Sunday, February 27, 2011; 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
If your teenage son or daughter said, “I’m not going to worry about that chemistry test tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Today has enough worries”, what would you say in reply? Something like, “put down that face book and pick up the chemistry book, or I’ll give you something to worry about!”?
If you knew they were being cute with the Scripture you could quote one yourself, what St. Paul said to those Corinthians who were making the rounds of their fellow Christians saying “The end is near! Christ is soon to appear! Oh, and by the way, I haven’t had lunch yet.”
Paul said, “If anyone would not work, neither should that one eat.”
Christ was not advocating a life of idle dependency when He said, “don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or wear.” No, he was advocating trust in God as an antidote to anxiety. We need to eat and drink, God knows we need all those things, but unless we seek first the Kingdom of God we will seek first and only the kingdom of ourselves. We will become, each in our own little way, like those tiresome dictators, obsessed with themselves, victims of their own grandiosity and corruption.
One of the local Libyans demonstrating downtown Friday said that Qadhafi has now declared himself the enemy of all Libyans. He summed up Qadhafi’s attitude this way: “He has said it’s me or nobody lives. That’s quite a sign of his mental state.”
Well, yes, Qadhafi has been in a mental state for some time, but he has simply taken to an extreme the attitude any one of us can have if we don’t seek first the Kingdom of God; the attitude that regards others not as persons of equal dignity but only as instruments to serve our own desires, or as obstructions to be overcome. But when we seek first the kingdom of ourselves, anxiety is the constant attendant at our throne. Repression makes us more secure? No, it only embitters our enemies. No one can be trusted. Anyone may be the assassin.
Qadhafi started life in humble circumstances. There may have been a time when he wanted to lift up his people. Now he’s gunning them down. What happened? How did he lose his perspective, his balance? He forgot what he is – a mere man, gifted in certain ways but tripping quickly across the stage of history, influential but mortal, soon to answer to his Creator. He failed to seek first the Kingdome of God so he worshipped himself instead.
How to keep your balance? A walk through a cemetery does it for me. Or, in bad weather, I let my fingers do the walking through the obituaries. There were some long ones the other day. One I read, about a long and successful life, detailing the hard work and accomplishments from high school on, the sports excelled in, the degrees earned, the awards and honors, the professional services much respected and sought after, the prosperous business, the wife and children and grandchildren, the kind of life that anyone would envy. Now over. Gone the way of all flesh. And one little part of me thinks – how sad. He had it all, but so what? Now he’s dead, it’s over. And all that success so much useless vanity. But that’s the little part of me that still must worship at the altar of the word, the part of me that wants to be on the throne. The better part of me thinks – how blessed that man was, what an opportunity he had to glorify God. What a true success if he was grateful for his blessings, sought first the Kingdom of God, kept it all in perspective, kept his balance, and left this world looking forward to the next. And since he was active in Bible study and the Men’s Club at his church it seems likely that he did.
This life is not a useless vanity because it is temporary. We may be dust and ashes, our lives may be brief, but they have great value and beauty because of the divine life that already touches us and invites us forward when we remember to seek first the Kingdom of God.
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