WHY WORRY? HOMILY FOR THE 8TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR (A) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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Here’s a little song I wrote

You might want to sing it note for note

But don’t worry, be happy

 

In every life we have some trouble but when you worry you make it double

Don’t worry, be happy

Don’t worry, be happy now

Don’t worry, be happy (4x)

 

Ain’t got no place to lay your head

Somebody came and took your bed

But don’t worry, be happy

The land lord say your rent is late

He may have to litigate but don’t worry, be happy

Look at me I am happy

Don’t worry, be happy

 

Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t do it, be happy

Put a smile on your face

Don’t bring everybody down like this

Don’t worry, it will soon past whatever it is

Don’t worry, be happy

I’m not worried, I’m happy….

 

This 1988 hit song of Bobby McFerrin which had calmed so many troubled nerves and worried minds, captures the pulse of the readings today; especially the first reading and the gospel. The message is both an instruction and an encouragement: “don’t worry!” The question that follows this immediately is: “can we actually not worry?” Even McFerrin knew when he was writing the song that “worry” is a significant part of our human reality. It is almost unrealistic ordinarily not to worry about many things especially when we are not sure of what comes next. However, to “over-worry” is the acute failure of faith and trust in God.

The first reading from the prophecy of Isaiah (49:14-15) was addressed to the Israelites in the course of their tribulations when they felt that God had abandoned them. The prophet Isaiah using  the image of the protective love of a nursing mother to her baby, established the fact that God’s own protective love goes beyond that of a nursing mother who may forget the child at her breast in extreme conditions.

There are sometimes in our lives when we find ourselves in the same position like the Israelites with the dismantling feeling of being abandoned and alone! Often we are confused about life and its puzzles in form of multitude of problems coming in various shapes and sizes. Stringent financial problems, relationship breakdown, job challenges, disappointments, sicknesses and other ill conditions. In the face of all these tribulations do you feel that you are alone and abandoned by God? In the passage from the Prophecy of Isaiah God did not only say he will not abandon us even if a nursing mother should. He went further to say in the next verse that He has written our names on the palms of His hand. This simply means that everything about us is before Him. In the book of Psalm, we see David assuring himself in the face of his adversities that even if his father and mother should forget him, God will take care of him (Psalm 27:10) and in Isaiah (41:10) God still instructs us not to be afraid nor be dismayed as He is with us and will strengthen us. The same promise of divine presence and support of Moses we see in the book of Deuteronomy (31:6-8).

In the gospel reading (Matt. 6:24-34), our Lord Jesus Christ gave us a highly enthusing teaching on the need to stop worrying or being overly anxious. In this context our Lord advised his listeners not to worry about what becomes of their lives but to leave everything for God. In few words, he was asking them to allow God to worry their worries. St. Paul recapitulates this when he said: “don’t worry about anything but pray about everything” (Phil. 4:6).

Before the teaching on worry, our Lord gave a background which we must take into deep cognizance. In his words he admonished that:

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon”.

Here we see a clear indication that whatever happens in anyone’s life is often based on the choices one makes; put in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, whomsoever one decides to serve determines one’s future. In the Jewish understanding, a slave has 100% allegiance to his master; hence the slave can only operate at the instance of his master. So being a slave or servant to anyone entails faithful and total dependence on the master (Matt. 24:45). In his instruction, our Lord presented two masters: God and mammon (worldly riches).

It is really difficult to give equal attention to these two masters. But whichever one you give attention determines what rules in your life. Now the one who lives a life of worry cannot be one who is giving God total attention and dependence. The one who worries is the person who reposes his/her confidence on mammon. Mammon in this sense can stand for anything that distracts us from trusting and depending on God. It could be material wealth, connections, family, friends or other mundane phenomena that tend to supply us with superficial hope. On this, the book of proverbs (11:28) says: “Those who trust in their riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like green leaves”. Where one’s trust is, determines one’s “WORRY QUOTIENT”. To this end, the Psalmist (125:1) adds that: “those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” This simply means that your trust in God safeguards you from excessive worry because you understand that God will be there for you in any situation; even when you pass through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).

Worry has deep spiritual, moral and physical disadvantages and looking at them will be very helpful. From the spiritual point of view worry discourages trust in God which is at the same time a disputation of God’s omnipotence. Furthermore, worry is a very powerful time waster. Whenever we are worrying we waste our productive time for positive engagement especially the time to pray and think constructively. Worry also has a way of wearing us down mentally and physical. The book of proverbs (12:25) made it clear that: “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. When we engage in worry, we miss our focus and direction and at most get overly distracted. Worry is a game you don’t really need to play!

As we launch into this new week let us bear in mind that there is no situation that is beyond God. Things may not be really smooth now don’t worry, pray and keep trusting in God. There may seem to be no end to your problems, don’t worry, pray and keep trusting in God. You may not seem to get any better in the things you do, don’t worry, pray and keep trusting in God. I remember the Psalmist (30:5) saying that “weeping may linger for the night but joy comes with the morning”. There is one old church hymn resonates with this reflection and that will fittingly end this reflection for us. It goes this way:

“Why worry when you can pray, trust in Jesus, He’ll lead the way, don’t be a doubting Thomas, trust fully in His promise, why worry, worry, when you can pray.”

I wish you a wonderful Sunday and a WORRY-FREE week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

(fatherbonny@hotmail.com)

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