On October 16, 1978 Karol Józef Wojtyla began his papacy under the name John Paul II. Just a few days later, on October 22, at his inaugural Mass, he urged the crowd in St. Peter’s Square: “Be not afraid.” He spoke these words even though he had many reasons to fear during his lifetime. He experienced the Nazi occupation of his country during World War II and the oppression of Communism shortly thereafter. He almost died from the bullet of an assassin and spent a good portion of the end of his life with crippling Parkinson’s disease.
Despite all of these obstacles, throughout the 26 years of his pontificate one of his most used phrases was: “Be not afraid.” Why? In his own words he said: “In a certain sense it was an exhortation addressed to all people, an exhortation to conquer fear in the present world situation … Why should we have no fear? Because man has been redeemed by God.”
Like the time period of St. John Paul II we have many reasons to be afraid. Yet, we can remain courageous because Christ has conquered all the sources of fear. Whether in October 1978 or October 2022 we can remember this saint’s words: “Be not afraid.”