Vol. 6, No. 24
Daughters of Mary Gospel Commentary
21 February 2017
Prayer of the Day: “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee” St. Augustine.
Last week we were instructed to “love your enemies”. This week we are told “do not worry “– Jesus’ sermon on the mount is giving us some challenging commands! The word worry as a verb means to give way to anxiety or uneasiness; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles; as a noun it means a state of anxiety and uncertainty; a disquieted uneasiness of mind. The Greek word merimnao is the verb for worry and anxiety; to be pulled apart, like the force exerted by sinful anxiety or worry. The Old English word for worry, wyrgan, and the Old High German word, wurgen, both mean to strangle or to choke. These are all very apt descriptions of what worry does to us. There are passages in the NT that are difficult to interpret but this particular one from Matthew is not one of those. Matthew starts and ends with the same statement or command from Jesus: “do not worry.” In fact, Jesus uses the word worry six times and He says “do not worry” three times.
Certainly, this is a powerful and important command and, frankly, is one of the most difficult challenges for me. There are times when I am overcome with worry and anxiety. This, of course, only leads to further worry because I know and believe that we are to “trust the Father to provide for all of our needs this day and the days to come.”(The Didache Bible) Worry and anxiety draw us away from God. In fact, in this passage Jesus advances a very fundamental argument against worry saying that it is characteristic of someone who does not understand the unconditional love of the Father. Worry denies the love, the faithfulness, and the omnipotence of God. It chains us to the things of earth. Remember Jesus is preaching to many who did not know God as a loving Father. They were tormented by worry and anxiety because they believed their future was in the hands of fate and not a loving father. Christ teaches us to rely on the divine providence of God just as a child relies on his/her parents. We should be free of worry and anxiety since God is a loving Father who wants always what is best for us. The catechism of the catholic church teaches that “Abandonment to the providence of the Father in heaven frees us from anxiety about tomorrow.” (CCC 2547)
In this passage Jesus is not telling us not to have concern; in fact, the same Greek word, merimnao is also used to mean effectively distributing concern, in proper relation to the whole picture. Intellectually, we understand this. However, it is only human nature to worry. I think everyone worries about something at some point in their lives. Some of you probably only worry every now and then – others of us are what I call “experienced worriers.” In spite of Jesus’ reassuring words that he will care for us, I often still fall into the “chokehold of worry” – worry about my children, my grandchildren, my grief, my job, my family, my financial situation – the list at times seems endless. There may be greater sins than worry, but very certainly there is no more disabling sin. In Barclay’s Commentary on Matthew, he states that the commandment of Jesus “to take no anxious thought of the morrow” is the way to peace.
Peace is the antithesis of worry. By definition, peace means “quiet and tranquility; freedom from disturbance; inner contentment, serenity; the absence of mental stress or anxiety; a state free of oppressive and unpleasant thoughts and emotions. Peace and love overcome worry and anxiety and we achieve that peace by living our life in the Kingdom of God.
In verse 33, after providing reasons not to worry, Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” This text is so powerful to me –it is Jesus telling us what to do in order not to worry or be anxious. The word seek comes from the Greek word zeteo which means “to deliberately strive and desire something as an act of the will.” Seeking is a very strong word. It isn’t just “looking around” or “checking it out.” It is fervent hunting. Every parent knows what this word means. It is the intensity of looking for a lost child. Nothing else matters until that child is found. We are consumed with looking. When your life is consumed with looking for God, God will find you. And you will be completely cared for. That is what it is like in the Kingdom of God, a world where we never lay awake at night, anxious about our lives and our needs or about what we need to do. Can you imagine that? That is the world God wants for us – that is the Kingdom of God. That is the world where peace erases insecurity and anxiety. It is a place where we trust God more and worry about the expectations of the world less.
Again, in his commentary on Matthew, Barclay says that it was Jesus’ conviction that “worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.” Life in the Kingdom of God is lived from that deep place within us where our spiritual life and spiritual exercises are learning to listen to and be guided by our hearts. This quest of seeking our inner realm, the treasure of the soul, the deep purpose of seeking the Kingdom of God leads us away from doubt, worry and anxiety. Our intense love of God is what Fran spoke about last week. Only through love can we experience forgiveness and love of our enemies and only through the love of God and love toward one another can we overcome worry and anxiety and experience the grace and spirit of peace.
In seeking his righteousness we must, through the Holy Spirit, seek to obey the commands of Christ, seek Christ’s righteousness, remain separated from the world and show Christ’s love towards everyone. When we do, God will bless our needs. When we are truly Kingdom members, having been born into the Kingdom by the Spirit, it follows that our highest purpose is “the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”. This concentration on doing God’s will is the positive answer to worry and it is also a direction for positive action as a lifestyle. (The Communicator’s Commentary, Myron S. Augsburger)
In closing, let us commit to God all of our cares in humble and joyous faith through the prayer of St. Francis: “Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God will deliver you out of them. He has kept you hitherto, – do you but hold fast to His dear hand and He will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, He will bear you in His arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at Peace then, and put aside all anxious thought and imaginations.”
The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Didache Bible
The Catholic Study Bible
The Communicator’s Commentary by Myron S. Augsburger