"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Perfect Love casts out all Fear

by Christopher Robinson


I  WAS RAISED IN A strong Catholic family surrounded by love. Yet, somehow fear wormed its way into my mind. I carried that fear into Canada's Air Force, a fertile ground because many military personnel fear authority and possible punishment even more than they fear the enemy!

What does Scripture say about fear? Saint John the Apostle puts it succinctly: In love there can be no fear, but fear is driven out by perfect love: because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love (1 John 4:18).

Since Lent of 1989, I have been continuously and actively involved with Charismatic people in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and in various locations in the U.S.A. Very slowly, God's love has acted through them to free me from many of my fears. Praise God!

When I returned to Winnipeg in 1995 to live among A People of Peace Community, I had acquired a fear that the Church was sinking and that I had to be active in saving it. What did our Lord say to me? Be still and know that I am God, supreme among the nations, supreme on the earth (Psalm 46:10). The Church belongs to him and it is his responsibility to save it if it is sinking! As soon as I became still, I could see that the Church is not sinking — yes, there are some leaks in the hull; however, the bilge pumps are adequate for the task of pumping out the sea water which is seeping in before it can contaminate the Living Waters which Christ has put into his Church.

The sea monsters surrounding the Church are doing their best to instill fear in God's people who are aboard the ship. They are successful only to the extent that we stand by the railing to watch them. Let us rather look inside the ship to see what our Lord has for us.

The perfect gift

Our Lord gave the Mass to his Church to strengthen and unite her. In the Mass, Christ's sacrifice is re-presented to the Father while being made present to us here and now. (As a science fiction buff I have always been fascinated by the concept of traveling through time; only recently did I realize that we do it at every Mass.) This gift was given by God and instituted by Christ himself the night before he died. During the subsequent two millennia, the reality of the Mass has remained constant as it has migrated throughout the world and been embraced by many cultures. The outward appearance has changed through time and in response to the inculturation of the Gospel; however, the substance is the same today in any rite of the Catholic Church, anywhere in the world.

There are nearly 20 individual, distinctive rites within the Catholic Church. Each embraces the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic faith which we, as Roman Catholics, profess in the Nicene Creed. I have had the privilege of assisting at Mass occasionally in the Ukrainian Catholic Church while living in Manitoba. There is a place in London, Ontario where the Coptic Mass is celebrated regularly. Yet we are all one body in Christ.

When I was living in Sudbury, my pastor received permission to celebrate the old Tridentine Mass in our parish. It was a great privilege for me to serve at the altar for that Mass — again Christ was made present even though the priest used an ancient language I did not understand. It was also a great privilege for me to serve at the Novus Ordo (vernacular) Mass at my parish and to be very close to the altar as our Lord was made physically present to us through the action of the Holy Spirit in response to the prayers of the priest.

Some Catholics today fear that the Church made a mistake abandoning the Tridentine (Latin) Mass in the 1960s. A few go so far as to suggest that our current Novus Ordo Mass is not valid and that only the Tridentine Mass is valid. What does that say about the Ukrainian Mass or the Coptic Mass? or about the Masses of the other Catholic rites around the world? Are they also invalid? Not at all. As for using the vernacular, the other rites have been doing so for centuries as did the Roman rite when it switched from Greek to Latin in the 4th Century. The Latin used by the Roman rite is often called the Vulgate because it was the common or colloquial (vulgar) speech of the people in the Roman Empire when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be officially tolerated in his Empire.

Latin ceased to be the common, everyday language in Europe many centuries ago and it never existed in the Americas until the Europeans arrived in the 16th Century. In my life time, the Roman Catholic Church has once again put the Mass into the common language of the people. In recent years, I have assisted at Mass in several languages including English, French, and German. What I have found is that language does not affect the reality of the Mass — it is still the most beautiful thing this side of heaven precisely because it is the Way to heaven. The Mass is Jesus — the Way, the Truth, and the Life; what can be more beautiful than that?

As I continue to embrace the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church I find that God's perfect love is driving out the fears which live in me; I know that when the fear is all gone I shall be perfect in love.