Today’s Gospel reading is Jesus’ anti-anxiety sermon. He reassures the people of God that God cares for them and so they need not worry about their basic needs being met. Human beings can often be focused on their material security, yet Jesus says there is no reason to be afraid. He uses beautiful imagery from the natural world to speak to this concern:
“Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.”
Jesus points to the natural world as a model for human freedom. An almost unique feature of human existence is that we are capable of making technology and artifacts and planning ahead (and by the way, some birds and primates can also do the same, but no creature centers life around technology to the extent that we do). These same gifts that are necessary to help sustain human life, though, can also become burdens to us. Many people become caught up in more and more work to make money beyond what is needed to live, and may pay the cost in human relationships. We use technology like social media for the benefit of connection, but may also find that it drains our time that can be spent on other forms of connection and community building. In our consumerist culture, we worry about saving enough, having enough, and buying enough. Jesus reminds us that most creatures do not worry about these things, but live simply. The other day when I was running at the park, I noticed how the birds above me were gliding on the air seemingly for the simple act of enjoying flying. Likewise, I was (mostly) enjoying the natural surroundings and the act of running and being present in my own body. As our Buddhist friends remind us, being present in the moment, to our own bodies, our emotions, our senses, our relationships, the immediate world around us is part of how we remain in the presence of God.
Jesus offers some practical advice on how not to worry–even in times where politics, economics, or personal issues may indeed be seemingly good reasons to worry! First, we can actively recollect that we are creatures made by a loving God who watches over us. We are accompanied by the love of God in life and even in death. Second, we are told to “seek the kingdom of God” and justice. If we concentrate our efforts on living well and working for love, peace, and justice in our relationships and world, the rest will come to us. If we seek material goods first, we may never get around to the peace, justice and the love. Last, we can live day by day, worrying only about what we need to take care of today. As our recently deceased Fr Charlie Flaherty used to remind our parish, we can all get through whatever just today’s troubles or challenges are. God will take care of tomorrow, and yesterday. Meanwhile, seek love, seek reconciliation, seek justice.