Friday, October 3, 2014


Isaiah 5:1-7        Philippians 4:6-9         Matthew 21:33-43

*In the version of the Roman Missal that we used
after the Second Vatican Council up to a few years ago,
the following prayer was said by the priest
after we all prayed the Lord’s Prayer together:
“Deliver us, O Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Occasionally I would hear some priests substitute the words,
“unnecessary worry” for the word “anxiety.”
I suppose that it was thought that some people
might not have the proper understanding
of the word “anxiety”
and that the words “unnecessary worry”
better expressed the meaning in the prayer.
In the current edition of the Roman Missal
the text is:
“Deliver us, O Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,
that, by the help of your mercy,
we may always be free from sin
and safe from all distress,
as we await the blessed hope
and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

My point is: There seemed to be some concern
associated with the use of the word “anxiety.”


For me, the word “anxiety” just means “worry,”
worry about what will happen
in some situation where the outcome is not known.
Today’s second reading is about anxiety.
Apparently St. Paul was in prison
and facing death for his continuing to preach Jesus Christ
when he wrote this letter to the people of Phillipi.
So he might have been dealing with his own anxiety.

Worry is a natural emotion.
Martha worried about how Jesus would be fed and comforted
when He visited her and her sister Mary.
I feel sure that Peter worried about what would happen to him
when Jesus revealed to him that
he, Jesus, would have to suffer, die
and rise from the dead.
The chief priests and the elders worried
about what would happen to them
if Jesus continued his ministry.
We all worry about things, past, present and future:
the results of the set of tests ordered by our physician,
the health and well-being of a lost relative.
the health of a baby in the womb,
our ability to pay the monthly bills,
the spread of the ebola virus,
the threat of terrorism in our country,
an impending test in a difficult school subject.

Worry can drag us down;
it can sap our strength to move forward;
it can stop us in our tracks, if we let it.
Generally we worry about things that are important to us,
high priority items.


Here is a story, apparently true (New York Times):
**There is a substance, called trichloroethane,
which has been used as a propellant in spray cans
of some household cleaners.
The propellant is toxic when the product is used improperly.
In the 1980’s, teenagers discovered that they could get high
by spraying the material in a plastic bag
and inhaling the fumes of trichloroethane in the bag.
I remember that this process was called “huffing.”
Even though the label on the can clearly warned
of death or serious injury,
some young people ignored the warning
and at least one death resulted from that use.

The company wanted to make the warning more emphatic
by printing it on the can in larger letters.
The company lawyer argued that larger letters
might only indicate to the teenagers that
the product contained more of the inhalant.
The lawyer asked the rhetorical question,
“What do the kids worry about more than death?”
His answer was “their appearance.”
So they rewrote the warning to include that the product could
cause hair loss and facial disfigurement.
That addition may not have been true,
but there were no more reported deaths
from inhaling that substance.

What we fear and worry about controls us, and
 what we fear results from our values.


St. Paul has given us the way to avoid anxiety.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.”
Have the right set of values and your fears will be eliminated.
Making your needs known to God is primary;
bring God into the picture.
Take your worries to God in prayer,
in an intimate conversation between you and Him.
That means that you have to be close enough to God,
familiar enough with God,
in a regular relationship with God,
in order to have that conversation.
Make that type of relationship with God
a high priority value in your life.

Then ask God for what you need; don’t demand it.
A petition is a request for help with our needs,
always understanding that God will grant our requests,
if that is what is best for us according to His will.
Make faith in God’s providence
a high priority value in your life.

And St. Paul says that we must do this with thanksgiving.
Sounds odd doesn’t it?
How can we ask for a gift and at the same time give thanks.
If we have true faith in God’s providence,
then we should be immediately thankful for the outcome,
whatever it might be.
At the very least, we should be thankful with the outcome,
when it comes.
Make giving regular thanks to God a high priority.

This was St. Paul’s attitude as he wrote from prison,
this is the attitude he wanted for the Philippians
and this is the attitude we need
to help us to avoid or at least deal with anxiety.
And if we follow St. Paul’s direction, what will we have?

I don’t mean the lack of war or armed conflict.
Not the lack of department in-fighting in a company.
Not the lack of petty family squabbles.
I mean an inner peace, the lack of anxiety,
the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
We do not understand God’s plan for us.
It is not for us to understand; it is for us to follow.
Paul goes on to tell us how to follow God’s plan.
We can’t be at peace if we lie and do other dishonorable deeds,
if we are unjust and impure in our actions,
if we act in an ugly or rude manner.

We must strive for excellence and things that are praiseworthy.
“Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Peace be with you! Sound familiar?
It’s the peace referred to in that prayer at Mass
right after the Lord’s Prayer; listen for it again:
“Deliver us, O Lord, we pray, from every evil,
graciously grant peace in our days,…”
It’s the peace that we are to wish for each other
at the exchange of the sign of peace:
not a freedom from the conflicts and arguments
of everyday life--that would be nice too--,
but a freedom from anxiety in knowing
that God is there for us.
That is the same peace in which I will dismiss you
at the end of Mass, when I sing, “Go in Peace.”
I choose that form of the dismissal, because
for me, that means that we all have grown in our faith in God,
as we have celebrated this Mass,
that the worries that we have brought to this Mass
have been eliminated or at least reduced,
so that we can truly leave here in peace.

*Overall idea for this homily came from “Sunday Seeds” by Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, Columbia Press 2002, Dublin, Ireland p 63

**Story taken from “750 Engaging Illustrations…” by Craig Brian Larson et al, Baker Books, Grand Rapids 2002 p 171 #214