Commentary on the Gospel of
Fear. I can almost visualize the terror etched on the faces of the Israelites as Pharaoh’s blitzkrieg of chariots bears down on them. Defeat is about to be snatched from the jaws of victory. God’s chosen people is about to be annihilated on the edge of the Red Sea. The oppressors will once again crush the oppressed. The wheel of history will grind on.
Fear. You can hear hints of it in the voices of the Scribes and Pharisees. This imposter Jesus needs to prove himself! He needs to perform signs like the God of Exodus! We can’t trust him unless he shows us some sign of awesome power. And yet we are also scared of his power, a power we don’t understand, can’t control and can’t intimidate.
Fear. I write this reflection from Uganda. Here I am confronting my own anxieties every day, whether of road accidents, cross-cultural miscomprehension, or separation from my family. I am here working on a research project on Catholic leaders in postcolonial Uganda. One of these leaders is the late Fr. John Mary Waliggo (1942-2008), likely the greatest and certainly the most courageous theologian in modern Uganda. For Waliggo, God’s good news from Exodus to Calvary can be summarized in one word: liberation. But the path to freedom begins inside each person as we enable God to help liberate us from the fears that threaten to paralyze our minds, hearts and bodies. In Waliggo’s words, “When Jesus Christ liberated us, he meant us to be free. That liberation must cast away fear. We should say what we sincerely believe. Do what we sincerely believe. Be what we sincerely believe.” Waliggo embodied his creed, boldly speaking out against two dictatorial regimes, surviving multiple attempts on his life, spearheading the revision of Uganda’s national constitution, and spending his final years leading the national human rights commission. In a world racked by fears of the unknown other, may God grant us the courage of Fr. Waliggo to stand strong. For as Moses sings in today’s responsorial psalm, “my strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior.”