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Excerpted from Crossing the Threshold of Hope by His Holiness John Paul II. Copyright 1994 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, distributed by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I state right from the outset: "Be not afraid!" This is the same exhortation that resounded at the beginning of my ministry in the See of Saint Peter."

Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Part 2

My explanation begins by clarifying words and concepts. Your question is infused with both a lively faith and a certain anxiety. I state right from the outset: "Be not afraid!" This is the same exhortation that resounded at the beginning of my ministry in the See of Saint Peter.

Christ addressed this invitation many times to those He met. The angel said to Mary: "Be not afraid!" (cf. Lk 1:30). The same was said to Joseph: "Be not afraid!" (cf. Mt 1:20). Christ said the same to the apostles, to Peter, in various circumstances, and especially after His Resurrection. He kept telling them: "Be not afraid!" He sensed, in fact, that they were afraid. They were not sure if who they saw was the same Christ they had known. They were afraid when He was arrested; they were even more afraid after his Resurrection.

The words Christ uttered are repeated by the Church. And with the Church, they are repeated by the Pope. I have done so since the first homily I gave in St. Peter's Square: "Be not afraid!" These are not words said into a void. They are profoundly rooted in the Gospel. They are simply the words of Christ Himself

Of what should we not be afraid? We should not fear the truth about ourselves. One day Peter became aware of this and with particular energy he said to Jesus: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Lk 5:8).

Peter was not the only one who was aware of this truth. Every man has learned it. Every successor to Peter has learned it. I learned it very well. Every one of us is indebted to Peter for what he said on that day: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Christ answered him: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men" (Lk 5:10). Do not be afraid of men! Man is always the same. The systems he creates are always imperfect, and the more imperfect they are, the more he is sure of himself. Where does this originate? It comes from the human heart. Our hearts are anxious. Christ knows our anguish best of all: "Christ knows that which is in every man" (cf. Jn 2:25).

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