Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time A

 

“Do not worry about your life.”  “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”  “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”  Aren’t those wonderful and comforting words from Jesus?  Wouldn’t it be nice if we believed them?

I know I have a hard time believing it.  I still let worry get the best of me.  I am still thinking of what might go wrong.  I try to sleep but I have budget numbers in my head, a leak in the roof and what to preach about today whirring inside of me.  Even when I feel powerless over what worries me, I would rather hang on to it than give it up.  I have a hard time just letting it go and surrendering it to the God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the wild flowers in beauty.  How much more will God protect us, the most precious gifts of creation? 

You know in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I often hear people confess that they are angry.  And I tell them that anger is not always a sin and that Jesus himself got angry.  But I have rarely had any confess to worrying even though Jesus tells us not to; even though he never worried about himself.  Can you imagine Jesus thinking those thoughts?  “I better not say that it will hurt my popularity or my status.”  Or “I should avoid this leper or this sinner.”  He did not even let worry affect his decision when they came to take him to his death.  To imitate Jesus is to trust in God.

My spiritual director in the seminary was Fr. Al Giaquinto, who had a profound influence in my life.  He was like a tiny Italian leprechaun with a high pitched voice.  One say when I came in for spiritual direction, he greeted me by saying, you look awful.  I was like, “Thanks, Fr. Al.”  I explained that I had trouble sleeping the night before and he immediately said, “You don’t trust God,” which is what every seminarian wants to hear.  He then told me that if I really trusted God I would sleep, that my countless hours of worrying were worth nothing compared to the endless peace of Christ.  My determination to hold on did not allow God to take the worry from me.

I had never thought that worrying or not was a choice.  But that is more true than we think, especially the worry that we have for ourselves.  It reminds me of when in the old translation, we would say, “Save me from useless anxiety,” as if there were any useful anxiety.

Pope Francis has a line of thought that has brought light to this question for me.  He speaks about the difference between time and space.  Time for us seems to be the enemy.  There is not enough it before this due date or this deadline.  I must be in hurry to get to where I am supposed to get or be what I am supposed to be.  People tell me they just need more time, a 25th hour or an eighth day and I would tell them that does not seem possible.  But for Francis, time is a friend and space is the enemy.  Indeed our lives become too crowded; they impinge on us.  The stuff of our lives makes us claustrophobic and blocks vision.  But flowing over and into the space is God’s gift of time.  The beauty of time is that it keeps coming; there is always more of it.  There is an eight day of the week even if it is next Monday.  We can patiently work through the stuff and be untangled from the crowded space in our lives.  God has given us time to be free, to breathe and to unfold our lives.  In an age when we are obsessed with the destination, we can treasure the journey.  We can enjoy the process of becoming without the fear of not yet being who we thought we should be.

Sometimes the space is so crowded, the stuff so overwhelming that it blocks everything else.  It is all we think about and we give it all our energy without reference to our blessings or how we are loved.  We are filled instead with calamitous thinking.  My mother was good at that.  If I was fifteen minutes late or did not return a call, the only possible explanation was that I was in some ditch on the side of the road.  Occasionally, when people are listing the multitude of their very real problems and the possible doomful consequences, I will ask them to stop, take a deep breath and make believe there is a God.  Sometimes just the reminder that we are loved, redeemed and cared for is all we need.

On Saturday morning I had the privilege of doing the funeral of Rosa Cascio who died at the age of 101.   I would say she was a lifelong parishioner of St. Helen’s but she was actually older than the parish.  The best dressed woman at Ellis Nursing, Rose left her home in Schenectady at the age of ninety to care for her niece in Rome, Italy.  She then lived there for eight years on her own before coming home.  Her good friend played a recording of a prayer she said most every day.   I want to share this prayer with you for two reasons.  First, it speaks far more eloquently to my point than I have.  Secondly, she lived to 101.  This prayer works!

 

There is no problem too big or question too small,

Just ask God in faith and He will answer them all.

Not all at once but be patient and wait,

For God never comes too soon or too late.

So trust in his wisdom and believe in His word,

For no prayer is unanswered and no question is unheard.

 

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