Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary Sr. Martha
October 7, 2014
The title of this chapter talk is ‘do not be afraid’. To be afraid is to be filled with fear. Did you know that this is the most repeated commandment in scripture? I have been told that it is in the bible 365 times; one for every day of the year. I’m not sure it is exactly true as I have never counted.
Certainly, the angel Gabriel’s pronouncement of “do not be afraid, Mary” is one of the most remembered out of the 365. Many others come quickly to mind; last week we heard “Do not be afraid Joseph, son of David to take to you Mary”…, “fear not puny mite”, and “fear not it is I” etc.
I have been very taken with Fr. Newhouse’s view on Mary as disciple of Jesus. Then I started to think about: how not be afraid, to be courageous is a very necessary part of being a disciple. If we look at it as a commandment, instead of a word of comfort it brings it into a new light. I think Mary must have taken it as a commandment, Joseph too. What if Mary had given into her fears and had been filled with fear? Allowed her fears to grow into hate, bitterness or revenge? How would you have felt if you were told a sword would pierce your heart? Afraid? “Do not be afraid, Mary”. Would she have been able to accomplish the flight into Egypt? If nothing else there were wild animals on that road. Would she have been able to raise Jesus in a most loving way? To set Jesus free to accomplish his mission? To follow Jesus to the cross? To follow Jesus to the cross as a true disciple?
What might this look like in a woman totally in love with a new-found God; in very frightening circumstances in modern times? Etty Hellusum, a young Jewish woman in Nazi occupied Holland gives us a real look. She was a woman unchurched who had a very difficult childhood. As an adult she began to read scripture, especially the New Testament, Augustine and other church fathers. She fell completely in love with God. “My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, oh God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on your earth, my eyes raised towards Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude.” She refused to let the fear of the Nazi’s take hold of her soul. She refused to hate them or anyone. “each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. “Her friend replied that this nothing but Christianity. Etty replies, amused “Yes, Christianity, and why ever not?” Was she a disciple? I think so. She went so far as to refuse to go in hiding, although she had many offers. She wanted to be at one with her people and believed that if God wanted her spared then she would be, if not fine. What did love look like in her life? She was a woman for others. In the transport camp she was especially attentive to the elderly and sick. She would help them in any way she could, from washing their clothes to changing their bandages, to listening to the poetry of a frightened adolescent. She was polite and smiling to everyone, even the Nazi guards and that unnerved them. People in the camp wrote about how Etty simply radiated love among all this misery and fear. She would remain who God wanted her to be. She knew if she gave into fear she would lose her soul to hate and revenge. She left for Auschwitz on a crowded cattle car singing. Love casts out fear. Etty continued to love her people very concretely and to cast out her fear.
We get a sense of Mary being very much the same way. She was there beneath the cross, she was there in the Upper Room singing and praying. A sword had pierced her own heart but it remained a heart, a disciple’s heart full of love, not fear.