3rd Sunday After Pentecost
In today’s Holy Gospel we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in which He exhorts us toward a complete and perfect trust in God, our loving Father. He implores us to not worry about things… what we shall eat or what we shall wear – all of those concerns that can so completely eclipse our life and preoccupy us with stress and anxiety over things.
Stress and anxiety are certainly two of the diseases which plague our age… our time and our way of life lend themselves to tremendous anxiety. The modern world assaults us with such an information overload that we are avalanched and often feel powerless or challenged to stay on top of it all. And part of the temptation and trap of all this is that mirage which lies just beyond our reach, that mirage and hope that, if we just press a little harder, if we just sacrifice a little more time… we will finally get on top of things, we will have everything firmly within our grasp, we will be in control. But that imagined oasis always eludes us… always staying just out of reach.
This hunger for control is a great temptation… and it can be a subtle one to properly discern, because we have to separate out the reality of our duty to our responsibilities from the lust and pride of self-importance.
We all have our work to do… as employees, as students, as husbands and wives, as parents, as priests… in all the aspects of our life which make demands upon our attention. We must accomplish our duties to the best of our ability… giving our best effort with integrity, honesty, and diligence.
This is what God calls us to do… and this is all that God calls us to do. You cannot do more than what is before you and you cannot do more than your best. All the rest is worry and temptation, a tempest and a whirlwind of demonic assault.
We must do our best with what is put before us and we must place our trust in God for our well-being and for His will to be done in all things. This is the key to unlocking that prison of stress and anxiety… where do we place our trust and our hope? If we are placing our hope in our self and in our abilities to control things in this life, we will indeed be riddled with anxiety and stress. And the soul burdened with anxiety carries a heavy weight - as if a shroud surrounds you, eclipsing you in darkness and shutting out the light of God’s love and joy.
In today’s Gospel, Christ calls us to throw off this shroud of anxiety… He exhorts us to shift our gaze away from ourselves, to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. He promises us that if we ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things will be added unto us’.
If our eyes are focused toward God, toward the perspective of eternity and of the disposition and health of our soul; then we will not get so thrown off balance when things unexpected or troubling or tragic occur in our life. We see things with perspective... When troubles come upon us we are not so easily defeated, but we can take these sorrows in stride and trust that the Lord is watching over us and that our difficulties can be endured in a spirit of humility and hope. As we read in the Epistle today: ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.’
If our vision is limited only to the triumphs and tragedies of this brief earthly life; then the inevitable ups and downs of this life are going to take us on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and anxiety and stress. In such a state, our vision and our life is not full of light, but of darkness; and we tend to see things negatively, we suspect and accuse others and we’re tossed to and fro by our passions – reacting to everything that comes our way.
It is a fearsome and difficult thing to say to God, ‘Thy will be done’.
It requires a tremendous amount of trust in God… a trust that God does indeed love us.
Listen to the words of the Epistle from this morning: ‘God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.’
God’s love and care for us is so great that, even when we were estranged from Him, He was willing to die for us. How much more then, when we are reconciled to Him through our baptism, through our repentance, through our partaking of His Body and Blood… how much more then may we be assured of His love for us?
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us heed the words of the Apostle Paul who so beautifully sums all this up when he says: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’