Last week the Gospel told us to love our enemies, and the reflection I had in my homily was that while it is a very simple instruction it is very hard to do because we get caught up in anger. Well today we have another simple instruction: do not worry. If you were listening closely, Jesus actually said those words to us three separate times in the Gospel reading. Do not worry. Just like last week, this is a very simple command, and just like last week I bet most of us have a really hard time living in this way. You know what’s really ironic? I spend a lot of time worrying about getting this homily written… and it’s a homily about not worrying…
So why is this so hard? This time it’s not anger, it’s fear. We worry about things because in the uncertainty of life we don’t know how things will work out and we get scared. We fear that we won’t be able to pay bills if we lose our job. We fear the helplessness that can come with health issues and old age. We fear being mocked and criticized and made fun of if we don’t succeed at the things that are important to us. Now if you happened to be at any of my masses last week, you know what I’m about to say: it’s ok to have a feeling of fear. There is nothing wrong or sinful with feeling fear. Once you start dwelling on the fear and acting out of fear… that is where sin resides.
Our task, then, is not to remove fear from our lives, but rather to prevent fear from taking hold of us… to prevent fear from being anything more than just a feeling. The first step to doing that is right here in the Gospel. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. What that means is think less of yourself and more of others. Deliberately show some kindness and mercy. If you wake up tomorrow and say to yourself, “I’m going to make someone’s life better today. I’m going to make someone smile today”… go through the day with that on your mind and I bet fear has a lot harder time taking over your heart. Remember, nothing is going to stop fear from being a part of this life, but just because it is there doesn’t mean it has to control us.
Stepping back a bit to the wider picture, for several weeks we have been reading from the Sermon on the Mount. It began with the beatitudes and continued with all little teachings telling us to be the light of the world, to love our enemies, to not be worried… all these encouragements that are a step beyond what we should ***not*** do and instead are things that we ***should*** do. With Lent beginning just a few days from now on Ash Wednesday, I’m sure all of us have become to think and pray about what our Lenten sacrifice will be. You can certainly commit yourself to a sacrifice in terms of not doing something and that can be very praiseworthy. But think back over the past month or so and ask yourself if there has been something that you know you need to start doing in life to bring you more in line with what Christ describes… and maybe that is the Lenten sacrifice you need to be doing. A commitment to something, some daily or weekly action. And if it’s something really challenging… well… do not worry. Go with it just one day at a time.
Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.