By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fast from Fear

Last week I attended in Victoria BC the annual meeting of the Bishops of Western and Northern Canada. Twice during our time there we heard news reports of earthquakes that had occurred toward the northern part of Vancouver Island. They registered just over 4 on the Richter scale, so we felt nothing.

Those, it seems to me, were a far cry from the “earthquakes” that impact us frequently and that we can, indeed, feel. I’m referring not to the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, but to the shaking of the foundations upon which we build our personal, familial and societal existence.

Think of the “earthquake” that hits a family through sudden illness, injury or death. When the home”s economic foundation crumbles due to unemployment, the aftershocks can be very dramatic. At the level of society, the bedrock principle of respect for life is giving way to the shifting sand of “individual autonomy” and the population sinks into the quagmire of abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia. Geopolitically, political foundations are far from stable, robbing peoples by the millions of the security of home and forcing them to flee for their lives, often to countries that are hesitant to welcome them.

The seismic shifts affecting life at all these levels is giving rise to widespread angst and worry. I see this most dramatically and tragically in the lives of children. Suicides and suicidal ideation among the young are too frequently headlining our news broadcasts.

Into this environment of anxiety are spoken the words of Christ that were proclaimed at mass on Sunday: “Don’t worry!” (cf. Matthew 6: 24-34) The Lord reminds us that there is, in fact, a foundation that is absolutely secure, that will never crumble, and on which we can always find secure footing. That which alone can solidly ground our lives is the love and providence of our Heavenly Father. This is one of my favourite passages in all of Scripture. Jesus looks at the flowers and birds, points out how they are arrayed and cared for, and then makes the obvious point that we are far more precious in the eyes of God than they are. If God looks after these small things, how much more can we be sure he will look after us!

So what must we do? Trust. Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God. By this he means that our first decision of each day is to surrender in trust to the rule of God in our lives. Should we do that, then all that is truly needed will be given.

This suggests a direction for us to take as we enter this week into the holy season of Lent. We are accustomed to “giving up” something. Let’s consider giving up self-reliance and choose to rely instead on the steadfast love and sure providence of God. We fast in Lent from a variety of things. The words of the Lord are an invitation to fast from fear. Replace the default reaction of fear with the deliberate decision to believe in the love of God.

“Earthquakes” happen; dark times arise. While we often cannot control the occurrence, we can always control how we respond. Jesus summons us to choose faith over fear and thus to know the joy of living in the rock-solid love of our Father in heaven.