Stop worrying, and start trusting!

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8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: March 2, 2014
Isa 49:14-15; Ps 62; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Matt 6:24-34

In our Gospel reading today, our Lord Jesus is in the midst of his famous Sermon on the Mount. And in this section, we hear him say: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink. Do not worry about your body, what you will wear.” He is trying to get us to stop worrying about these material things, and to have peace instead.

And what does he say to persuade us of this? A few things, actually.

  • One is to remind us that there is more to life than food, and more to the body than clothes. And this is certainly a message that we need to hear, when commercial advertising constantly tries to tell us the opposite.
  • Another reason he gives is that our action of worrying will not ever accomplish the goal of providing food or clothing. It is useless! Why drag ourselves down with it?
  • But of course his main argument is that God the Father will provide for us. He points to how birds receive the food they need without growing it on a farm, and flowers are clothed in splendor without working. As we see the Father’s provision for them, we can trust in his provision for us. He knows that we need these things, and he will give them to us.

This is Divine Providence: the teaching of our faith that God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world. He does whatever he pleases; no one can stop him. (CCC 303) Indeed, nothing happens except what God either chooses or permits.

And so we see that our Lord’s words apply more broadly than just worry about food or drink or clothing: they affect every worry, every fear that we might have about any future event. And what he tells us is that our world is never out of control. Our lives are never out of control. They are always held within God’s hands, and guided by him, in his perfect plan for us.

Now, in order to understand this, we have to note a couple things.

First, we have to recognize that God’s plans for us may not be the same as our own plans for ourselves! Sometimes we might want comfort, success, and pleasure, in the way that the world defines these. But is that what God wants for us? Usually not. He wants us to become saints: good and holy, loving and generous, strong and free, like Christ himself, truly fit for heaven. And he wants us to be a blessing for others, helping and strengthening them in this way too.

And so this life is not a pleasure palace, but a training ground and a mission field. Where every single moment, and all the conditions of every moment, are a gift to us from our heavenly Father, in perfect love, to shape and guide us on our way to heaven. We may not see it now; but one day, when that great book is finally opened and all is made known, we will see just what his perfect plans were.

Second, we have to recognize the difference between what God wills and what he permits. He does not ever cause evil; but he permits it, though only if he can cause a greater good to come from that very evil. (311, 324) And he might be permitting that evil because he wants us to have a share in conquering it, either in ourselves or in others. Thus, for example, if someone is caught in human trafficking—forced into prostitution or slave labor—that is not God’s will for their lives. It is an evil that he is permitting, that he wants them to escape from, and the rest of us to help rescue them from.

So there is nothing passive about this. It is not passivity that our Lord Jesus is teaching, but trust: trust that nothing is out of the Father’s control; trust that he has us in the perfect place in the journey that he wants us to travel.

Do you believe this? Do you have the peace that Christ wants you to have? Or could you be caught in a contradiction:

  • believing, on the one hand, this teaching of Christ and of his Church, that God is in control and is always guiding us in love;
  • while still worrying and being afraid, on the other hand, about what you will eat or wear—or about some other event that you are afraid won’t happen, or will?

Are you caught in this contradiction, not having the peace that Jesus wants for you?

If so, then I would recommend two steps for you: First, look around you.

  • Look at the beauty of God’s creation, even as Jesus points us to the birds and the wild flowers.
  • Look at the past events of your life, and take note of what God has done for you, and the blessings he has given you, in the past and now. Write them down as a list.
  • Look at the lives of the saints in history, or of the living saints around you.
  • Look at the Church’s teaching about God’s sovereignty, his Providence, his wisdom and love and power.

Look at all these things and take them into your heart and mind.

Then, take your worries and your fears to prayer.

  • Look carefully at the very worst that you imagine could happen. Look at this clearly.
  • And set it up against what you have seen of the truth of God’s faithfulness and protection and promises.
  • See how they compare. Do they contradict? Then God will be faithful and your fears will not come to pass. Or could they fit together? Then God could use even what you fear to transform you into a saint, for his glory and the salvation of the world.
  • And most of all: take your fears to prayer. Lay them out in front of the Lord; and ask him what he wants to say or do about them.

For Jesus wants you and me to be built upon the rock of a firm trust in God the Father—just as he is. He wants us to have the same peace and joy that he has—no matter the circumstances. And most of all he wants to spend both this life and eternal life with us—when we will receive all fulfillment and all blessing.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Even if a mother should forget her infant, I will never forget you. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.


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Published in: on March 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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