I once heard from a doctor that, “Fear is irrational.” Even though it seems oxymoronic at first, it makes perfect sense. Another person who is a philosopher affirms the same observation.
Now, think about it…
The things that we are fearful of or reserved about can easily make sense through logical reasoning and sound thought processes; however, once we face our fears, our psychosomatic reactions take over. Even though what seems to be easy for others can become very hard for us who are scared of our own fears. That is just strictly speaking on a human level; spiritual fears can indeed be overcome with proper guidance and prudential growth. Today, I would like to, therefore, reflect on how to overcome our spiritual reservations and fears with a greater love for the Lord.
First, I am going to be honest with you… There are many things that I am afraid of, and many things I do not understand why people are scared of them. That is why personal fears oftentimes cannot be explained by simple logic because they defy and affect us on a subconscious, psychosomatic level. For example, I am scared of snakes but not reptiles, insects, or other nature-related things. I am also afraid of extreme height, especially more intensified when I know that I am not secure.
On the first fear, even though I know that snakes have to bite or constrict their prey in order to eat since they do not have arms or legs like other animals, I cannot stand the sight of seeing them wrapping their bodies around the victims and slowly devour the prey. On the latter fear, I am not scared when I fly, but I am scared when I stand high and look down at the abyss. I am not scared of being on a high floor, but I am scared of looking down seeing people like ants, or feeling the winds buffering all around me. I know, it is weird but it takes time for me to adjust and calm my nerves; but, even then, I will only be standing still when I am put in those situations. I know… I just cannot explain why I have those fears even though I understand the logic behind both.
I guess fear is that very unique and unexplainable reality.
When we were on our Marian Pilgrimage back in 2019, we had a chance to stop to visit the Eiffel Tower. We were also given the option to climb the stair up to the highest permissible height to see the panoramic view of the city. Usually, we would have the option of using the lift, but there were many problems with our itinerary that day that we showed up at a different time than our reserved slot. After much negotiation by our tour guide, we were given the option of climbing the tower (but not the lift since it was reserved and booked for the appropriate timeslot). At first, I was a little hesitant because of the height and having to climb a lot of stairs, yet I thought I gave it a try since I do not think I would venture to do this on my own if it is not part of an itinerary.
The first few flights were easy, but as we get higher, we begin to see signs of where we stood in comparison to different buildings around the city and the world. Those facts were a little bit challenging and nerve-wracking at first, but what really got me was the wind! As we got higher, the wind became stronger, which made me a little scared. When I looked down and see how far we are off the ground and how we were similar heights to many tall buildings around the world, that made me a little bit more nervous. On top of everything, I was tired from climbing the stairs! Several of our pilgrimage members gave up because they were too tired or thought that the height was too much for them. That was discouraging! Nevertheless, I did not want to give up and just kept one foot after another.
First of all, I did not want to give up halfway because I wanted to get the chance to see the city. Secondly, walking down would have meant that I would have to face the height and wind anyway. Therefore, I kept moving forward, keeping my mind fixed on the goal, my hands gripped to the side rails, and taking a deep breath to overcome my fear. Slowly, I felt that I was getting closer to the desired level and the fear lessened. I prayed as well as tried my physical and psychological bests to overcome the human factors. Fears were there but strength was there as well. Reservations and doubts were there but perseverance helped a long way.
Similar to our human fears, our spiritual fears operate in the same ways. The Devil does his best to deter, discourage, tempt, and plant doubts within us to keep us lose our focus on God. Once we let ourselves be focused on the secondary, apparent, captivating, or noisy fears and surroundings, we lose sight of the Almighty and His loving presence. When we let the humanistic factors speak louder than our God, we can no longer be attentive and able to listen to Him speaking to us gently and from the heart.
When the Lord Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (John 20:22) He gave them what was truly personal and intimate for Him. Hence, just as the Apostles received the Holy Spirit through that loving and personal act from the Redeemer, we, too, receive the Consoler when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation. We are given the same Spirit that Jesus gave to His very own disciples whom He sent out in His name to preach the Gospel. By breathing His very life upon the Apostles, He gave them new life. In the same way, when we are anointed by Chrism and through the laying on of hand, we receive the Holy Spirit through the successors of the Apostles — the Bishops.
When Christ gives us His Spirit, He gives us new life, and not just for this world but for eternity. Therefore, just as the Lord who never receded or ran away from His role when opposition and hatred were inflicted upon Him, we are not timid and afraid, but full of His life-giving power by knowing that we carry within us not our own manmade spirit of self-justification and egocentricity but of selfless giving and sacrificial acts of love. It is in recognizing the source of our lives that we become courageous in giving our everything to the Lord who has given us His all.
The Holy Spirit is the very love of Jesus and the Father. Therefore, when He gives us His own Spirit, He gives us the real, personal, and intimate love of His very own being. We need to remember that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity — God Himself — so He is not limited in power to change souls and transform us in His love. Unfortunately, it is often us who do not trust and draw close to Him enough to receive His love. We oftentimes limit and ration our reception of the Spirit because we cynically think that He is nice to have around but do not want His infinite and transformative loving grace to completely overtake us.
Too often times, we keep the Holy Spirit far away from us because we do not want to change our ways. We would rather stay in our cowardice, egocentric self-control, illogical fears, and humanistic reservations just as long we think we have what we can comprehend, understand, or want at the moment. We do not want to be transformed and become filled with His holiness, thinking that it is impossible or incomprehensible in our limited understanding, hence we rather settle for lesser instead of greater things. We rather like our illusions of control and freedom and do not want Him to overtake our every fiber and being.
Unfortunately, our spiritual fears and reservations are often created by us because we do not trust in the Holy Spirit enough. When we become reserved, afraid, calculative, and controlling, we remain ourselves instead of becoming what God wants of us. In order to trust in the Almighty and to receive the outpouring of His life-giving and transformative Spirit of love, we have to be personal, vulnerable, and transparent to His will and let Him be in control. In opening up ourselves for the Spirit, we should be humble enough to trust, as well as be confident in His power to transform and lift us up beyond our fears and reservations. Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit has the power not only to give life to our spiritually dead or lifeless lifestyle; but even more incredibly, to change our lives from being sinners into saints. Therefore, we cannot truly receive the Holy Spirit and His sevenfold gifts without intending to be made holy, to be sanctified and transformed, drawing closer to Jesus‘ own heart and the love of the Father, to receive and dwell in the love of the Trinity. It begins with us to trust in Him and open ourselves up to receiving His sanctifying and transformative grace…
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.