I remember the day I found out that I was pregnant with #five while my oldest was only six years old. Immediately, an avalanche of worries flooded my heart. How would we handle them all? Could I deliver another baby, safely, so soon? Could we afford another? As the worries of my heart welled up as tears in my eyes, a small bird flew from the tree outside and perched itself on my kitchen window sill. It stayed there happily for what seemed to me like hours, as if he were heralding a message. I couldn’t help but think of the words from the chapter of today’s Gospel:
“Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds . . . do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Lk 12:23, 24:30). These words were a healing balm to my worried soul. My Father knows what I need. He will provide, even if I have no idea how. All I must do is set my heart on his kingdom and surrender.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tenderly tells us, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock. For your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” One thing that I have noticed about the God of the Bible is that he loves to call his people to great adventures. “Leave this land and go to an unknown place that I will show you.” “Fight this battle, though you are severely outnumbered.” Most normal people would say these things are nuts! Yet God takes us to these risky places because he wants to show us new horizons that will fulfill us richly and heal us from our own blindnesses. But since he knows that such an adventure is more than a little scary, he always starts with these words: Be Not Afraid (over 300 times in the Bible).
St. Paul tells us in the first reading today that it was “by faith” that Abraham “went out, not knowing where he was to go.” And it was by the same faith that Abraham painfully offered up to God his son Isaac, only to receive a greater and more perfect gift through him. Surely there were many uncertainties and pains hidden in his heart as he and Isaac set out for Mt. Moriah, but we only hear the confidence of a man who set his heart on following the Father: “God will provide.”
A faith that is real recognizes that God’s call can be scary, but it is also rewarding. As the early Christian Father, Origen, comments on Abraham’s faith: “Do you see what it means to lose something for God? It means to receive it back multiplied.”
Be Not Afraid.