Sunday, February 26, 2017

Take it to the Lord! (8.A)

I came across a book this week, just in time for my homily on today’s Gospel.  It’s called How to Handle Worry: A Catholic Approach. 
I’m a worrier, so my first thought was “I’ll bet the book is out of print!” Well, it was, but its available as an e-book, so I had it in my hand as I prepared this homily.
The author, a professor named Marshall Cook, got my attention with the table of contents.  Among the chapter titles are “Why Worry is Inevitable”, “Why Worry Hurts Us”, and “Don’t Get Mad. Don’t Get Even. Get Peaceful”.
Any of those chapters would be well worth a homily, but I think the one called “Naming and Defeating Five Varieties of Worry” came closest to how Our Lord might have expanded on His beautiful words in today’s Gospel. 
Because I’m not sure that the people listening to Jesus preach were half as worried as we are today.  Jesus focused on material needs—food, drink, and clothing.  Those were the worries of his rural audience in the first century.
You and I have little fear of nakedness or hunger.  Our basic needs are met.  But I think we can easily identify with the kinds of worry that Marshall Cook deals with.  He lists such modern anxieties as info-ignorance, which is the state of knowing more and understanding less; we have more information than we can handle and it leaves us anxious and confused.
In the Gospel today Jesus tells us not to worry and tells us why we shouldn’t worry.  His examples are excellent and His teaching is forceful.  What Our Lord doesn’t tell us in this brief passage is how not to worry.  We find that a few chapters later in Saint Matthew’s Gospel:  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Although each kind of worry calls for a different kind of response or approach, those words of Jesus must be our starting point.  As Marshall Cook says, “take it to the Lord.”
“Tell him the problem.  Alone, you may not be able to solve it, but with Jesus at your side all things are possible.”
The book gives some practical ways of dealing with anxiety and worry—we all know that God helps those who help themselves.  For instance, Saint Ignatius teaches us to seek divine help when making decisions, but he tells us first to weigh up the pros and cons in a common sense way.
But Cook points out that in a certain sense if you make a decision with God, you can’t make a “wrong” decision.  He’s not saying you’ll always make the “right” decision: what he means is that if you trust in God’s guidance and His love for you, there’s nothing that will take you from His abiding love.
The reason for this is found in my favourite Scripture verse:  “We know all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
The deeper we go with God and the closer we come to Him, the less we are anxious and alone.  Notice to whom Jesus is speaking to in today’s Gospel: his disciples, the men and women who are following Him, who are close to Him.  He didn’t give this sermon in a market square or to thousands gathered on the hillside.  This is teaching for His friends… “those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Lent, which begins on Wednesday, is quite properly seen as a time to do penance and to repent for sin.  But it is also the time to deepen our bond of friendship with Jesus. And if we do that His promises become real—they become antidotes to the many fears that rob us of peace and joy.
This Lent our parish offers each of you a remarkable opportunity, one that can make a true difference in your life.  Two weeks from now, we will hold our parish mission, called “The Path of Life.” It will be given by Mr. Jake Khym, a wonderfully gifted speaker, clinical counsellor, and teacher.
This one-day Saturday retreat assumes that we all want life, happiness, and peace, but aren’t always sure where to find it or how to keep it. It offers the answer that Jesus gives: The Path of Life, a road less traveled that leads to endless joy.
Why would anyone stay stuck in anxiety and worry when the road out of those miseries is available—when your own parish presents the roadmap with a knowledgeable and engaging guide like Jake Khym?
I can only think of one good reason to miss this event, and that’s being out of town on a non-refundable air ticket.  As you heard last week, Father Paul will be on a mission trip to the Philippines—I even asked him whether he couldn’t fly back for the day.  (He said no.)
But if you are truly unable to spend Saturday March 11th listening and praying, there are always other ways of finding God’s help with the worries of our complicated modern lives. They’re almost full, but we have retreats coming up at Westminster Abbey for men and for women—the men’s is next weekend, while the women’s is the first weekend in April.
A large group of men meet to pray together in the church every Friday morning at 6 a.m.  They follow the advice in St. Peter’s First Letter: “Cast all your anxiety on [God], because he care for you.” You’ll hear a bit more about that later.
The bulletin has a simple tool to plan your Lenten journey, which should begin for all of us with Mass on Ash Wednesday. But don’t think of it only as the road to Easter—it’s the road to peace.

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