What do you worry about?

Published on 27. Feb, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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‘People watching’ at airports is a fascinating adventure.  Having spent 6 hours yesterday in airports, I had a lot of time to do that.  Among many ways to categories people, there was clearly two ‘types’ of travelers.  (both at airports and in life…) On the one side you have the seemingly “carefree travelers”, like college students on their way to spring break or folks going on vacation.  (That was me…)  These are the travelers that seem to not have a care in the world.  They are enjoying the experience, open to meeting new people, and ready for whatever the trip will bring.  Usually these are the OUTBOUND passengers.  On the other side, you have the harried business traveler/parent herding 4 kids/and the regular nervous Nelly’s. Between looking at their watch, texting, herding the kids, checking the departure gates, getting last messages off on the cell phone, thinking and talking about everything waiting for them upon arrival home, – it is obvious that they travel with a lot of worries and concerns.  I suspect all of us vacillate between those two extremes in our everyday life.

One of my classmates became this on the way home.  The lines at the departing airport were long.  The lines at passport security were even longer.  And then at customs even longer still – it was a madhouse.  He went from vacation relaxed to anxious and uptight.  And no amount of words to relax could take him out of that space.  I think he is not alone in that.  Sometimes we are fine.  Life is okay, despite difficult times and we can keep our balance.  Then something happens – and poof – all that calm is gone.  We are troubled.  We do worry:

  • Do I have enough money to pay our bills?  Or to fund college for our daughter?  Is my job is going to last in this economy?
  • We wonder whether we will get good enough grades to get into the college of our choice, or whether our children will?
  • Our car makes a noise that we haven’t heard before; or our body gets a lump that we haven’t felt before and we worry.
  • When the conversation didn’t go so well and we think the other person is mad at us… we find ourselves worried.  Will they forgive us?  Will the relationship survive this bump in the road?  **

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”

“Really?  That’s easy for you to say.  You’re the son of God.  But for us, it is not so easy.”  Yet, there it is: Do not worry about your life… But as usual, you know that there is a truth here, a deeper truth about life that Jesus is trying to convey to us.  Jesus knows his future, knows that the cross looms for him.  And yet, he tells us not to worry because

  • He trusted for himself – and for us – that God would be with him – and us – even through the valley of the shadow of death
  • And he knew that to worry robs us of life.

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, put it this way. He said:

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials —

it simply empties today of its joy.”

Let me repeat that.  ”  ”   ”    ”   ”   ”

Worry has a corrosive power that eats away at our bodies, our relationships, our peace of heart and mind.

Into that experience, Jesus says: “Instead of worrying, just seek the kingdom.  Just love.”  In any moment, worry will not help me in any way.  It will only rob me of the life and joy that is only found in the present moment.  All I have to do is LOVE NOW.  I only have to love now.

That is all that I really can do.  That is all I need to do.  It is the one thing that will yield a holy happy, joy-filled life.

  • Jesus is not saying don’t plan for the future…  He knows we have to think ahead and use our brains.
  • Jesus is not saying, don’t learn from the past or act like it didn’t happen…
  • He is just saying don’t live there.  Live now. Love now.

When the anxiety comes, acknowledge it. But don’t stay there. Remember, all you have to do is love now. That is enough.  That is ALL we need.

You see, we’re all in an airport – only the destination is not Paris, or California or even Turks and Caicos.  Rather, we are bound for the heavenly kingdom.  That is what we seek.  And if we seek that, day by day, moment by moment, loving with all our strength day by day and moment by moment, then nothing else really matters, does it…

** at UMSL, the following were the ‘worry items’

  • Do I have enough money to pay for college next semester?  Can I get enough hours to keep the apartment rent up and still get out and socialize a bit?
  • Will I get good enough grades to get into the vet/med school of my choice, or missing that, at least some school somewhere?
  • My car mades a noise that I haven’t heard before – will it last through another semester, till I can find another one that I can afford?
  • When the conversation didn’t go so well and we think the other person is mad at us… we find ourselves worried.  Will they forgive us?  Will the relationship survive this bump in the road?

 

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Our family was unable to afford comic books growing up, so I was introduced to them only in college, where two classmates had extensive collections.  Superman, the Fantastic Four, the X-men  – really, all the comic book characters with the exception of Captain America and Conan the Barbarian – had secret powers.  And they would use these powers for good.  (Except the bad guys, of course, who would use those powers for evil) Secret powers were a good thing.

If you or I could have a secret power, what would it be?  Or what would you ask for?  The ability to fly?  Or like the Flash, to go incredibly quickly, so you could get all your papers and homework done in a blink.  Or in a different vein, to heal a broken heart?  To create world peace at the drop of a hat?  As I mused on this, it dawned on me – I do have a secret power.  Yep.  I’ve been holding out on you these years.  I have a secret power.

You see, I can make people invisible.  I can make them invisible.

It’s a little funny, though, this power.  It only works for me.  I am the only one who can’t see them. They are right there. Others can see them. They can see themselves.  But I can’t see them.  Sometimes I control the effect.  Other times, it just happens.  Making people invisible is a scary secret power.

The rich man in today’s gospel had that power as well.  He didn’t see Lazarus.  Sure, he knew he was there.  He would have had to step over him on his way in and out of the house.  He allowed him beg by his door – rather than have him run off by the police.  He even knew his name – as we discover, when he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to comfort him.  But he never SAW Lazarus.  He had made him invisible – so he wouldn’t feel guilty.  So he wouldn’t have to deal with a situation that would confront his eating comfortably, his dressing in wealth and finery.

The last time I used that power was last night.  I was up at St. Ann’s at the Msgr. Sprenke tournament. As I was walking to the pavilion area where people gather, I walked by a new family, whom I’ve been introduced to several times and whose name I should know, but because I couldn’t remember it, I just made them invisible.  It happens at UMSL when you are the second one to show up to a classroom, and it is that ‘odd’ student sitting there, and rather than taking the risk to be associated with them, you make them invisible and sit across the room.  We know that sometimes in our own families/apartments, when our spouse or sibling or roommate has angered us by any one of a countless number of things -–and we grow tired from being healthy and confronting them with what we need and what we can tolerate and what we are willing to budge on – so we ignore the problem and ignore them until it blows up in our face…

Sometimes we even make ourselves invisible- because we don’t trust that people will want to hear what we have to say – so we hold back – and our friends never get a glimpse into the things that we hold sacred in our hearts…

And those are just the easy times when we make people invisible.  20 million people were affected by the flooding in Pakistan.  Soldiers and civilians are being killed on both sides of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today’s front page screams at us of a world’s pain and suffering, but, like the rich man, it is easier to make it all invisible.

Secret powers.  I thought they were great when I was first introduced to comic books.  Until I realized that I too have powers, and that I too, have used them to the detriment of the kingdom.  I encourage you this week to examine the ‘powers that you exercise’ as you relate to people.  Perhaps, like Superman, you can see beyond appearances to the heart of what people struggle with.  Use that power this week as you listen to folks with all your strength.  Perhaps, like me, you have made people invisible.  Learn to see them this week by having lunch with them or a conversation…

But know that you have great power within you – the power to nurture life and love, the power to return love for hatred, light in the place of darkness, hope in a world full of despair.  It is the power that comes from the one who sees us all so clearly and loves us all into life- Jesus whom we receive at this table.

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