Dear Friends in Christ,
On August 2, 2014 the first American, desperately ill with the Ebola virus, Dr. Kent Brantly, was flown from Africa to Atlanta’s Emory Hospital, about 2 miles from my sister’s home where I had been visiting just the day before. As I watch on TV as he gets out of the ambulance in a white containment suit my rational mind tells me there is no reason to fear for my sister and nephew, or for myself, now 1100 miles away in Massachusetts. Yet, I feel fear rising in my gut.
The “reptilian brain” at the base of our skull is a primitive alarm system that is constantly searching the environment for threats, in order to keep us alive as long as possible. As we grow in awareness, however, we realize living to a ripe old age is not so great if we’ve lost our mind or our money, so we go to the gym and a financial advisor to make sure we will receive the Vulcan Blessing: “Live long and prosper”. This means we hope to live to be a 101 and one bright morning, while reading the paper, in our comfortable house, quietly fall dead into our oatmeal.
This may be a fine way to die but it is a terrible way to live. A life guided by fear cuts us off from nature and other people, because we know they can turn against us in a moment.
But there is another way:
In August 1878 Yellow Fever struck Memphis, Tennessee for the third time in ten years. People fled the city to avoid this killer. By the time it had run its course over ninety percent had contracted the Fever and more than 5,000 people had died. Among the dead were four nuns and two doctors who worked tirelessly in sweltering heat to give “relief to the sick, comfort to the dying, and homes to the many orphaned children.” Constance, Superior of the Sisters of St. Mary, and three of her companions are memorialized in the High Altar in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis, which was near the center of the epidemic. These women and men of God are known as “the Martyrs of Memphis” and we remember them every year on September 9. (From Lesser Feasts and Fasts)
Fear-based living disconnects us from life, until someone frees us to live love-based lives. This is what we are given through the grace of Jesus Christ who empowers us to take up our fear and follow him, not so that we can add years to our life, but so that we can add life to our years.