In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus draws a direct correlation between our level of worry and our faith. Having faith is a common theme throughout Jesus’ teaching. How many times have we read or heard, “O you of little faith” (Mt 6:30). At its core faith is that we trust what Jesus says is true. If we are feeling anxious or worried our focus is dwelling on the past, rehashing something we did or did not do, not sure if we made the right decision, or we are anxious about the future, what might be. We also may react to another’s actions or words, stay fixated or focused on them, and/or stay stuck in our emotions of the situation.
In each of these occasions we are not focusing on God, we are not trusting in him, we are exercising little faith because our focus is on our self. Jesus is telling us that, “No one can serve two masters” (Mt 6:24). Either we place our self first or we place God first. Jesus is guiding us to put God first in our lives and to trust in him.
Anxiety, worry, and fear, can be debilitating and paralyzing. So many of us deal with it to some extent. What many families are now experiencing though, those fleeing their homes, making the perilous journey to get to what many believe to be a land of promise and hope, then to find that they are turned away, arrested or separated, some 1,800 plus children not knowing if they will ever be able to see their parents again, is terrifying and traumatic. The anxieties, worries, and fears I have experienced in my life pale in comparison.
The other side of the coin, are the anxieties, worries, and fears that have and contribute to this situation. Through the history of our country too many have placed their trust and faith in anxiety, worry, and fear. Native Americans, African Americans, Irish, Germans, Catholics, Japanese, and now Latinos have been demeaned, dehumanized, and feared, instead of heard and encountered. Difference and diversity, terrorists, increased violence, job loss, out right self interests, prejudice and bigotry have fed and continue to feed the dark side of our fallen nature.
Jesus’ words provide a starting point for shifting the momentum of the cycle of enslavement to our anxieties, worries, fears, and prejudices. We need to be aware of and turn away from them and instead, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). There is a way that we can bring about immigration reform, but we must begin by acknowledging that those seeking to come to our country are human beings, we need to trust that God will provide for all who have need, and lead us to live in community. This starting point also needs to be true for the rich diversity of people who already live in this country now.
The greatest perpetuation of injustice is that too many of us isolate ourselves from one another. We isolate ourselves in our own tribes and camps, we resist embracing the gift of our diversity and so do not get to know one another, we give in to the fears that support our prejudices, we don’t want to rock the boat or deal with conflict head on, so we don’t speak up or out, we want someone else to fix the problem. When the storm comes we tend to want to run away from it. Instead we need to be like the buffalo that used to roam the great plains in vast numbers. When the storm was building over the plains, they would run into the storm, knowing that as they did so, they would get through it quicker.
May we embrace our faith in Jesus so to face our own storms of anxiety, worry, and fear when they arise, trust in God, and together face them. In this way, we will resist division and instead work for unity, resist the language of dehumanization and hate, and instead promote solidarity and love. May we trust and embrace the courage to come out from hiding in the shadows of our anxiety, worries, and fear, and instead hold high the flame of the Holy Spirit so to light a path of hope that is grounded in our faith, that what we do the least of our brothers and sisters we do to Jesus. May we begin today to embrace our mutual gift of humanity and diversity.
Photo: My first communion preparation class, Bronx, NY early 90’s.
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, June 23, 2018: