a night vision during a particularly difficult time. ‘Do not be afraid, because I am with you.’ Confident in the presence of Christ and comforted by his love, the Apostle to the Gentiles did not even fear martyrdom.”
The Holy Father explained that a special jubilee year will be dedicated to St. Paul:
“I would ask you, dear brothers and sisters, prepare to celebrate the Pauline Year with faith that, God willing, solemnly begins next Saturday in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.”
Pope Benedict concluded his reflection with an invocation to Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Christ, source of our joy and our peace.
At the end of the Angelus, the Holy Father mentioned Saturday’s ferry disaster in the Philippines in which hundreds may have died.
“With deep emotion I learned this morning of the sinking, in the islands of the Philippines, a ferry overwhelmed by the typhoon Fengshen, which has raged in the area. While I assure you of my spiritual closeness to the people of the islands affected by the typhoon, I offer a special prayer to the Lord for the victims of this new tragedy at sea, which seems to have involved many children as well.”
The Holy Father then congratulated the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon whose founder, Yaaqub Ghazir Haddad, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, was declared Blessed today.
“In expressing my congratulations to his spiritual daughters, I hope with all my heart that the intercession of Blessed Abuna Yaaqub, together with that of the Lebanese Saints, obtain in that beloved and tortured country, which has suffered too much, final progress towards a stable peace.”