Father Howard Hansen’s Reflections
for The Eighth Week in Ordinary Time 2011
“Do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’”
“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?”
“Do not worry about tomorrow.”
With all this talk about worrying in the Gospel selected to be read on this Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, one might just come to the conclusion that Jesus doesn’t want us to worry. Four or more times in this Gospel he tells us to avoid this pesky little habit we all blunder into from time to time. And some people spend the greater part of their lives worrying about this or that. They have the “what ifs?” What if this goes wrong? What if this breaks? What if? What if?
Yet, when you come right down to it, there are few things more useless than worrying. No one — not one person — has ever accomplished anything by worrying about it. Worry is an absolute waste of time. We all know this! And yet all of us take the time occasionally to worry about what is going on in our lives, our relationships, at school, at work, and so on.
I started poking around the internet with the word “worry” in mind to see what I could find. Right away I ran into a blog on Google (God’s website) that presents four good reasons why we should not worry. Let’s list them here for our perusal on the subject.
1. Worrying accomplishes absolutely nothing. So why in the world, pray tell, do we spend so much time doing it. My dear Mother was a worrier. She would sit in her chair with her fingers never stopping going around her rosary and worry, worry, worry about things. I used to say to her, “Mom, if you are praying why are you worrying. And if you are worrying, why are you praying.” That didn’t sit too well or help matters any.
2. Worrying is not good for us. Worrying can be a mental burden for us and even cause physical illness! Eventually it can lead to depression, which is no small thing. It can become an obsession. It’s the only thing in our mind. When we become tense and uptight because of worrying, we don’t eat right, sleep right, live right. Everything is a little bit out of sorts.
3. Worrying is the opposite of trusting in God. We have written so much in these homilies about the virtue of surrender, perhaps the number one spiritual principle. I have quoted the 3rd Step of the 12 Steps here until I am blue in the face: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as I understand him. Giving things to God for him to carry is a good spiritual practice. He can carry all these things, no sweat. And most of us pray to the Lord about our concerns. Like I used to say to my Mom, if you are praying why are you worrying? The two just don’t go together.
4. Worrying points your focus in the wrong direction. Worrying is a negative thing. Worrying is delusion. We worry about what could be, might be, what I would like to have happen, the way things should be and are not. All on the negative side of the ledger. God has given each of us a beautiful, positive plan for our lives and he has given us the gifts and talents to accomplish the plan he has for us. That is positive all the way. And we miss it, do not grow, stay pretty much in the same place, when we worry about it.
This is, by the way, something that with God’s help we can stop. A simple “Here God, you take this” is the way to do it. In view of this Gospel this morning let’s all say to ourselves today: I am going to follow the advice of the Lord Jesus and not worry anymore. I am going to stop it!
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Feb. 28, Mark 10: 17-27
The shortest month of the year ends today with a rather sad Gospel chosen for the Liturgy. This one is not for those who enjoy happy endings. A rich, young man asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man responded that he had always done this. Then Jesus told him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” And the Gospel continues to tell us that at that statement the young man’s face fell and he went away sad for he had many possessions. I have always felt rather sad for the young man in the parable. He made his many material possessions the sole form of his happiness. How sad!
Yet every now and then you will read in the paper about some rich eccentric person wanting to be buried in his Cadillac. As though he is going to be able to take it with him wherever he goes. How silly! This reminds me of the words of Scripture: What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and suffer the loss of their soul? Not very much, I’m afraid.
Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
March 1, Mark 10: 28-31
There is kind of a funny sequence of thought running between yesterday’s Gospel and the one chosen to be read today. It’s almost like Peter read yesterday’s Gospel, gave away all that he possessed to the poor, and then, in this moment of triumph, he began to doubt if that was the smart thing to do. Lord, are you sure, do you mean it, when you tell us that we will receive a hundred fold if we leave what we have and come follow you? Let’s talk about this. We have all left everything to follow you; now name me some of the rewards I’m going to receive for having done so. I want to hear them.
I believe all of us disciples of the Lord have preferred Jesus to our material possessions. Just what have I received for having done so? I have received that wonderful feeling of contentment that I have made the right choice and see that things really work out the way Jesus said they would. I have received happiness, joy, peace in my life. I have the necessities to live the life to which I feel I have been called. I have a nice home to live in, good friends, the rewards that come from serving others. I believe I can say that everything is OK today. I am happy most of the time. And by golly, these are the things that make life worth living. I believe I made a good choice. How about you?
Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
March 2, Mark 10: 32-45
“Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whomever wishes to be first among you shall be the slave of all.”
In our Gospel for today, Jesus is telling his disciples that if they want to be great in the Kingdom, they must live the role of being a servant to others. This is a good Gospel for us to reflect on just how much we are helping others. Do you have a job, a vocation, that is just naturally one of service? Or do you have to make a special effort to make it so? There are many professions that lend themselves to service. A few I can think of right off the top are nursing, social work, teaching, spiritual ministry, parenting. And there are some professions where we kind of have to figure out how we are going to serve, for example, the CEO of a large company. How can he daily serve others? It takes a bit of thought to figure that out.
My profession is one of service by its very essence. If I am not serving others as a Franciscan Friar, I have really missed the boat. I often tell others that the best service job I ever had was that of being a hospital chaplain. I was working or on call 24/5. You never knew what was going to come at you next but inevitably it would be an opportunity to serve others. I found it to be a job where I really made a difference. You meet people at a time of crisis in their lives and do your best to comfort them and assist them.
Look at your own calling today. Reflect on it. Are you serving others by what you do? Does this come easily? Do you feel good doing it? I hope all of us can answer “yes” to all these questions. A “yes” answer is very important for our own happiness and for the happiness and welfare of others.
Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
March 3, Mark 10: 46-52
In today’s Gospel, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, is sitting by the roadside doing his thing. He hears that Jesus is passing by and he hollers out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And he keeps it up and keeps it up, much to the distress of those around him. The people tell him to shut up but he just hollers all the louder, “Son of David, have pity on me.”
There is just no way that Jesus is not going to hear and help this man. We know that before we read the rest of the story. Bartimaeus was cured of his blindness. He could see again! We all know Jesus will help him because we are all well aware of the great compassion Jesus has for those in need.
Let’s take a little time today to reflect on my own compassion for others. Am I sometimes too busy to get involved with others? Do I prefer my time to be used for me and my pleasure or am I ready to drop everything and help another? Where am I with the virtue of compassion in my life?
Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
M March 4, Mark 11: 11-26
There are important words for us to reflect on right at the end of the Gospel selected to be read for today’s Liturgy: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in time forgive you for your transgressions.”
Jesus’ advice here: Pray to forgive those who have hurt you in any way. There is a lot of wisdom in that sentence. I love to share a story with alcoholics who are having trouble getting rid of their resentments for other people. It is the story of Bill W. walking down the street and meeting a man who was a member of the AA Program. They stopped to chat and Bill asked him how things were going for him. The man replied that he was doing well except for a resentment he had for one person in his AA group. He told Bill he felt like killing the ….. Bill told him to calm down and pray daily for that man. A couple of weeks later they met again and when asked about how he was getting along with his resentment, the man replied, “Well, Bill, I’m praying every day for the …. just as you asked me to. He still didn’t like the person but he was praying for him and it wouldn’t be long before the resentment would be gone.
Try praying twice a day for anyone you resent and see if this doesn’t make for a positive solution.
Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
March 5, Mark 11: 27-33
Years ago there was a billboard you seemed to run across no matter where you went. It showed a man holding up a pack of cigarettes. He had a noticeable black eye and was quoted as saying, “I’d rather fight than switch.”
This seems to have been the attitude of the scribes and elders in today’s Gospel concerning the authority of Jesus and from whence it came. They would rather fight than switch. Stubbornness is the name of this attitude.
I guess we are all stubborn to a point toward what we believe and we have to be careful that we do not close up completely because of it. Jesus was constantly bemoaning people who had eyes but didn’t see and ears but could not hear, would not listen to what others had to say. Any of this in us? Do we get so attached to our opinions that we adamantly refuse to change them, that we close our eyes and ears to the opinions of others? Can I find an area in my life where I need to open up a bit and admit that I may possibly be wrong?