In the prayer of the Mass following the Lord’s Prayer, the priest prays that God “protect us from all anxiety.” In today’s scripture readings the liturgy seems to be addressing the anxieties of daily living, the experience of which can cause us to feel far from God. Some, perhaps overwhelmed by anxiety, even give up on God and cease to believe. This is the anxiety expressed in today’s First Reading by the City of God, Zion, whose citizens have been forced into exile: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” God replies, saying that even if the impossible should happen–that a mother’s love for her child should fail–God will not forget his people; God’s love will not fail. After all, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
In today’s Gospel Jesus admonishes us not to place more trust in material things than in God. Doing so only increases our anxiety. Material things and even money itself are bound to fail us. God does not fail us. Even when this world passes away, and even when we pass away from this world, God remains.
Jesus uses examples from nature to show that God knows his creatures. He delights in the plants and animals, and their beauty is his design. Each creature fulfills its purpose according to God’s plan. Yet none of them is as precious in God’s sight as we are. None of them has been created in the image and likeness of God, as we are. None of them has been redeemed with the Precious Blood of God the Son, as we are. So why worry? Jesus says in the Gospel that it is because our faith is weak. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
Today’s Responsorial Psalm refrain directs us to God, who protects us from all anxiety. The great Saint Augustine spent a good part of his life searching for peace of mind, which he didn’t find until he found the God who had been with him all along. In his autobiographical Confessions, addressed to God, he summed it up: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” His experience affirms the words of the psalm: “Only in God is my soul at rest.”
Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday, March 1. The regulations for fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent are found elsewhere in the bulletin as well as the schedule of Masses and services for both parishes. Students in both the earlier religious education program will attend the Mass at 4:15 at St. Charles. Students in the later religious education program will attend the 7:00 Mass at St. Charles. There will be no class at McDonell that evening.
While fasting and abstinence are good Lenten penances that enhance our self-discipline, they go hand in hand with works of charity or almsgiving. The children of our diocese traditionally have their “mite boxes” in which they may put a daily offering. These proceeds go to support our former diocesan mission in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. This year we have something similar for adults called Operation Rice Bowl. The idea is that what we save by fasting or “giving something up for Lent” we can use to feed the poor. So this weekend and on Ash Wednesday you are invited to take home a “rice bowl” into which you can put these daily savings or, as I do, just write out a check at the end of Lent. These proceeds go to Catholic Relief Services, an agency of the United States Catholic Bishops. This international relief agency was first on the scene after Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and the Caribbean. So let’s all—child or adult—make a difference as we strive to grow in holiness and charity this Lent.
If you would be so kind, please pray the Rosary this week for Father Allen Jakubowski, who is seriously ill, and for my recovery from rotator-cuff surgery. Pray for all participating in our Alpha series. As always pray for peace and the safety of military personnel serving abroad.
May God bless his people with peace.