Sunday, Feb. 26, is the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Isaiah 49:14-15; Psalm 62:2-3, 6-9; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus issues one of those commands that seem almost impossible. He commands us not to worry.
To drive the point home, he repeats it five times: “Do not be anxious. … Do not worry about your life. ... Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? ... Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ ... Do not worry about tomorrow.”
We really aren’t supposed to worry. But since it is a command that is so hard to follow, he surrounds the command with tips for following it.
Look at how the Gospel begins:
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life.’”
Why “therefore”? Because the kind of anxiety he is talking about has a specific cause: our attempt to please both God and mammon; that is, our attempt to appease God while we also try to appease our materialistic desire for comfort.
That never works.
So what does work?
Jesus gives specific commands. He says, “Look at the birds in the sky. ... Learn from the way the wildflowers grow.” The birds are always fed, and the hills are clothed with “a splendor greater than Solomon.”
Notice what he is doing:
He is pointing out all the things that are free in the world. God is a great provider of what our bodies need, but he also surrounds us with beauty. To get the most out of life, we don’t need money; we need to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” If we do our part, we can trust God to come through with the rest.
As the first reading puts it, he is more faithful than even our own earthly mothers.
In the second reading, St. Paul says that God helps even our mental health, “for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.”
So how do we keep the command of God to not worry?
By letting the Lord increase in our lives and mammon decrease.
St. Thomas More showed the way when he wrote to his daughter Meg about his battle with anxiety.
“I will not mistrust him, Meg, although I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear,” said the martyr-saint. “I shall remember how St. Peter, at a blast of wind, began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: Call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.”
Yes, God commands us not to worry. But he also holds out his hand to help us fulfill his command.
Our job is to keep our eyes on him and the good things he gives us, including the beauty of the world — and his presence in the sacraments.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What Pope Francis Really Said.