“Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in charity. Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us.” 1 John 4, 18-19 (Douay-Rheims).
Sometimes people ask God for signs, and sometimes we are too afraid to ask anything, but He sends us a sign. I looked at the sign in front of me that was literally a sign – a verse from 1 John 4:18 handwritten on a loose-leaf piece of paper, left by someone at the back of a downtown church. Written in big capital letters, just to make sure it’s not missed.
Who left it there? And why? Maybe I’ll never find out in this life, but God can definitely work through people. I’m sure whoever wrote it had no idea how much I wanted a reassurance of those words that day. Maybe it was meant for me, maybe for someone else, but it was like God was saying “I really DO love you. Will you finally trust Me?” Sadly, my response up to that point went something like: “um… yes.. maybe? Can you tell me it’s safe to trust? Otherwise I don’t know if I can”.
I was trying to figure out some things about my life and everything was uncertain. Any proper decision-making gets lost in all the fear and turmoil. How are we supposed to hear God if we’re too afraid to find out the answer? At least that is what was going through my mind that day.
I thought of St Clare and her courage. She was young and she did something that was very difficult to do – she joined the early Franciscans and started her own religious order. Was she afraid? I don’t know, but she certainly overcame it by God’s grace, so we can too. She didn’t really care about human opinion, or what was popular in her society, she only cared about what God wanted for her and to please Him. Her example is so clear – that is all that life is about!
Imagine that night when she said her unconditional “yes” to Jesus. She came to church on Palm Sunday dressed in her very best gown and all the finery of her position in life. She was the daughter of a noble family and there were plans for her to marry a rich young man. Yet in her heart she had other plans that day. She did the most radical thing – gave up all her possessions, gave her beauty to Christ, cut off her hair, and founded the Poor Clares who are one of the most contemplative orders of the Catholic Church and live simple hidden lives of prayer and sacrifice. At the time, she was 18 years old.
What was going through her mind as St. Clare left her old life? She went secretly through the back door and went to meet St. Francis and his brothers at St. Mary of the Angels. She was faced with a difficult choice – to follow the expectations of everyone in her society, do the safe and easy thing that would be approved, or do something that would make her misunderstood and opposed.
Back to that sign – perfect love casts out fear. When we truly fall in love with Christ, and see that He is worth infinitely more than anything the world offers us, then surrendering to Him becomes a joy and even a necessity. We begin to long for this with all our hearts. Not just for what God offers and His gifts, but for God Himself, even if that means doing what is scary or what is unpopular. The very sacrifice and pain of it turns to joy. Do we search for our happiness here on earth or is Jesus truly our Treasure? You are a treasure to Him, “the pearl of great price” that He ransomed at the price of His Blood. If God is with us, who can be against us, and what is there to fear?
Notice how at the end of the verse, it says “Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us”. How reassuring that is! Maybe we feel our love is imperfect, too little to overcome all that fear. Perfect love overcomes fear but it’s not just our love. We don’t have to strive for what is impossible at the moment. God understands we still need to grow. He is standing in front of us with His arms outstretched, loving us first, before we are able to work out our uncertain, incomplete response. HIS love is what casts out fear, and then we are able to let go of everything and love Him more completely, more like the Saints. St. Clare, pray for us!
Also posted at Made4More
(image credit: http://holycardheaven.blogspot.ca/