Why Are You Anxious?
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted be permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
Jesus instructs His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3) One quality of children that Jesus must have had in mind is their trust in their parents. It is pretty amazing how fearless a toddler can be when Mom and Dad are around. They operate with this beautiful sense that everything will be OK because Mom or Dad is nearby. Toddlers run around, often with a reckless abandon, because they have a deep sense that their parents are never far away, they always have an eye on them, they never let anything really bad happen to them, and their love is immeasurable.
Jesus comes down to this earth to accomplish several really important tasks. He engages in a relationship with each of us, extends His infinite mercy to us, reconciles us to our heavenly Father, reveals what it means to be truly human and shows us the path to true happiness. In this process, Jesus reveals to a hurting world the face of the Father, “my father and your father.” (Jn 20:17) Dwelling for all eternity in a perfect union with the Father in the Holy Spirit, Jesus is very aware of the Father’s power, wisdom and care for His children.
With all of this knowledge in mind coupled with a heart that aches for us, Jesus pleads three times with His disciples in this week’s Gospel reading from Matthew. “Do not worry.” Do not worry “about your life,” “clothes,” “what you are to eat,” nor “about tomorrow.” If we really know God like a child and believe that He is never far away, He has His eye on us, He will not let anything really bad happen, and His love for us is immeasurable, then we no longer live in fear, filled with anxiety. On the contrary, we fearlessly wander through life radically trusting that God is right by our side and will make everything work out in the end.
In reality, worrying sucks the life out of us. It wastes so much time: “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” (Mt 6:27) It drains us of energy that can be better spent on other constructive fronts. It distracts our attention from more important matters like prayer, acts of charity and fulfilling daily responsibilities. It puts the focus on our fears, which cripple us on the journey to holiness and joy.
On the contrary, Jesus desires that we have faith. Faith empowers us to trust that God will provide for our most important needs: If, “ God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into to the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith.” Faith is the conviction that we are important to God. Commenting on how wonderfully God provides for the birds in the sky. Our Lord says rather directly, “Are not you more important than these?” Faith gives us a remarkable strength that can’t be explained by accounting or scientific methods. This strength comes from a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ.
The grace of faith enables us to place radical trust in God. We work hard to carry out His will and stop in a flash when asked, knowing that everything is in His hands. We are completely focused on the task at hand and also ready to let go and move on when He calls. We can be in the midst of a great trial and be surprisingly calm because we have the conviction that our amazing God loves us and wants what is absolutely best for us.
Faith makes the young and the not-so-young strong in the face of danger or suffering. I think of how St. Therese of Lisieux faced her slow painful death from Tuberculosis at the age of 23 with much courage and trust. She exercised great charity with her sisters, prayed with fervor to her Lord, and obediently finished her autobiography as the beckoning of her superior right up to the very end. Pope John Paul II, soon to be declared venerable, was a man of deep faith and trust in God. He tenaciously preached, encouraged and worked to build up solidarity in Poland, which helped to bring about a peaceful end to communism in Eastern Europe.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, give us a child-like faith in You. May we travel through life with the knowledge that, through Your son, You are near us always. Help us to take refuge in Your infinite mercy. Come into our hearts, help us to stop worrying and place our trust in You. We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
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