Homily on Do Not Be Anxious

Do not be anxious

Reflection on “Do not be anxious” based on the Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43 (27rd Sunday in Ordinary Time):

At every Mass – After we pray the Our Father, the priest prays: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant us peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

We pray to be safe from all distress or anxiety because we live in a world where many people are anxious and stressed… To say to people – “Do not to be anxious.” – admittedly – is much easier said than done.

We are bombarded with experiences and reports of violence like what happened in Las Vegas, environmental disasters of one form or another, the threat of terrorists, new kinds of viruses and illnesses, etc. There seems to be much to be worried about.

In the Gospels – anxiety is presented as lack of faith… So – to pray for protection from anxiety, to pray to have no anxiety – means to pray for an increase in faith.

To say we have faith in Christ – means – that we believe Jesus is Lord, and that He rules over all and He comes in triumph to banish all that is evil. So – when confronted with fears and dangers, the Christian response is a response of faith – not running away from the challenge – but he faces them – precisely because in Christ – they must be overcome.

Jesus said to His disciples: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

Our faith or lack of faith affects how we face the problems of life. People who have no faith or who lack faith usually respond to life’s problems with worry. People of faith respond to life’s problems with prayer. In prayer, we raise our hands to our all-loving and all-powerful Father, who is able to save us, even if it should take a miracle to do so.

And that is why, as believers, “we await the blessed hope” – because our faith tells us that Christ does overcome all that threaten us. That is why we respond: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.”

With that faith – we find ourselves even grateful.
As we heard in the second reading from St. Paul’s letter: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
– Being grateful in all circumstances is an acknowledgement that God is in control and therefore we become more confident, for we know that God is still going to care for us… even when times are tough… even when circumstances are discouraging – with grateful heart instead of fearful heart.

That is why and how St. Paul can write this letter of encouragement to the Philippians even while he was in prison.

In our Gospel reading, the message is pretty much the same.

What does Jesus’ parable tell us about God? It tells us of God’s providence and generosity. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants… meaning… God, trusts us, the tenants, enough to give us freedom to live our lives as we choose.

This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants for their abuses. But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, the parable tells us also that – in the end – God’s judgment and justice prevail.

What does the parable tell us about us? We are stewards of God’s creation – what a privilege to be thankful for!

But the problem is our wrongful attitude… which is the cause of our anxiety – the problem is in how we see ourselves – forgetting who we are – forgetting that we are only tenants, we are not the owners; forgetting that we are not in control and forgetting and not trusting in the love and care and power of God.

One especially critical question – we need to ask ourselves – Do we see ourselves as “owners” or “tenants” in the world… which makes a whole world of difference.

For some strange reason we live our lives as if these earthly possessions are ours forever. We devote our time and energy to accumulate worldly things. Some of us get so busy making money that we have NO time even to read a book, or make a friend, or hug our own children. We cling to the things of this world as if they are ours forever.

The parable in today’s Gospel is a great reminder – First, that we are only tenant farmers and we just share in the fruit of the land. Not one thing in this vineyard really belongs to us. Everything that we see around us is ours only to use for a short time. Ultimately – it all belongs to God.

If we fail to recognize this truth, we are not fooling anyone but ourselves.

Secondly, Jesus is reminding us that our privilege of being stewards of creation carries with it responsibilities. We are responsible to God for what we do with what we have.

The word responsibility is not a very popular word in our modern world. We much prefer to think and speak of such things as rights, and privileges and freedom – “my body and therefore my choice”. But we must remind ourselves that all of these things we cherish are based upon responsibility, and if we neglect our responsibility, eventually we will lose our rights, privileges, and freedoms… That is the bottom line… let us not fool ourselves.

We have every opportunity to live life at its best. What we do with these blessings and opportunities is up to you and me. The grace of God is free, but the responsibilities of privilege are real. We are accountable for the things that we have.

We are the tenants even to our bodies, to our lives, to ourselves, to our money, to our property, to everything we have. All belongs to God.

We – Christians – the New Tenants – are called to give God the produce at the proper times…

Therefore, we must have a personal relationship with Christ to be good tenants – and we must build everything – our lives, our career, etc. – on Christ and that Christ thus becomes the cornerstone on which everything else is built…Because Everything belongs to Christ.

The question is – Is Jesus Christ the cornerstone of your life?

If He is, then – as St. Paul wrote to the Philippians and addressed also to us: “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
… and if we say Amen, it means “So be it” – and so we all say: Amen!

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