In this beautiful passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 24:24-34), Jesus says five times we are not to worry. We are not to worry about our life, what we are to eat or drink, our body, the clothes we are to wear, or what tomorrow will bring. Jesus tells us we are to be like the birds of the sky who are fed by God and wild flowers clothed by God.
The problem we face is dealing with anxiety. One aside here. I am not using the word anxiety in the clinical, psychological sense. Many people suffer from anxiety attacks. That is not what I am referring to when I use the term anxiety. I’m using the term anxiety in its basic meaning: anxiety is the fear of the unknown. What will tomorrow bring? Will I survive the next crisis? Will I get all the work done that I need to complete to provide for my future and that of my family? What if this happens? What if that happens? Jesus is telling us to calm down, and trust in Him. Yes we have to be prudent and prepare for the future. But fearing the unknown gets us nowhere. It is also a rejection of our trust in God to care for us. Don’t be anxious, the Lord says. Tomorrow will bring new joys and new graces. Yes it will have its burdens, but it will also have the grace to conquer them. When grace is considered the burdens of tomorrow will be no heavier than those of today. Each day has its own toil, its own cross and its own joy. And each day of our lives is watched over by our God who loves us so much. We can only live in the present. We have to put our trust in God. What matters is the here and now.
Tomorrow is not yet. What matters is today. Our focus must be on today. Today is the day we need to love and to grow in holiness through all those little occurrences of our lives that make up our lives. There are things we do today which are naturally pleasant. Other things are far less gratifying. But every single event of our day can be a gem made to shine for God for eternity, a gem polished with supernatural meaning. Everything we do we do for the Lord. God isn’t just observing us. He is loving us. St. Theresa of the Child Jesus taught that there is no action too small, too insignificant to serve the Lord. Even picking up a piece of paper is a prayer to God. That is the reason why the morning offering is so important for each of us. We get up and we say, “Lord, I give this day to you. Whatever happens, Lord, may my actions be a prayer to you.”
Jesus had to think about the future in his time as a carpenter in Nazareth. After all, he had to manage an inventory of tools and supplies, purchase and repair tools, take orders, maybe even estimate the cost of his projects. This takes careful planning. Did he therefore find it difficult to practice what he preached? If Jesus followed his own advice, he would have violated an important business principle: “A business without a plan is like a ship without a rudder.”
Jesus is not against planning. Of course he wants us to prepare for the future. He is not saying to be imprudent. He does not want us to fear the unknown. He wants us to trust him.
Why do we not trust God as we ought? Why are we anxious? Because we have not made a clear choice. Christ leaves no room for neutrality. Sooner or later, everyone must take sides with Christ or against him; since he alone is the everlasting Lord, no options remain. We might want to serve God, but we want to serve mammon as well. We want to trust God, but not completely. Anxiousness is a byproduct of half-heartedness
Spiritual writers call this kind of trust holy abandonment. “Only in God is my soul at rest,” says the Psalmist (Psalm 62). This is the life for all of us – if we put ourselves in God’s hands. He delights in us; he is always pursuing us. If our Heavenly Father cares for the birds of the sky and wild flowers, we can trust he will care for us today, tomorrow and for all eternity.
It takes tremendous courage to be a true follower the Lord, to abandon ourselves to His Life. But just as a toddler runs into the outstretched arms of his mother, we leap into the arms of the God who loves each of us as though we were His only child.