Focusing Our Worry

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February 26, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

February 26, 2017
Gospel: Matthew 6: 24-34
Fr. George Smiga

Today’s gospel is beautiful, but is it realistic? Jesus points to the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field, and he tells us not to worry. How realistic is that? We worry about many things. We worry about our children. Will they be safe? Will they grow up to be responsible people? We worry about our job. Will it be secure? Will it provide for what we need? We worry about our retirement. Will we have enough to live? We worry about our government. Is it moving in a wise and just direction? We have many worries. And then comes Jesus who tells us not to worry, as he asks us to look at how the wild flowers grow.

I think many of us would be tempted to ignore this teaching of Jesus, to conclude that his words were charming, but naive. But before we do that I think we should look at this passage more closely. I would suggest to you that the key to understanding Jesus’s words is the last line of today’s gospel. It reads, “Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” This phrase is not as beautiful as the lilies of field, but it is much more practical. It recognizes that we are surrounded by worry—the regrets that we have about our past, the fears that we have about our future. But it reminds us that all we can deal with is worry of today. Sufficient for a day is its own evil. So these words of Jesus tell us that we should face the evil, the problems, of today and let the rest go.

Jesus is not telling us just to ignore worry, but to focus our worry in a place where it can make a difference. Today is the only time we can chose to act. The past is set. It cannot be changed. The future is uncertain. Some of the things we expect may happen and others may not. All we can do is learn from the mistakes of the past and try to anticipate what the future will bring so as to make the best decision we can today. And if we act in wisdom and energy, we should let the rest go.

It does us no good to worry about our children, the mistakes they made in the past, the things that might happen in the future. All we can do is to choose today to love them and to show them the best approach to life, and then let the rest go. It does us no good to worry about our job. All we can do is work today as best as we can and learn from our work. We can thereby become more efficient and capable people, fuller human beings. Then we should let the rest go. It does us no good to worry about our retirement or the course of our government. All we can do is decide whether today we might invest in an IRA to make our future more flexible, or choose to be politically aware so that when our government moves in a direction which we do not agree, we can make our voice heard.

When we look at the last line of the gospel, Jesus’ command does not look so naïve. It asks us to focus our worry on what we can do today, because today is the only day we can act. The past and the future are not in our control. We should let them go. Or, as Jesus would say, we should hand them over to God. God alone controls the things we cannot. So we entrust what we cannot control to into God’s hands. Here’s where the birds and the flowers come in, because if God cares for all of creation, God will certainly care for us. Let us place the past and the future into God’s hands and focus our worry on what we can do today. This is what we can control. That is why today’s trouble is sufficient for today.

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