Worry and faith: Who do I really trust?
Living the Word l Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSF
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time l June 25
Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69:8-10,14,17,33-35; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33
“Yes, I hear the whisperings of many: ‘Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him!’ All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine, ‘Perhaps he will be trapped, (they say); then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.’” (Jeremiah 20:10)
Jeremiah, the prophet, is in a wretched way. Those Jeremiah thought were his friends turn into his persecutors who are out for him. Poor Jeremiah! He is locked in his own fear and mistrust! He has never really wanted to do God’s bidding. He had protested in his youth that he was too young. But now, he was in terror. From every side he was being accosted — paralyzed with fear.
In this very personal expression of his feelings, Jeremiah records what we all might have said at one time in our lives. We find ourselves hoping for the worst for others. It justifies to us, even as a Christian, prejudice and vengeance. After all, it is not too difficult to imagine wanting cruel bullies to suffer for their actions of hate. But is that who we are?
I am reminded of the well-quoted story of the Ukrainian woman who offered some Russian soldiers a bit of an ironic gift. After calling them invaders and fascists, she handed one of them flower seeds, saying he should keep the seeds in his pocket so that they would grow once he was buried under Ukrainian soil.
WE MUST CHOOSE
St. Paul gives us a clear and challenging look at the response to sin. Because of the gracious gift of Jesus in his suffering and death, we have a pattern of new life — a life formed to the image and likeness of God, who draws us into a new kingdom and new way of thinking and living. Jesus, in his worst hours, lets go of his overwhelming fear because he trusts his Father. In this new world of God’s reign, Jesus shows the way of the true disciple: “Do not let them intimidate you. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed and nothing hidden that will not become known.” (Matthew 10: 26)
We are invited to live in a world of peace where trust is our guiding light. . . . Love that flows from trust in God rather than in ourselves disarms an enemy and nourishes everyone.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a compelling image of trust in God: “Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. . . . So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10: 29a)
The birds of the air give sharp contrast to the worry and fear that can sometimes grip us. The birds, which have no other reason to exist than to sing, teach us to let go of fear and know the freedom of God. Trusting in God means letting go of worry and control. Trusting in God has us see God rather than ourselves at the center.
Jeremiah, in the last analysis, comes down on the side of faith. “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion; my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. . . . To you I have entrusted my cause.” (Jeremiah 20:11,12b)
To describe our challenge as a follower of Jesus in his trust of the Father, “there is not enough room in your mind for both worry and faith. You must decide which one gets to live there.” (Author unknown)
SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.