BEAVERTON — We have unceasing news and lived experience of the pandemic, political strife, and church division. How do we live and understand Jesus’ assurance, “Do not be afraid”? Who can show us the way out of fear?

There is a difference between being afraid and fear. There is normal fear which is a reaction to a real or perceived threat and is an integral and adaptive part of normal human development. Healthy awareness and caution is a primary function of survival. There is what we call fear of the Lord that comes with a reverence and respect of our Creator and a healthy sense of faith and hope. Yes, we should fear sin, unhealthy behavior and dangerous situations, but not be taken to the extreme in slavish terror.

Our Lord and God’s messengers have told us many times in Scripture not to be afraid. We need to trust in the Lord and with that trust we develop the virtues of faith, hope and charity along with the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

Our Lord and his mother lived in times of political strife and turmoil. God does have a plan for us. The icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, written and found in the 1200s, shows Our Mother Mary holding Jesus as a young child. The archangels Michael and Gabriel show him the instruments of his future passion, agony and death. The archangels show him the crown of thorns, the nails and cross, the sponge soaked with sour wine, and the spear that will pierce his body. The icon shows Jesus, frightened by this revelation, as he clings to his mother for security, losing his shoe as children often do, while his mother comforts him. In this icon, Mary shows us that hard times are ahead.

Jesus and Mary did not have it easy – if we look at the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we see that Mary faced the instruments of pain as Jesus did. With trust in the Father, Jesus and Mary show us also, that without the Passion, agony and death on the cross, we do not have resurrection. Mary gave her “yes” to our God. She helped prepare Jesus for his resurrection with the ultimate trust, hope and love of God. This is our example – we will feel fear but through prayer and the models of Jesus and Mary we can trust in God. We may not understand the way, but we can try to stay the course.

Jesus has made us a promise. In the Gospel of Matthew, when a group of women see him after his resurrection he says, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

As with the saints who had times of trials or strife, they trusted in God’s plan. We are in the good hands of our loving God and Lord who tells us “do not be afraid.”

Sr. Michael Francine is superior general of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.