In the present atmosphere of increasing global fear of terrorism, the following thoughts of Mother Evonne are indeed timely
At the meeting Free from fear, Pope Francis highlighted significant biblical episodes through which God speaks to us even today. They orient and guide with the same gaze of compassion to the migration phenomena that increasingly assumes planetary dimensions (Cf. Homily, 15 February 2019).
The Israelites, terrorized because they are being followed by Pharaoh’s army, are encouraged by Moses who invites the people to not be afraid because the Lord is with them: “Do not fear! Stand your ground and see the victory the Lord will win for you today” (Exodus 14: 13). In the long and tiring pilgrimage in the desert, the people of Israel are urged to look beyond the adversity, and not succumb to fear, but to trust fully in God’s action that always brings salvation.
They are two very timely biblical references: they tell us not to be afraid in the face of difficult situations that endanger our security, but to believe that fear disappears when we abandon ourselves to the presence of the Lord of history. If this were not the case, due to the risks associated with entrenching ourselves in our fragile human security and in the reassurance of routine, it becomes inevitable for us to retreat into the narrow circle of people who we know and love. These are attitudes that the Holy Father underlines as a mark of defeat, increase dread and fear especially when we are "faced with the arrival of migrants and refugees who knock on our door in search of protection, security, and a better future".
The awareness that we are all migrants on this Earth helps us to overcome fears that are based on doubts, yet are legitimate and fully understandable from a human point of view. Fear is in those who welcome the ‘new arrivals’ for fear that they may ‘steal’ something that has been painstakingly built; fear is also in the ‘newcomer’ who lives the non-hypothetical risk of prejudice, rejection, discrimination and failure.
Regarding this, Pope Francis says that “having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is letting these fears determine our response, conditioning our choices, compromising respect and generosity, fueling hatred and rejection. The sin is renouncing the encounter with the other, the encounter with the diverse, the encounter with the neighbor, which in fact is a privileged occasion for encounter with the Lord” (Homily, 14 January 2018). Therefore “we need the impulse of the Spirit so as not to be paralyzed by fear and by calculations, to not accustom ourselves to walk only within safe confines” (Gaudete et exultate, n. 133).
This historic hour, so complex and disquieting, asks us to conquer with the strength of trust every form of fear, to open ourselves, to welcome and encounter. We speak a lot of this today. However, we do not want it to remain only words, slogans for the moment, or just sterile affirmations. We work and commit ourselves so that reception and solidarity may become a habit, a life orientation, a supportive and lasting mentality.
I would like our communities to ask themselves the question: how can we develop personal and communal attitudes open to welcome and encounter? What choices can we make together with institutions, associations, movements and church at various levels so that the joy of being recognized in their dignity as children of God and of looking at life with hope and serenity may be restored to so many brothers and sisters, especially minors?
To welcome and meet the other is to meet Jesus. He himself tells us: "Truly, I say to you, all you did to one of these least brothers of mine, you did to me" (Mt 25: 40). If this word of Jesus is the key to interpreting the history of our times, we should begin to thank those who give us the opportunity for encounter, that is, those who knock on the door of our heart and of our homes, giving us the opportunity to overcome fears and dread, to welcome and meet in the person of the other, Jesus in person (cf. Homily, 15 February 2019).
This is not utopia, it is a mission that we live as Church, pilgrims on this earth that is mother of all, with renewed missionary ardor. It is a mission-vocation that restores the joy and marvel of the feast of encounter, of sharing, and of solidarity. Let us help each other with courage and with trust to listen to the voice of Jesus, “Behold, I am at the door and knock” (Apoc. 3: 20).