From Mark’s Gospel ….

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

(From the Daily Office Readings – Mark 9:30-32 – March 27, 2012)

“They did not understand … and were afraid to ask him.” I had really hoped when I first studied this passage some years ago that the word afraid was really something like “reluctant” or “hesitant” in the original Greek of the New Testament. But, in fact, the Greek word is phobeo, the adjectival form of the word from which we get phobia in English; it really is afraid. In fact, the principal meaning of the word is to fear something to the extent of fleeing! Only secondarily does it mean the extend reverence, veneration, or respect to something or someone. I trust that Mark means the latter emotion, but I’m not sure. ~ I know there are times when I am in conversation with someone, often with several someones, and something will be said that I don’t fully understand. My usual tactic is not to ask, but rather to smile and nod, to try to look sage, and to hope that further comments will clarify things for me. I don’t want to look stupid, after all! Maybe that’s what Mark is suggesting, that the disciples were afraid of looking like idiots…. ~ Isn’t that nearly a universal feeling? Human beings just seemed predisposed to fear looking stupid; we don’t like being wrong; we don’t want to be embarrassed; we’re afraid of failure; we are constantly worried about what others think of us, especially those we respect. There is one word that describes this human condition: anxiety. ~ Paul wrote about anxiety to the Philippians: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philip. 4:6-7) Paul makes it sound so simple, but even those who knew Jesus first-hand, who were with him day by day, found it hard to do. “They did not understand … and were afraid to ask him.” Don’t beat yourself up if you sometimes don’t understand. Don’t beat yourself up if you are sometimes anxious. But don’t be afraid to ask; make your requests known to God!