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 may be on dwelling on the past, rehashing something we did or did not do, not sure if we made the right decision, or we could be anxious about the future for our minds plague us often with the worst case scenarios of what might be or what could happen. We also may react to another’s actions or words, not fully understanding the context or source of the hurt or struggle they may be going through that caused those words or actions. When we stay focused and become fixated on our own reaction, and/or stay stuck in our emotions of the situation, instead of seeking to understand the other person, our insides can churn.
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 and that downward spiral inward, that curving in upon one self creates expressions of the worst of our humanity. Native Americans, African Americans, Irish, Germans, Catholics, Japanese, and now Latinos have over the years been demeaned, dehumanized, abused and killed, instead of accompanied, heard and encountered. Difference and diversity, terrorists, increased violence, job loss, out right self interests, prejudice and racism have fed and continue to feed the dark side of our fallen nature.,
Jesus’ life, words and actions provide a starting point for shifting the momentum of the cycle of enslavement to our anxieties, worries, fears, and prejudices. In each of our individual circumstances and situations, we need to be aware of, identify, and embrace them and instead, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33).
On a national level, there is a way that we can bring about immigration, prison, and police reform without politicization and dehumanization, but we must begin by resisting the temptation to label and demonize and instead acknowledge each other as human beings that are to be afforded dignity and justice. We need to trust that God will provide for all who have needs, and collaborate with him to bring about reconciliation and solidarity.
One of the greatest perpetuations of injustice is that too many of us isolate ourselves. We retreat into our own bubbles, associate only with our own self-defined groups, resist embracing the gift of our diversity, and thus 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 listen and speak to each other, or at the other extreme, we shout at or over one another. There really can be a middle ground of respectful dialogue.