A Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Holy Ghost Church – 10:00 Mass
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
While many preachers today will be sharing their reflections on the parable of the vineyard found in today’s Gospel reading, I’d like to reflect on the 2nd reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians. I believe the message for us found in this reading is exceedingly important for our time. Through St. Paul, God is speaking to us in about our duty as Christians of always rejoicing and letting go of anxiety.
For many of us it may seem odd that St. Paul is urging us to rejoice and not to be anxious, as if we can change our mood simply by willing it. But this isn’t what he’s saying. He’s not telling us to lighten up. Rather he’s urging us to pray and petition God in EVERYTHING and to be grateful when we make our requests known to him. When we do this we will experience a peace that surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts and our minds from falling into anxiety.
We all know that there is much we could be anxious about today. We might be anxious about:
– how we’re going to pay the bills,
– is my loved one going to recover from his/her cancer,
– what are the schools teaching my kids and my grandkids,
– what’s happening to our country with all the division & outrage on display,
– why there is so much evil in the world,
– what’s really happening with global warming,
– how I should feel about the various factions and strife in the Church,
– and so much more.
Just spend some time on social media and you’ll see how anxious people are about these things and how angry they are toward those who have an ideology that’s different from theirs.
It’s especially concerning to me to see so many Christian people on social media constantly ranting and insulting others who see things differently than they do. Overall, people are anxious about so many things and this anxiety clearly does not bring peace or demonstrate gratefulness and trust in God.
I’d like us all to consider today that PRAYER is truly the remedy for all of this angst. I’d like to propose that anxiety is never necessary if we trust in God. This is because the three most nonnegotiable attributes of God are his INFINITE POWER, INFINITE WISDOM and INFINITE GOODNESS.
It’s totally reasonable and logical to believe that if God is ALL-POWERFUL, he can do anything he wills. If he is ALL-GOOD, he loves us and wills only our very best good. If God is ALL-WISE, he knows exactly what that best good is and he makes no mistakes. This is simply and purely reasonable. And while it’s NATURAL for us to experience anxiety, it’s also UNREASONABLE.
While anxiety expresses what is inside ourselves, it doesn’t express what the objective reality is. It doesn’t tell the truth about the world. Anxiety is like a fog that blinds us, not a light that teaches us. Anxiety is never from God.
Now I’m not trying to minimize the difficulties that many of us experience. Some of us have many more troubles than others at various times in our lives. What I am saying is that regardless of how difficult life may be for us, the truth is that we can entrust EVERYTHING to God.
We MUST BELIEVE that God is in control of EVERYTHING, of all the circumstances of our lives, both the good things that he loves and commands, and the evil things he hates but permits to happen, both small and great, from corns to cancers, from warts to wars.
An excellent prayer to express this total trust in God’s authority is the simple five-word prayer that God gave to St. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.” This is a prayer we should pray whenever we feel anxious.
Now a quick word about how to pray, how to approach God. When we pray we can do so one of two ways: in WORRY or with TRUST.
One way we are tempted to pray is with an attitude of WORRY that God may not hear, or understand, or love, or respond. In other words we essentially take a position of MISTRUST in God when we pray with worry.
The other position we can take in prayer is one of TRUST, with complete faith that God is God, that he knows us totally, loves us totally and is totally in control. He brings good, even out of evil, to all who trust him. That’s a promise. He did that on the cross and he can do it on all of our crosses too.
God’s remedy for anxiety is exceedingly practical. When we have done all we can do in any situation, we should leave the rest to the Lord and express in our prayer our TRUST in his love for us. When we give God our concerns, we must trust that he takes them. But if we continue to hold on to them, we haven’t really given them to him. We must let go and let God.
Finally, consider Paul’s exhortation at the conclusion of today’s second reading. “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Here St. Paul is telling us to shift our focus from the faults we find in others and to look for the good.
In today’s second reading, Paul gives us the keys to eliminating anxiety in our lives, the keys for experiencing the peace of God.
1. Trust God to join you in carrying your crosses
2. Thank him in your prayers for all he has done and is doing for you
3. When you give him your problems, let go of them and let him take them
4. Always see the good in others and in the circumstances of your life
Practice these four things and you will surely experience less anxiety and, as St. Paul promises, the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God bless you.