When Jesus sent the apostles out to proclaim his teaching openly and to witness to him before the world, he knew that they were fearful. And they had good reason to be fearful, knowing that they would have to face hardship and persecution. So, not once but three times he said to them “Do not be afraid.”

It is normal and natural that courage will sometimes fail us and that we will be afraid. All those who have accomplished great things have known fear at one time or another. In the First Reading, Jeremiah totally scared and afraid, Martin Luther King aware that people were plotting to kill him and Jesus who in the Garden of Gethsemane openly expressed his fear.
Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear sometimes has a protective function, warning us of the presence of danger. In this case fear is a grace. Nevertheless, fear can be a handicap. It can paralyse a person. It can turn a person into a coward.

Once upon a time there was a mouse that had a crippling fear of cats. A magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of dogs. So the magician turned it into a dog. Then it became afraid of panthers. So the magician turned it into a panther. Then it became afraid of hunters. At this point the magician gave up. He turned it back into a mouse saying “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse”.

Jesus knew that the apostles were afraid. He understood their fears and took them seriously. When he said to them, ‘Do not be afraid’, he was addressing their fears and trying to allay them. He was trying to give them courage. He was trying to move them beyond fear, knowing that fear could make them so timid as to be unable to fulfil their mission. To be a disciple of Jesus, the heart of a mouse will not suffice. One needs a brave heart. May the Lord give each of us a brave heart.