27 February 2011

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mt 6:24-34


There are those who write about our time as the “Age of Anxiety”. They say that ours is an age marked by disquiet and misgiving. Our lives mirror the complex world we live in; and the more complicated our world becomes the more insecure we feel about our future that we cannot take for granted. The systems and structures we create and trust prove too weak under the weigh of our hopes. Thus, three anxieties.


We have social anxiety. Is the world a safe place to live in? When will the next natural or man-made calamity strike us? What will be the next epidemic and where in the world will it begin? How and when will terrorists attack us again? Will the conflict in the Middle East, between North and South Korea, between Jews and Arabs, and between America and its foes end with the dreaded nuclear war? Will we ever live in true and lasting peace? When will there be reconciliation and justice among nations?


We have religious anxiety. Does God really care about us? Why is there suffering in a world created by a very loving God? Is faith in God meaningful? Is not hope in Him, in the midst of all our frustrations, a folly? Why risk everything for the sake of loving Him and our fellow human beings? Why is the Church imperfect and until when can she endure, given all her scandals? Is religion really important after all?


We have personal anxiety. Is my life simply going down the drain? When and how can I truly be free? Will I ever bounce back? Will I lose my job? Will my family, for any reason, end up broken? Will those whom I trust abandon me? When will I get sick? How and when will I die? Why am I despairing? Do I really matter?


Sadly, there are many people who live through quiet anxiety and refuse to speak about what haunts them or troubles them. The truth is we may be one of them.


Jesus speaks to us all today: Do not be anxious. “I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it,” Jesus says. He continues, “Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing.” But, let’s be honest, His words do little to dispel our worries. When a mother has no food or clothes for her children, should she leave them die in hunger and cold? Appreciating the beauty of nature and how God takes care of it, do we now have the right to ignore human misery? When you are poor and hungry, it is not your fault that you are anxious, is it? Praying for our daily bread does not make food fall from heaven, does it?


But Jesus is not saying that being His disciples means that we will live in a care-free world, a world exempted from worries. Jesus Himself will be anxious and afraid about His passion. In the garden, He will sweat blood. What then does Jesus argue about?


Jesus is against the kind of anxiety that consumes us, robbing us of our energy and making us believe that God does not care about us at all. Jesus Himself, in facing His cross does not ignore His own fear but places it within the framework of His faith in God His Father. He trusts God beyond the cross. His fear is not His consuming concern. God is.


As His disciples, Jesus invites us to see beyond our anxieties to a God who cares for us. Of course, that is easier said than done. No one has said it is an easy thing to do anyway. Human nature is such that when we are beset by any problem, we tend to be myopic and focus only on our anxiety. When this happens, we are simply drained to do anything other than coping with our anxiety and we are left with no heart for God because we have no more to give. Jesus does not tell us to ignore our worries. He advises us instead to place them within the framework of our childlike trust in God who is our Father.


Let us set our heart on the Kingdom first and everything will fall into their proper places. We will view things from the perspective of the same Kingdom. We will prioritize our concerns according to the values of the same Kingdom. And no matter what happens, we will still be bigger than all our anxieties combined because God is greater than our hearts.


Yes, easier said than done. That is why we pray each day, and we pray for one another, do we not?

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