“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.