Introduction to Numbers
Why Should I Care?
When the Israelites commit the ultimate sin—doubting God—the Almighty Father breaks out his worst punishment yet. Remember that time you got grounded for the weekend and missed that awesome party? Well, the Israelites got grounded for forty years and weren't allowed to set foot in the Promised Land until half the community had died off. But even though God can dole out consequences with the best of them, it's also clear that he loves his little rugrats to pieces. He sets limits for them because they're his chosen people and he wants them to be the best they can be. Aww. Sniff. Honestly, Israelites, God only sends poisonous snakes to bite you because he loves you. So next time your parents aren't acting as cool as you know they could be, just remember, it could be way worse. At least when you get a little sassy, they don't send you to your room without dinner for the next forty years.
Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel says of Moses:
It's said that the words "Be not afraid" appear in Scripture 366 times one for each day of the year (leap years included). Certainly, we need this sort of ongoing reminder and encouragement; life can be difficult and is often filled with anxieties, great and small. Jesus told St. Martha that, unlike her sister Mary, she was "anxious and troubled about many things." Martha took this correction to heart and learned to trust in the Lord so much so that later, even as she grieved the death of her brother Lazarus, she was able to acknowledge Jesus as the Resurrection and the life. Martha's sister St. Mary Magdalene likewise acknowledged Christ's power on this occasion; she was one of the few followers of Christ who, on Good Friday, dared to proclaim her loyalty to Him publicly by standing beneath His Cross, and for her courage and devotion she was rewarded by being the first witness of the Resurrection.
Compared with what the martyrs suffered, the things we worry about may seem trifling, but God offers us the same gifts of courage and strength that sustained the martyrs in their trials." Prayer is indeed the key to overcoming or coping with anxiety, for it reassures us of God's presence and reminds us of our need to rely on His strength, not on our own, remember how St. Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to Him for help. This attitude of confidence applies even to our encounters with evil, for St. Teresa of Avila notes that every time evil spirits fail to terrify us or dissuade us from doing good, "they lose strength, and the soul masters them more easily. If the Lord is powerful and they are His slaves, what harm can they do to those who are servants of so great a King and Lord?" Nothing can happen to us without our Father's knowledge and permission, and He is able to arrange all things for our good. We, for our part, however, must avoid useless speculation; as St. Francis de Sales tells us, "It will be quite enough to receive the evils that come upon us from time to time, without anticipating them by the imagination." According to St. Jerome, facing our fears and doing our duty in spite of them is an important way of taking up our cross; thus, we can reassure ourselves that in our efforts to be brave, we are actually serving Christ. One who understood this was St. Thomas More, who from his prison cell wrote to his daughter, "I will not mistrust Him, Meg, although I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. As this English saint notes, we must keep our focus on Christ, not on ourselves; once we turn to Jesus in trust, we are ready to follow the advice of St. Francis de Sales: "If you earnestly desire to be delivered from some evil, or to attain to some good, above all things, calm and tranquilize your mind, and compose your judgment and will; then quietly and gently pursue your aim, adopting suitable means." Jesus offers us His peace; if we accept it and use His grace, nothing shall overcome us.