“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Mt. 6:24-34)
As a priest, I am frequently called upon to bless water, statues and various devotional articles. I am always edified when folks bring their sacramental treasures into the office, for it reminds me that our faith touches our lives in a real way. Recently, someone asked me to bless a handsome statue of St. Anthony. Our conversation revealed that he had a lifelong devotion to St. Anthony, famous for being the patron saint of finding lost articles.
I was stuck by the familiarity with which he spoke of the saint. He shared several stories about how, through St. Anthony’s intercession, prayers had been answered in powerful ways. For example, when he is desperate to find something lost, he prays, “Tony, Tony come around, there’s something lost that can’t be found.” If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that he was talking about a good friend or family member. To him, St. Anthony is very much alive and part of his days.
Someone might consider such devotions to be a bit quaint or naïve. After all, do God and the saints really care about finding lost keys, misplaced wallets or other trifling travails? In the Gospel, Jesus responds in the affirmative. He reassures us that there is nothing too small, no trouble too trivial for God to respond to our needs with his care. In the first reading, God compares his concern for us to a loving mother, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15) This is a refreshing reminder. In an age of cynicism and doubt, God reassures us that we can trust that He will always be there for us. God cares.
And yet, since it can be difficult to live that trust, worry creeps into our lives. To the extent that we doubt God’s eagerness to have an intimate relationship with us or are cynical with regard to his real concern about the details of our daily life, to the same extent fear and anxiety begin to consume. When we think that success and happiness is all up to us, there is good reason to doubt. In response, Christ heartens us: Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? When we consider the blessings of our lives, it becomes clear that we have more reasons to have faith in God’s providence than to fret in our own futility.
Even if God’s care and blessings are not evident, Christ points out that worry is wearying: there is nothing more futile than worry. “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious?” I think of all the time and energy spent in considering pessimistic hypothetical outcomes. It is as if human nature itself has a “what if” worry gene that saps creativity. God cares. So Christ invites us to refocus all our attention towards our relationship with him. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” In other words, instead of worrying about all that is or might possibility go wrong, Jesus invites us to keep your eyes on him, trusting that he will catch us if we fall. This week, whenever worry or anxiety begins to loom in our lives, let us pray that simple six word prayer, “Lord Jesus, I trust in you.”
~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.