Fear keeps us from doing all sorts of things the Lord wants for us. If we would truly let go of our fear and cling to our God, just imagine what he could do in us and through us. Ahaz was King of Israel, a mighty commander, but yet was so afraid of God and what God might do that he refused to ask for a sign. Perhaps he knew how far he had strayed from God’s commands, and he was afraid to engage God on any level. He would prefer to cut himself off from God rather than give himself over to the amazing power of God’s presence in his life and his rule. Because of that perhaps, he never lived to see the greatness of God’s glory.
But his weakness did not disrupt the promise. In the fullness of time, God’s messenger came to a young woman named Mary and proposed to accomplish in her life the sign for which Ahaz was too afraid to ask. She too was initially afraid, pondering what sort of greeting this was. She was also confused, not knowing how what the angel proclaimed could possibly take place in her life. Our reaction to God’s mysterious will for us is quite often the same, isn’t it?
The difference, though, was that Mary heeded the initial words of the angel that have resounded through Salvation history ever since: “Do not be afraid.” And, thanks be to God, Mary abandoned her fear and instead sang her fiat, her great “yes” to God’s plan for her, and for all of us. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” These words are reminiscent of what the Psalmist sings today: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”
And we know what happened from there. Mary certainly knew that none of that could be accomplished through her own efforts, but she absolutely knew that God could do whatever he undertook. Nothing would be impossible for God, and she trusted in that, and because of that, we have the great hope of our salvation. We owe everything to Mary’s cooperation with God’s plan for our salvation.
And so the promise comes to us. We have the great sign of which Ahaz was afraid, but in which Mary rejoiced. We too are told that God can accomplish much in our own lives, if we would abandon our fears and cling to the hope of God’s presence and action in our lives. Can we too be the handmaids of the Lord? Are we bold enough to say, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will?” All we have to do is to remember the first thing the angel said to Mary: “Do not be afraid.”