For all of us, the redemptive act of Jesus should be tantamount to the abolition of slavery. The letter to the Hebrews [Hebrews 2: 14-15] sets this out with clarity: “Since all the children[us] share the same human nature, he [Jesus] too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could set aside him who held the power of death, namely the devil, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death”. I read a recent commentary on this scripture by Msgr. Charles Pope called “Our most Primal Fear and the Source of our Bondage”. Msgr. Popes thesis is that the “death” referred to in the scripture is not only the death that accompanies our movement from this life but also the many small deaths we are called to undertake to be able to take advantage of the freedom from sin that Jesus earned for us by his redemptive act. To make his point Msgr. Pope substitutes the word “diminishment” for the word “death” to give it a wider meaning. “Fear of diminishment opens us up to all sorts of sin. Fear that we don’t compare well to others solicits envy and jealousy. Pride makes an appearance too as we compensate for our perceived inadequacy by finding people to whom we feel superior”. As Msgr. Pope says “perhaps we run to the cosmetic surgeon or torture ourselves with unhealthy diets or spend money we don’t have to impress others so that we feel less inadequate. Young people and older ones too give in to peer pressure and sometimes do terrible things often so that they feel that they fit in. The desire to fit in is all about not wanting to feel diminished. The fear of diminishment is the fear of the little deaths to self we are called to make as we adjust to life in the Kingdom.
All of this, of course, has much to do with the on-going efforts of the enemy to attempt to neutralize the effects of the redemptive act for the souls of God’s children. It is the enemy who plants self doubt and then irrigates it. We are not however without recourse. Jesus abolished the slavery we experience because of our fallen nature and he gives us the opportunity every day to come to him for mercy, forgiveness and grace. Satan however is tugging at the other end and we need to be constantly aware of that. Satan is defeated every time we dismiss him in the name of Jesus and every time we tell Jesus that we surrender our lives to him.
Lest we forget, the Holy Spirit resides in the sanctuary of every baptized soul and each such soul is a temple of the Holy Spirit. We need to turn to the indwelling Spirit regularly seeking aid in prayer, in combating the efforts of the enemy and in discerning how Jesus calls us to discipleship. The Holy Spirit helps us to navigate our interior life, consoles us, encourages us, convicts us, inspires us and directs us. We have not been left defenceless in the battle against the enemy. Our Baptism offers us freedom from fear of death [diminishment] and our Baptism gives us the tools resident in the Holy Spirit to insure liberation from the slavery of sin and spiritual death. We just need to embrace our freedom by embracing Jesus to overcome the fear of death in the many ways that the fear of death manifests itself to us on our pilgrimage.