On the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, with the beginning of Lent on the horizon, we read another section from the Sermon on the Mount. We have been reading from this sermon since the last Sunday in January, and it is the first time we skip materials. For instance, we have skipped the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, or the passage of the sermon that is used for Ash Wednesday (the one about prayer, fasting and almsgiving.)
Jesus still teaches his disciples. What we hear today is very specific advice, one that could apply to anybody of any time in history. In short, do not let greed rule your life, and do not worry.
The famous line, “No one can serve both God and Mammon,” has been made a reflection about money. Rather than against money, Jesus is advising against the deity of greed–Mammon. Money is neutral, neither good nor bad; it is about what we do with it, and whether we let it run our lives. Jesus warns us against our natural tendency to accumulate. We can live with less, and it is not only good morally but also it is actually good for us. We do not need as much as we think we need.
Many people think that they would be happier only if we would make a bit more money, or if we would get a bigger house, or a nicer car. But studies show that once we have reached a certain wealth, we enter into a vicious cycle: we get more, we need more. The minute our power of acquisition grows, our perceived standard of happiness also gets higher.
Connected with this, Jesus also speaks about worry. However, it is important to realize that Jesus is not a “flower child.” He is not just telling us, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Jesus does not deny there are things that are worrisome, serious difficulties that could consume us. He just tells us that worry does not do anything to solve whatever difficult issues we are facing.
According to the dictionary, worry is to give way to unease, to play out in our minds future difficult scenarios. I suggest three remedies against worry, three things we could do instead of worrying.
We can pray: Worry is really a conversation with oneself about things we have no control over, whereas, prayer is a conversation with God about things God controls already.
We can share: I can find someone to talk to about things I would worry about. It can just be venting, or maybe the other person can give me a new perspective. We tend to bottle things up and isolate ourselves when we experience bad news or any kind of difficulty.
And we can take it one day at a time: We worry because we think about a past that is not there anymore and cannot be changed, or about a future that is not here yet…when Jesus is a carpe diem kind of guy. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for our daily bread, not the bread of next week or the following year. As the gospel states, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”