From today's first reading, 1 John 4:18:
There is no fear in love,
but perfect love drives out fear
because fear has to do with punishment,
and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
My mind was already on the relationship between fear and love this morning, when the priest began to ask about it. He posed some questions, most of which I've forgotten. One was, Do you think that you can be in love and still be fearful? Do you think that fear and love are mutually exclusive?
He answered that he didn't think so, and I think he's right. But on the other hand, both fear and love affect each other. Fear is diminished when we love and when we know that we are loved. How much easier is it to deal with challenging circumstances when we know that our loved ones are with us?
And also, it takes courage to love freely, to offer yourself to another without knowing what you will receive in return. It's so easy to get to know another person only on a surface level, afraid that revealing too much of yourself might drive the other away, or that they might not reciprocate. In fear, we hold ourselves back, trying not to open ourselves to being vulnerable, to being hurt when the relationship changes. Relationships are changing all the time as things in our lives change--new jobs, moving to new places, getting married, commiting to religious life, having children...all these things change the way we relate to our friends, and sometimes the result is painful loss.
"To love is to suffer" says St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, for loving another means we are vulnerable to the pain of loss, and vulnerable to experiencing the pain that our loved one feels. And yet, Sophie continues: "To love is to suffer, but not to love is to die." Our lives, our world, everything is given meaning through love. Without love, without suffering, we do not really live.
I pray that all people in our world can find a way to live and act out of love, not out of fear.