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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Isaiah, Chapter 7, Verse 25
But as for all the hills which were hoed with a mattock, for fear of briers and thorns you will not go there; they shall become a place for cattle to roam and sheep to trample.

In the beginning God cursed Adam with briers and thorns and here Isaiah is pointing out to the rulers of Israel that when we give in to fear and link ourselves with evil men or women the natural result is there will be briers and thorns in our lives.

So rather than linking ourselves with evil men out of fear we should assist and pray for them. ”I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live.” (Ez 33:11)

Fear is listed by many theologians as the 8th deadly sin. God in making us a Holy people wants us to be free of fear. Is it any wonder that people without faith are plagued by fear?
Fear Dominates Politics, Media and Human Existence in America—And It’s Getting Worse according to Don Hazen.

“Fear is the mind-killer” – Frank Herbert, Dune

People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. As numerous studies have shown, fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. For people who have suffered trauma, fear messages can sometimes trigger uncontrollable flight-or-fight responses with dangerous ramifications.

Yet over time, many interlocking aspects of our society have become increasingly sophisticated at communicating messages and information that produce fear responses. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid—very afraid.

In addition, television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life, as researchers have pointed out…All this, despite statistics indicating that in most parts of the country, the crime rate is actually on the decline.

Fear is so pervasive that experts have made the case we live in a generalized “culture of fear,” also the name of a book by Barry Glassner which underscores the fact that we often fear the wrong things, and incredibly out of proportion to reality. Statistics show you have a much higher chance of being killed by lightning than by a terrorist.[1]

Good Works[2]

Lent is traditionally considered a particularly good time for performing corporal works of mercy (e.g., almsgiving, peacemaking, etc.). The importance of supplementing ascetical denial with active virtues is underscored in the Gospel (Luke 11.14-28), in which a man who has had a demon exorcized from him later becomes repossessed by the demon and seven other unclean spirits. Christ's point seems to be that holy practices such as fasting do indeed remove bad things from one's soul, but this is ultimately to no avail if the soul is not then filled with good things. This understanding is also operative in the Collect for the First Sunday of Lent:

O God, who by the yearly Lenten observance dost purify Thy Church, grant to Thy household that what they strive to obtain from Thee by abstinence, they may achieve by good works.

Christmas and Advent[3]

Now is a good time to reflect on the church season that is the mirror end of Lent and Easter which is the season of Christmas and Advent. Like Lent Advent should be a time of fasting, prayer and anticipation. Often times we are able to focus better on our spiritual work in Lent because we are not distracted by the festival of the biggest commercial selling season of the year. Starting after Halloween with frenzied sales activities like black Friday and cyber Monday. Advent like lent is a season of spiritual preparation and we may need to use some heroic effort to keep Christ in the season and to continue the season through the month of January. Like Lent Advent is a time of small, daily sacrifices. In Lent and Easter Christ comes to us sacrificially through the Eucharist but Christmas reminds us that Christ is still coming to us physically from the Father at the consummation of history. When he comes at the end of time, he will have no more glory than he has now in the Eucharist, but then we will see him as he is. A blessed Advent is the key to a merry Christmas. Advent is a time of vigilance, alertness and expectation. We should not allow ourselves experience “Xmas Fatigue” long be before December 25th and we should continue the longing for Christ throughout the whole year. Hope is the reason for the season of Christmas and Lent is the season of Faith and Love. We should reflect and rejoice both seasons within our lives by mirroring the seven reasons He came. We should therefore in some way try to 1) Console the poor 2) heal the afflicted 3) free the captives, 4) pardon those who sin against us 5) enlighten the ignorant 6) offer His body to redeem the human race and 7) reward persons according to their merits.