Fear and Judgment

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Do not be afraid,” He said, as the wind whipped across the sea, and the boat tossed back and forth in the waves. “Take courage.”

We believe that the man who walked on the Sea of Galilee will judge everyone with divine justice. So Jesus saying, “Do not be afraid,” sounds like St. John exhorting us: “Have confidence on the day of judgment.”

Now, I think it’s fair to say: The disciples in that boat feared drowning. Because they feared the Day of Judgment. The full revelation of the truth convicts the guilty. Sinners legitimately fear that.

As we read, those disciples did not understand the miracle of the loaves and fishes. They did not understand the miracle of divine love. They feared, because they had sinned.

“Perfect love casts out fear.” This does not mean: presuming on God’s mercy, as if God will pretend that my sins haven’t happened, or that they aren’t sins. “Perfect love casts out fear” does not mean: Forget about God’s punishments for the real sins we have actually done.

But, by the same token: The greatest sin involves despairing. Despairing of God’s omnipotent loving kindness.

He got in the boat, and the waves calmed. The moment came for the disciples in that boat to begin to live in the truth. They had not understood before. But now they did. This is God, this man. God loving us, offering us infinite mercy and refreshment.

So we can honestly, fearlessly accuse ourselves. Yes, I have done this. Yes, I have failed to do that. A little Day of Judgment, conducted by my own conscience, which finally has a quiet moment to speak to me.

And I face it with confidence. Perfect love casts out fear. God knows the truth better than I do. He does not pretend that my sins never happened, or that my sins aren’t sins. But: He forgives me for them.

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One thought on “Fear and Judgment

  1. Hi Fr. Mark,
    This may not be related, but it is relevant. I came across this oath and read that it has been discontinued for years now. I’m sure you are aware of it, but some of your followers may not be. It was instituted on 1 September 1910 by Pope Pius X in his motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum and rescinded on 17 July 1967 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Paul VI. I find it incredibly beautiful and comforting and thought I would share it here. God Love You

    The Oath Against Modernism
    Pope Pius X – 1910
    THE OATH AGAINST MODERNISM
    To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

    I . . . . firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:19), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated: Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical’ misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.

    Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili,especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful. Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

    Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way.

    I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God. . .

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