Fear is a subtle prison that keeps us from our full potential in Jesus Christ. So often, we become caged in our self-consciousness because of our concerns about the future and the myriads of disasters that can visit the human person. Whether it be social status, economic disaster, illness, or other forms of distress and suffering, we are often immersed in disordered thinking, feeling, and desiring because of the powerful effects that fear can have.
So the question becomes, how do we defeat fear? Many times, we think the answer lies in our ability to control and order our exterior environment. Along these lines, we believe that our lives will take on the sabbath rest of the Holy Spirit when we have the security and comforts that opportunities can provide. Such a focus, however, only leads to greater fear and anxiety. Instead of helping us to surrender to the work of grace, it only reinforces our egocentricity.
We can find the answer in today’s celebration. In writing on the period between the Lord’s resurrection and his ascension, St. Leo the Great writes, “In those days the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away.” Although St. Leo is describing the experience of the Apostles, we too can share in this new horizon in Christ. Along these lines, the key to conquering our fear lies not in our ability to order and control our external environment, but rather our ability to receive and live in the victory of Jesus Christ.
If we allow the reality of Christ’s resurrection and ascension to enter our lives through prayer and meditation, we will soon discover that Christ’s victory is able to take hold of our life in the midst of suffering and disaster. We do this by encountering the risen Christ in word and in sacrament. Through the meditation of the Church, we walk with the risen Lord and our hearts are taken up with him into the kingdom of God. Through his presence, our minds are elevated through the action of the Holy Spirit, and this is the trajectory of our conquest in Christ.
That does not mean that the external elements of our life are unimportant. Rather, through living the dynamism of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, we cultivate the freedom that allows us to live in the world with a renewed vitality. Fear prevents the heart from discovering Christ’s will in the moment, and often it chokes our true flourishing. By allowing Christ’s presence to take hold and elevate our natural lives, we experience an interior renewal that then overflows into the external.
Thus, the key is to invite Christ’s victory into our lives through ceaseless prayer. Ceaseless prayer is not so much an art of constantly saying formal prayer, but rather a habit of conversion whereby we learn to turn to our Lord in all things. Such a gift is the result of a heart that lives in constant repentance, always aware of its daily sins and the power of God’s mercy. Today, right now, and at every moment, let us turn to the Lord and invite his resurrection and ascension into our lives!