February 26, 2017
This weekend, the 8
Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel reading is another section of the Sermon on the Mount: Mathew 6: 24-34. It’s just eleven verses but it deserves close study and I hope you will make the effort to find your Bible at home and read this passage again. Three times Jesus says “Do not worry”. Those should be words of comfort, but even as we see the things he tells us not to worry about we are likely to feel the beginnings of anxiety. They are the very things which the media and the advertisers try to make us worry about all the time.
Jesus mentions “your life”, “what you will eat or drink”, “your body” and “what you will wear”. As we get older doctors’ appointments tend to punctuate our calendars and we may wonder how we will die; but as Jesus says with great realism, “Can any of you by worrying add a single day to your life-span?” We cannot know how or when or where we will die but we should try to live each day to the full. T.V. advertising devotes a great deal of time to what we eat and drink, sometimes encouraging us to eat more, sometimes less; one moment recommending the maximum amount of fat and sugar for 99cents, the next promoting low fat, low sodium, and high fiber. Again Jesus helps us to see our priorities: “Is not life more than food?” - Yes, it is much more, although I think we should be grateful for the amazing choice of foods we have here in America. The advertisers spend a lot of time these days on the body, pointing out our defects and pushing cosmetics, exercise machines, medications, hair color and tooth whitening. No wonder even young children can have concerns about their body image. It’s sad, too, if children are worried about what they will wear, especially if they think that a particular label will somehow make them “cool”. I have always liked Henry David Thoreau’s advice in
I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes”.
That’s what our faith promises us, to make us new people; and our Catholic schools and faith formation programs should strive to give our children such confidence and vitality that nobody cares what make of clothes they are wearing.
I know it is difficult not to worry about these things which touch our daily lives, especially if you have children. Yet I have been inspired by some of our families who have retained their faith and hope even when challenged by job problems or sickness. They are coping because they have the words of today’s Gospel in their hearts: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides”. Let us learn from them as we enter Lent this coming Wednesday, March 1
. It’s a whole season to simplify our lives, to seek the things of God first, and to put our worries in perspective. “Do not worry about tomorrow” Jesus says - as long as we have placed tomorrow in God’s hands.