(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)
The Renaissance political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli famously compared fear and love. He said that for a leader it is good to be both loved and feared. But, he added, if a leader had to choose one, it is better to be feared than loved. Fear touches most people more deeply than any other emotion. It more likely makes a person submit to authority. Yet both readings today at least hint that God wants to be loved, not feared.
The first reading from I John says that perfect love casts out fear. It means that when one really loves God, she has nothing to fear. God will meet all her needs. In the gospel reading the disciples are terrified when they see what appears to them as a ghost. Despite knowing Jesus, their love for God is still shallow. They lack the Holy Spirit. They cannot yet appreciate that God will meet their every need when they trust Him.
We have received the Holy Spirit through the sacraments. Yet our love is often meager and our fear substantial. As a surgeon has to perform an operation dozens of times before he perfects his skill, we need to practice loving God continually. By prayer, fasting, and study we will come to know God and to love Him. Then we will fear minimally if at all.