Sunday, September 6, 2009
"Do not be anxious"
From the homily at Cor Jesu Oratory, 6 September, 2009
14th Sunday after Pentecost, 1962 Missale Romano
Epistle: Gal 5,16-24
Gospel: Matt, 6, 24-33
"Do not be anxious."
How much do we need to hear these words spoken by our Lord in today's Gospel. No matter who we are or what our circumstances, the ever-present anxiety--existential anxiety, if you will--seems to be in the very air we breathe.
The daily news report, the cost of living, the uncertain future of health care, the concerns of financial stability, the divisions within families and communities, and especially the factions within the Church, arguing, accusing one another and acting as though the Church was a political party, rather than Holy Mother Church.
The labels, "liberal," "conservative," even "traditional", really have no place in the Church. One must be CATHOLIC--faithful, obedient, observant. Roman Catholic. The example of our Holy Father in his teaching of the "hermeneutic of continuity", that there is to be no "rupture" between the years before the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and after, that all is to be interpreted in the light of Sacred Tradition: this the authentically Catholic position. Now this is a great challenge and it will take a great many years to develop what this means in so many areas of Catholic life. But we have Pope Benedict's teaching and example to give is light and direction.
"Do not be anxious."
The root of much of our anxiety is the struggle that goes on within each of us to "serve two masters" (refer to the Gospel). We want to do what is right and good on the one hand; but we also want what we want. The effects of original sin are always a force to be reckoned with. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to "walk in the Spirit," to be "lead by the Spirit." What does this mean?
Saint Paul provides us with an examination of conscience. The works of the flesh--unredeemed humanity--will prevent us from entering the kingdom of God(immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, jealousies, angers, quarrels, factions, parties, envies, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and such like). All of these sins are self-centered and disordered. None of these brings about union with God. None of these shapes and forms one in "the image and likeness of God." Because they cause disorder and disfigurement in the soul, they are the root of anxiety: the attempt to follow two masters; wanting heaven and one's selfish choices at the same time. This cannot bring about inner peace. In fact, in serious and extreme cases, it can threaten to destroy the personality, as in certain cases of diabolical obsession or possession.
Instead, what will bring about greater peace is the fruit of virtue, the list Saint Paul gives that is the opposite of the works of the flesh...
In today's Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we cannot be divided in our primary loyalty. We have to make a decision: God or the world (by this I mean a naturalist, materialistic way of thinking and living). We cannot serve two masters...When we decide to live a supernatural life of faith, developing the virtues and experiencing the fruits of the Spirit, we act and think more like God. Our trust in His providential care is strengthened and deepened.
The more we know God and live in His Love, the more our trust in Him will grow. The foundation of our lives will be on firm footing. Jesus uses the examples of the birds of the air, the lilies and grass of the fields in our Gospel to demonstrate that if God cares so much for them, how much more will he care for us. This is why we must "seek first His Kingdom and His justice". We will never be abandoned by the Heavenly Father.
This is why we must heed his Word: "Do not be anxious."...
May we offer our gifts at the altar today and include all of our worries, concerns, anxieties and frustrations, as well as all of those we want to remember, and our very selves...that as our simple gifts of bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, all our cares and intentions will be transformed by Him to become the means by which we increase in our union with Him, that all may be sanctified by His loving Presence.
We ask the intercession of Blessed Mary and Saint Joseph who lived believing in the Heavenly Father's care and protection.