God did not make them out of existing things. 

It’s impossible to imagine what it must have been like to be the mother in today’s first reading (2 Maccabees 7:1,20-31). Her seven sons were threatened with death if they didn’t deny their faith. What would she say to them? She could tell them to give in and save themselves. Or she could promise that they would always be remembered as heroes if they held fast.

She did neither one. Instead, as her last son was being threatened, she urged him to turn his eyes upward rather than inward. Look to the heavens, she told her son, and see that in his power, God made everything from nothing. How is that kind of advice helpful?

When her son’s mind was probably racing between fear and determination, between courage and grief, his mother gave him a lifeline. Look up! In the midst of the very real threat to his life, he could see that the God of heaven was greater than this cruel torturer. Surely the God who made the universe was big enough to take care of him no matter what happened. As he looked beyond the created realm to the Creator himself, he could find the hope of heaven and the strength to endure what might come.

Looking up can be a lifeline for us as well. It can be easy to turn inward when we confront some type of challenge. We might be tempted to wonder why we’re going through this, or feel unjustly singled out, or focus on our fears. But turning our eyes upward can give us a new perspective. It can help remind us that God is bigger than our challenges or problems. And that knowledge can help us trust in him.

God knows it’s not easy to shift our perspective like this. But these young men from our first reading are our examples. So are the martyrs throughout the ages who have been able to face suffering and death with joy. We also have the lived experience of our own friends and family who have endured hardship by keeping their eyes on the God who made the heavens. Let them inspire you to look up to God and find the strength to follow their example.

“Heavenly Father, help me to lift my eyes to you.”

Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
Luke 19:11-28
2 Maccabees 7:1,20-31


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