A Salesian Reflection on Coronavirus: St. Francis de Sales on Fear.
As fears about the Coronavirus escalate in our country and around the world, the calming words of St. Francis de Sales keep coming to mind, "Do not be afraid."
Francis de Sales had a great reverence for divine Providence. For him, God is hardly indifference or aloof from his creation, especially from us who bear his image. Far from it. He states, "By his providence God is a father to his children." A father loves, provides, protects and cares deeply for his children. Such is God, our father.
Because of his unshakable trust in Providence, Francis often repeats the words that Jesus spoke to comfort his frightened disciples: "Do not be afraid." Children have all sorts of fears: "Something's under my bed, thunder and lightning, the shadow across my window," and so forth. All the child needs to cast those fears aside is the reassuring presence and the comforting and soothing words of a parent, "There, there. I am here now. There's nothing to be afraid of."
For Francis, that parent is God. He is there to love, care, comfort and protect us even with our adult fears such as the fear of losing our job, or the fear of ill health and aging, even the fear of the timing and circumstances of our death. Today, many of us are frightened by the new virus and its growing menace. In all such fears, we look to God as a loving parent who speaks quietly and comforting to our heart, "Do not be afraid. I am here. All will be well."
The way that a provident and caring God becomes the reality of our lives is by getting to know God –indeed, by falling in love with God. Then, words of his loving and caring Providence will no longer simply be words on a page, but reality itself. Such a love casts out all fear.
We are in the Season of Lent. This new virus colors this Lent. So, spend some quality time getting to know God. For, to know him is to love him and, in loving him, to no longer be afraid, "I am here now. All will be well."
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