Sunday, March 2, 2014

Gospel For Today - 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time

REMINDER:  Today is the last Sunday we will have Mass on campus at 7:30pm.  Next week (March 9) there will be NO MASS on campus due to Spring Break   The following Sunday (March 16) we will begin our new Mass time of 4:00pm.

EIGHTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

As a Christian, I don't worry so much any more.  That is rather an amazing statement when you stop to think about it.  Just look at the world.  Wars are being waged.  People are starving.  Marriage is falling apart, with nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, and half of all children in this country being born out of wedlock.  Sex, violence and disrespect are all over the media.  Yes, looked at in the light of Christian values it looks like the world is going to hell in a hand basket.  Why wouldn't we all be filled with fear, anxiety, and trepidation about the future?  

I am concerned about those things.  I do wish the world were better.  But I am not filled with anxiety.  In fact, the opposite is true.  In my faith, I find that I am filled with great peace and calm.  How could this be?

Jesus tells us plainly in today's gospel (Mt 6:24-34), "do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"  Our Lord goes on to describe the birds and the flowers and how God takes care of them all; and are we not so much more valuable than these things?  Certainly God will take care of us.  Christ has some very valuable words for us. He reminds us, "Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?"  And He tells us, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself."

Is Christ telling us all to become slackers?  Hardly.  He has work for us to do.  He gives us a very important task: seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Seek holiness.  Then, Christ tells us, we will no longer be filled with worry about our own life.  Because in truth, that is what fills us most with anxiety - our own lives.  We may watch the news and see images of brutal warfare, or we may see an appeal on television to help starving children; and we may have concern for these things.  We may (and we should) have compassion for these people.  But it is when we consider our own lives that so many of us experience true anxiety.  

College students can experience this most acutely.  Most of you are transitioning from a station in life where you were, for the most part, taken care of.  Mom and dad made sure there was food in the fridge, that you had clean clothes, and handled all of the "grown up stuff" like insurance and taxes, paying utility bills and so on.  Now in college, it's kind of like a twilight zone.  You are, in many ways, on your own.  But your next meal is still only a short walk to the cafeteria.  Mom and dad are still handling a lot of the "grown up stuff," but there is a growing sense that this will end soon and you will have to be responsible for your own security and finances.

This anxiety of entering the "real world" can be especially hard on seniors.  That world is right around the corner.  Every day the questions grow more urgent: Will I have a job when I graduate?  Will I have to live at home again? Will I be able to repay my loans?  Will I find someone to marry?  Who will take care of me?  We are rightly concerned about ourselves.  At the end of the day, we all just want to know will I be okay?  

Christianity gives us a different perspective.  It gives us the perspective of eternity.  It reminds us that all of this - college, jobs, girlfriends and boyfriends, our families, wars and hunger, all the stress and business of this world - it all will fade away.  It will fade away, but we will live on.  We may in this life experience pain and hardship (along with joy), but that will fade away.  And we will live on.  Christianity tells us that the world is dying, but that we are immortal.  We cannot, therefore, be anchored to this world.

It is when we anchor ourselves to the passing things of this world that we become filled with anxiety.  If we anchor ourselves to money, we will be anxious about losing our wealth.  If we anchor ourselves to our work, we will be anxious about losing our job.  If we anchor ourselves to our friends, we will be anxious about losing them.  We can anchor ourselves to our good looks, our reputation, our social status, our hobbies, even our families.  And all of these things can be taken away against our will, through no fault of our own.  We may end up alone, hungry and cold living under a highway overpass.  Or we may end up old and infirm, in a rest home with no family to visit us.  We imagine any number of horrible fates for ourselves.  And we are filled with anxiety.

The Christian anchors himself or herself in God.  We find peace, because God will never be taken from us against our will.  We know that whatever other trials we may have to endure in life, the only way we can lose God's love is if we willingly reject it. St. Augustine famously said, "My heart is restless, until it finds rest in Thee, O Lord."   The same sentiment is expressed in our Psalm today (Ps 62), in which we sing, "Only in God is my soul at rest."  

This is why St. Paul could say, "It does not concern me in the least that I should be judged by you or by any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself... the one who judges me is the Lord" (1 Cor 4:1-5).   St. Paul does not find his worth in the eyes of man but in the eyes of God.  His peace comes not from knowing that he will not be judged, but that God will judge him with perfect justice and perfect mercy.  There is a difference between presumption and trust.  It is presumptuous to assume that God will take care of us, no matter what we do, therefore we don't need to do anything.  Our peace comes not from presumption, but from trust.  We can trust that God will remain faithful, if we remain faithful to Him.  Remember that God is Love, and Love does not force itself on us; Love invites us.  God wants us, but He wants us to want Him.

Anchor yourself to God.  Find rest in God.  We are given a great opportunity at this time of year to remind ourselves that nothing is more important than our right relationship with Him.  Lent is coming up, a time of prayer and fasting.  In fasting we willingly give up things which we enjoy in order to remind us that - as good as these things may be - there is a greater good.  By fasting we remind ourselves that, though we enjoy these things, we do not need these things.  They may, after all, be taken away from us one day.  And that's okay.  Because we are anchored in something higher, that will never pass away.

Take advantage of this Lent.  Make it an intentional season of growth for you - growth in personal holiness and growth in your trust in the Lord.  I encourage you to examine your life and identify anything that may be filling you with anxiety.  Ask God to help you detach yourself from these worries.  Come to Him in the confessional.  Seeking the kingdom of God means working on your relationship with Him.  The rest and assurance you will find in His arms is worth the effort.

Only in God is my soul at rest;
from Him come my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not b disturbed at all.
Ps 62:2-3



--
WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

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