Are you afraid of love?
In today’s Gospel, we have two contrasting responses to the events of Christmas. King Herod, upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, “was frightened.” The wise men, upon finding the place where the start was leading them, were “overwhelmed with joy.”
There’s a prayer which has become quite popular lately, called the Litany of Trust. You can find the story behind the prayer’s origins here. In it, one petition gives voice to a basic fear that many people experience in their journey of faith, in particular when it comes to considering even the possibility of a vocation to religious life or the priesthood.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
In other words, the fear is that “if I give my yes to God, I’m going to lose something.”
This fear is so normal and so common that the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his first homily as Pope in 2005, felt the need to remind us of what his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II said in his first homily as Pope in 1978, and to expand on it. This is what he said:
“…Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?
…No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.
And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”
The “Yes” that every vocation involves – whether to marriage, religious life, priesthood, or single life in the world – is ultimately a yes to love. Although giving our “Yes” and remaining faithful to it can be a struggle at times, we see in the contrast between Herod and the wise men to what giving our “Yes” to love or not will ultimately lead. Either to fear and violence, or joy and generosity.