Thursday, February 24, 2011

Worry not, wild flowers

Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time—A

Isaiah 49:14-15
1Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

In 1988, jazz artist Bobby McFerrin’s a cappella song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” soared to the top of the charts and eventually won a Grammy Award. The song became a cultural phenomenon, and its lyrics were widely quoted (sincerely or ironically) in everyday conversation, on T-shirts, on television, and even in political campaigns. Somehow, the expression—based on a longer maxim by the late Indian mystic Meher Baba—had tapped into what humanity longs most deeply for—peace.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus clearly says, several times over, that we are not to worry. “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?” he asks. Throughout the Gospels, he tells his disciples many times, “Fear not!” Yet, worrying is what many of us do best, and hearing messages like this can pile guilt on top of our anxiety because we know we should have more trust in God.

Jesus, though, is not denying our legitimate concern for human needs, but rather is admonishing us to stop being so preoccupied with our wealth to the point that it enslaves us and deprives others. “You cannot serve God and mammon,” Jesus tells us.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines mammon as “riches regarded as an object of worship and greedy pursuit.” What’s really at stake is not genuine concern for our daily bread, but rather an attachment to material wealth and comfort that supplants our reliance on God, who IS our daily bread.

It is interesting to note that Isaiah portrays God as a mother in today’s first reading, while Jesus calls him Father in the Gospel. Perhaps the point is that we should approach God more as a loving parent who both cares and provides for us rather than merely as a benefactor. When we embrace that sort of loving, trusting relationship, then we become true “stewards of the mysteries of God,” and we will find the peace of Christ the world does not give (John 14:27).

Be happy, don’t worry!

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.

Matthew 6:28-29

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