Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Gospel Thoughts Today: Fear of the Unknown

Blue skies, white-capped swells, and a quick boat ride (or so it seemed) to face/conquer one of my biggest fears. The sound of the most unforgettable musical score—the charging shark's rhythmic, escalating four notes—da dum, da dum . . . played over and over in my head. The movie ‘Jaws’ singlehandedly caused an acute awareness of things swimming around in the ocean. Things that could bite me in half.  I was thirteen years old living in southern California when I saw the movie.  As a child, I grew up near the Atlantic Ocean in Florida.  I had been stung by a man ‘o war, thrown around by huge waves, and still never hesitated running through the sand hurling myself into the surf.  Yet, after seeing this movie, I could barely stand in ankle-deep water.  This fear turned into a phobia.  Small fish swimming in schools would cause me to run for the safety of my towel.  I was at the beach almost every afternoon when I started driving.  Friends would be frolicking in the water, flirting the surfers while I “worked on my tan.” 

In February of 2009, I had the opportunity to visit Oahu, Hawaii. On the flight to Hawaii, I had brought Volumes Seven, Nine, and Ten. I wanted to become familiar with the contents of each in order to guide others in the future.  The overall message I was getting was, have no fear.  Trust Jesus.  So I began thinking . . . the closer I get to Jesus and His Sacred Heart, the less I fear.  Hmmm . . . what scares me? Not death. Something to ponder.  In the airport, walking to baggage claim, I saw a brochure with a white sandy beach on the cover.  I grabbed it and threw it in my purse. On the drive to the hotel, I saw it.  A full-page ad in the brochure.  In big yellow letters, it beckoned: SWIM WITH THE SHARKS!  Hawaii Shark Encounters.  The biggest and safest shark cages in Hawaii.  As seen on ESPN, Animal Planet,, National Geographic, etc.  Yes!  My biggest fear, sharks!  St. Gertrude spoke to me about fear in Volume Seven.  I got it!  I needed to face my biggest fear and TRUST JESUS! The adventure was booked!

Sleep didn’t come easily the night before.  The anticipation of being surrounded by sharks crept into my dreams, waking me abruptly a couple of times through the night.  Would a shark jump over the top of the cage and get in?  Could they get through the bars?  Over and over my mind replayed all the possible scenarios. I prayed most of the 45-minute drive to the North Shore.  I arrived early for my excursion, giving me time to walk around and explore the area.  As our boat pulled into the dock, I repeated over and over, ‘I trust You, Jesus.’  By the time I stepped foot on the boat, I felt calm.  Chris and Phil, our guides, went over the rules, one of which was not to pet the sharks or let your hands or feet drift outside the cage.  Our appendages look a lot like the bait they use to attract the sharks.  Still calm, good.  Typically when shooting through the water at high speeds and big swells, I panic.  My mind immediately plays the scenario: high swells, the boat tips, I am in the water with sharks. The fear is paralyzing.  But, not this time.  As we hit the swells, I just held on, enjoying the scenery.  We were heading three miles out to water 500 feet deep.  As we approached the permanent buoy, two whales appeared about 200 feet from our boat.  Our guides told us it was rare to see them this time of year in Hawaii.  Then the sharks appeared, swimming around our boat.  We were told the vibration of the boat attracted them. They knew they would be fed.  Bait, of course.

After instructions and without hesitation, I went to the ladder. As I descended, I was having a conversation with Jesus the whole time.  ‘If You want me to die in a shark attack, Your Will be done.’  Down I went and was face to face with a 12-foot Galapogas shark.  It was beautiful.  I was able to look at it as one of God’s creatures, not a maneater.  At one point, there had to be at least 15 to 20 sharks circling the cage.  I did it.  I conquered my biggest fear.  Letting go and trusting God by accepting any outcome is incredibly freeing.  Now, 10 years later, I can't say I would ever want to experience a shark cage again. Although, if one of my grandchildren begged me to someday . . . their experienced Mimi may have to go along!

In today's Gospel (Matthew 10:1-7), there were twelve men who had no idea what they were being summoned to, yet their faith in Jesus outweighed any fears:

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

In the Monthly Message from October 2011, Jesus asks us to trust Him:

"If there are times when you are afraid, then you must come to Me. I will protect you from anything that is outside of My will for you and for your work. Will you be overcome? Consider My authority, dear apostles, and do not consider the extent of your weakness. Never be distracted by the strength of your enemy because the enemy’s strength is an illusion and even the illusion is fleeting. Be assured that I will compensate for your weaknesses as I compensate for your beautiful humanity which so endears you to Me. Where you are weak, I am strong. Where you are frail in your humanity, I add my divinity and what goes out from you is blessed and protected, but only if you are relying on Me. You will know when you are relying on yourself because you will be afraid. Consider how I conducted Myself on earth. I trusted the Father and I was gentle, going about My tasks in the day with conviction. If the Father willed it for Me, then I accepted it and saw to it as best I could. When I was rejected, I quietly moved on. When I was accepted, I offered the Father’s love and gave to the fullest extent of the Father’s will. Do the same, beloved ones. Do the same. I am with you and all is well."

Lay apostles, fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. All sorts of scenarios can play on repeat in our minds. What's missing from those scenarios? Christ! When fear begins to evade your thoughts, add Christ into the mix . . . by your side, comforting and consoling.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to serve You within this apostolate. Thank you for loving me so much I can actually feel calm in moments of fear, even in shark-infested waters!

God bless,


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