Persons, places and things: Be not afraid

Laurie Hoefling and Patricia King pose for a photo in their Bettendorf home.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Two phrases from Scripture, “Be not afraid” and “I am with you” appear in cut metal letters on the corner walls behind the altar at Our Lady of the River Church in LeClaire. Parishioners temporarily removed the letters for the walls to be painted. As he placed the metal letters back on the walls, Deacon Matt Levy had what he describes as a prophetic moment.


“I felt the Holy Spirit fill my heart with the thought: what would happen if one word from the left side was moved to the right side. … From ‘Be not afraid … I am with you!’ … to ‘Be afraid, I am NOT with you!’ Afraid in Hebrew is ‘Yirah.’  It often directly translates into fear, like ‘fear of the Lord,’ but it can also mean respect, reverence and worship. But, make no mistake about it, ‘Yirah’ is strongly connected to ‘trembling.’”

Deacon Levy shared these thoughts in his homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reflecting on the readings for the day from Jeremiah, Paul’s letter to the Romans and Matthew’s Gospel. Excerpts stood out in my mind, as I thought of a colleague and friend who was dying as I listened to Deacon Levy’s homily June 24 at Saturday night Mass.


In the first reading, Jeremiah confronted his fear and turned to the Lord. “For those, like Jeremiah, who know and believe that God is on their side, God will surely not disappoint,” Deacon Levy said. In the second reading, “Paul recounts how Christ delivered humanity from death. This is our salvation history.” Jesus “removes the fear of abandonment and isolation, to restore peace to our lives. But, ultimately, the choice is ours to make.”

“In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us ‘Do not be afraid, for everything that is now covered will be uncovered…’  Christ knows that fear and the threat of death can paralyze us.  As the Lord of the living and the dead, he knows that physical death is not the end.  It is the transition to eternity.  So when Jesus says to us, ‘Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul.’  The choice is ours to make.  We can be afraid and we can trust. I believe that Jesus is telling us it’s ok to be a little afraid.” Being a little afraid “invites us to draw nearer to our Lord,” the deacon said. Today, “more than ever, there are many, many opportunities for us to embrace Christ and his message of encouragement, even, and especially in our Church today.”

Our chancery’s colleague and friend, Laurie Kay Hoefling, died peacefully, of cancer, on June 26 at her home in Bettendorf, just two days after I listened to Deacon Levy’s homily.  Laurie, who treasured people and relationships, worked for 35 years for the Diocese of Davenport — even in the final weeks before she died.

In the weeks leading up to her death, I followed Laurie’s cancer journey through the CaringBridge posts that her longtime friend and roommate, Patricia King, wrote with Laurie’s blessings. The posts exuded faith, love and laughter. The journey was scary. Laurie and Pat shed tears but their steadfast faith in God and the grace they accepted joyfully from God, will forever inspire me.

I had the privilege of visiting Laurie just 12 days before she died, bearing gifts of peanut M&Ms (my favorite) and some back issues of The Catholic Messenger. The visit left me feeling uplifted. She and Pat trusted God. They lived the phrase “Be not afraid, I am with you.” Thanks be to God.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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