A Catholic reads the Bible, week 41: Between faith and fear

This week's reading took Laura Bernardini back to a familiar song.

This is Week 41 of a yearlong series: A Catholic Reads the Bible. Read Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3. Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini

(CNN)Last weekend, I went to Mass with my Mom in Vermont. As we were sitting in a pew, she pushed the hymnal in front of me, warning me that the next song was "Be Not Afraid."

My eyes always water when we sing that song.
Any kid that has gone to Catholic school knows "Be Not Afraid." You never forget it.
    It also has special meaning in my family. It was sung at my Dad's funeral.
    The words are truly beautiful: "Be not afraid, I go before you always."
    When I got home, I was reading the Gospel of Mark, and the familiar story of Jesus walking on water got me thinking about fear.
    Everyone also knows this story. When I was a kid, I had an illustrated book about it. Plus, every kid tries to walk on water with no success.
    In Mark's Gospel, Jesus goes out to meet the disciples in a boat, but "they thought it was a ghost and cried out."
    Jesus' response was "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid." Mark uses the word "astounded" to describe the disciples' reaction.
    Reading this story with the experience of the last 40 weeks really got me thinking. (It's funny that 40 is such a big number in the Bible.)
    How does faith tackle fear?
    I have already confessed to you that I was a pretty scared kid in school. I may have been the only second grader that knew Franklin Delano Roosevelt's words of "there is nothing to fear, but fear itself" from his first inaugural address. My Mom turned it into the mantra that got me through the rough days.
    Heck, I was afraid to write this column.
    And like other passages that I have written about, I discovered a surprise. It comes after Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid.
    "They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened."
    I don't remember this part from my children's book. I also didn't quite understand it.
    My Bible's footnotes weren't helpful, so I consulted "The New Jerome Biblical Commentary."
    The hardening of hearts is about not understanding Jesus as the Son of God, the book explains. The disciples hadn't understood the constant stream of miracles -- including the multiplication of the fish and loaves -- was telling them all they needed to know about Jesus. Fear had hardened their hearts, and clouded their eyes.
    Fear cripples us even to this day. This week especially, there is so much fear and distrust in the world. This passage presented a moment for reflection: How are our hearts hardened against each other? And how can faith help us overcome our fear?