22 June 2013

O, you of much worry!

11th Week OT (S) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters b/c a servant divided in half is no servant at all. Like the child Solomon would split in half to share btw the bickering mothers, a servant with divided loyalties is dead to both masters. So, we either serve God, or we serve Mammon. Never both. We know what happens to us when we set aside the gods of worry and commit ourselves to serving God alone: done sincerely and habitually, a peace that passes all understanding settles into our bones, and we get as close to Happiness as we can while body and soul remain together. But what happens when we choose Mammon? What happens when we dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to the worldly ambitions of Worry? If serving the Prince of Peace brings us peace, then serving the unclean spirit of Worry brings. . .more Worry. More anxiety. Deeper and darker spiritual war. Serving God means serving others in His name, for His glory. Serving Mammon means serving Self, even if, and especially when, serving Self is self-destructive. Can any one of us add a year, a day, an hour to our lives by worrying? “If God so clothes the grass of the field [. . .] will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” 

What's faith got to do with worry? The human brain is nature's most powerful pattern-seeking and pattern-making machines. We take in massive amounts of sensory data and in milliseconds turn it all into a coherent, accurate depiction of the world. Second only to the power of the human intellect is the power of the human will. As we take in billions and billions of pieces of sensory data, and as the brain churns away at building an accurate picture of our world, the will is struggling to decide What To Do About All of This. How do I react? What can I change? Is this dangerous? Is that safe? Left to itself the will will always act to preserve the body, and if that means scaring the snot out of us, so be it. But living in a constant state of life-preserving fear threatens our spiritual lives. We come to believe—falsely—that by will alone we can change that over which we have no control. Faith is the willful act of trusting in God. We set our hearts and minds firmly on the way to eternity, training ourselves to see and hear this world as a passage through to God, back to God. Worry then becomes all about not trusting that God's will and care is sufficient for today. Worry is all about the lie that I am my own god; that I am my own Master. 

And, as Jesus says, we cannot serve two masters. I serve God, or I serve Myself. I live eternally in peace, or I die daily in worry. I place everything I am and have into His hands for His use, or I snatch it all for myself and desperately try to control the uncontrollable. Is there a concrete way to surrender to God? A way to open my hands and let it all fall into His lap? There are many. Here's just one, perhaps the best one: look at your world, your life, everything—family, friends, co-workers, possessions, everything, and consciously, purposefully name it all “Gift.” Nothing and no one is mine by right. Nothing and no one is mine by merit. Everything and everyone is to me and for me a God-given gift. As gifts, everything and everyone comes into my life gratuitously. Without condition or guarantee. Bless it all by naming everyone and everything with its true name: Gift. Food, clothing, job, spouse, education, talent, time, treasure, life itself, everything is a gift. Serve the Gift-giver by becoming His gift to others. Our heavenly Father knows what we need. Seek and serve His kingdom and His righteousness first. And everything you need will be given to you.

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  1. Thanks for the reminder . . . Gift: everything, good and bad. Second paragraph was my favorite part of this homily.

  2. It's no easy thing to think of the Bad Stuff as a Gift. . .

    1. No, not easy, but I've come to realize very recently that without the Bad Stuff I wouldn't be who I am. And it is very likely neither would I have this desire for God that I have, for as I work on accepting all things as Gift - maybe, especially the Bad Stuff - I find that each small step is bringing me closer and closer to Him and toward learning how to surrender myself to Divine Providence. Easy? Heck no. But luckily I have somebody keeping me honest, and keeping me focused on the straight and narrow. . . which was a gift I did not expect!

  3. I agree with Shelly. For any gift good or bad should be accepted almost like during Christmas but any and all gifts effect your life and in some cases of other lives that surround you. To me this is a take if you will on person judging others that we as humans have no business in doing so for judging is only for God.
    Thanks for a inspiring homily Father!!