“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on…For all the nations of the world seek these things and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:22, 30-32)
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on…”
To which we all say: Easier said than done! Worry, it seems, just comes naturally to us, particularly with regards to each of these areas. Who doesn’t want to have solid plans for the future, nice things to eat, or to look attractive and well kempt? Of course, we all do! Nobody wants to just “get by”; we all want to live as well as well can, to enjoy as much security and pleasure as is possible in this life. Unfortunately, however, the process of actually making this happen is often fraught with insecurity and struggle.
In the midst of the daily grind towards success and satisfaction, Jesus’ command to turn away from these worries in order to seek the kingdom of God may sound idealistic, particularly if our struggle is driven more by our desire to provide for our loved ones than it is for ourselves. It seems a far more practical (and safe!) option to seek to obtain these things according to our own ability and relegate to God only the ‘moral’ and ‘ethical’ issues of life. After all what if what He ultimately gives us is, at best, the generic brand version of our dreams and desires when what we really want are, at the very least, the name-brand and (if possible!) designer-label versions?
This, of course, is the oldest fear in the book—as old as the Garden of Eden, itself: the fear that either God will deprive us of our desires, or that what He does provide will ultimately prove to be an impoverished version of what is truly good and worth obtaining. As we saw in Eden, when this fear is mixed with pride—the confidence that we truly do know better than God—the results are disastrous: both for our lives and the lives of those we love.
Against the corrosive effects of this fear and distrust of God’s goodness, Jesus calls us to detachment from these things, not because these things don’t matter or because God wants to divest us of their pleasure, but because he wants to free us from the control that they have over us, so that we may more fully experience his abundant life. Detachment does not mean not desiring these things, but rather subjecting our desire for them to an even greater desire: the fulfillment of the will of God in our lives and in the world around us, trusting that He who did not spare His son, will likewise not spare his beloved children any good thing.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1)—free from the fear and insecurity that are inevitably bred when the attachments of our lives, however good and beautiful they may be, determine our happiness and satisfaction, for this is a role they can never adequately fulfill. Only when we are freed from their control can we then experience more completely to the all-encompassing and unfailing love of God in Christ.
“Fear not, little flock!” He knows the process of detachment is difficult, painful and riddled with fear. Trust, however, that it is the Father’s good pleasure not to give you moderately good things, but the best of all things: His very life, through the Holy Spirit and, as promised here, the kingdom of God.
“Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? . . . No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.”
(Pope Benedict XVI)
Kathleeen Durham is Vice President of Alighieri Press. She also serves as an author, editor and speaker
photo credit: www.stevesevy.com