Lay Aside All Cares and Worries - Seek First the Kingdom of God
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
Why worry about anything? Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all your worries will be taken care of by Your Father in Heaven!
This is the message of today’s Gospel – an important lesson that reminds us not to worry too much or not to put ourselves in the place of God by thinking that we have to solve all our own problems. Christ tells us that the answer to this problem of worrying - “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be taken care of.”
Let us look at this problem of worrying. Many of us worry about things we cannot control. We worry about the future, when the future may still be a long way off. We worry about what others will do or think, even though we can’t control how others behave. We worry about little details or insignificant points in life. We worry about the world and all its problems. We worry about too many things that are out of our control. People even become sick, developing ulcers, high blood pressure or stress because of too much worrying.
Christ tells us today, “Stop worrying. Don’t forget that you have a loving father in heaven who knows all your problems and difficult situations better than you yourself know them. Turn to him and allow God to take care of you. Look around and see how wonderfully God takes care of the birds and animals of nature. Don’t you think God is more concerned with human beings than with animals?”
The prophet Isaiah gives a beautiful image when he says, “God carved each of us in the palm of his hand.” God is a master craftsman who takes great care to create a masterpiece with each human being he gives life. We know that a great craftsman does not create a masterpiece and then simply cast it aside. Instead, he takes great care, showing it to others with pride. This is what God does with all of us. We are his masterpiece. When he sees his masterpiece in need, he knows better than we ourselves how to take care of us! And he will – in his time and in his way. But we must be patient and believe.
Remember, God loves us more than we can even imagine. The Bible is filled with images describing God’s unconditional love for humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The image of the cross is the best symbol of God’s love for us. His outstretched arms are reaching out to each of us, saying, “I love you.” If God loves us so much, why do we forget that he will take care of our daily needs.
St. Peter emphasizes this love in his first letter when he writes, “Cast all your anxieties on God, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7). To cast one’s anxieties on God means to believe that God is near us, taking an interest in our lives. Do not think of God as someone who lives far away, uninterested in our daily affairs. Instead he is as a loving and caring father who looks over his child with the most tender concern. Think of the example of a young child. The young child turns to his parents for every little concern. Many times the child even thinks that his father can do everything in the world. God has revealed to us that he is our father, even more loving and careful than the greatest of earthly fathers. Just as an earthly father takes care of his children, even more so our heavenly father will take care of us.
We must turn to God with such childlike faith for our daily worries and problems. But at the same time, we must be responsible children who think, plan and act. St. Augustine wrote, “We must work as if everything depended on us, but we must trust as if everything depended on God.” The secret of casting one’s anxieties on the Lord is to be like children in simplicity and faith, while at the same time we plan and work as mature adults.
A second and similar problem for many of us is that we put ourselves in the place of God. When we forget to cast our anxieties on God, we begin to think that we have to take care of our anxieties ourselves. We try to do the work of God. A sincere Christian is a person who knows what he can do and does it. But he also has humility to know what he cannot do. And what he cannot do, he leaves in the capable hands of the almighty God, trusting in His goodness and care!
For both of these problems, worrying and trying to do the work of God, Jesus tells us that the solution is to ‘seek first the kingdom of God.’ Let the main concern of our life be God and striving to journey down the path that leads to His kingdom. Let us put Christ at the forefront of our lives and strive to live according to His ways. If we focus on what is most important, and are in constant communion with Him, then God will take care of the other details of our lives.
Remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of the sisters Martha and Mary. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to all his words, while Martha was busy serving and doing much work. Finally, when Martha got frustrated that her sister wasn’t helping, she asked Jesus to tell her sister to get up and help serve. But Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but one thing is needful, and Mary has chosen the better part.”
How many of us are like Martha who forget about the “one thing needful?” We are so busy with daily concerns, that we forget what is most important in life. We allow our little worries to make us forget that our life is in the care of God; we forget about the center of life, which should be our communion and union with God.
God tells us that if we focus on what is most important in life - the kingdom of God - than we will see life from a different perspective. We will learn to trust more in God, we will learn to turn over all our concerns in prayer to God, and we will learn to be at peace with whatever situations or problems we face in life. Think of the example of the saints. How many of them worried about what they would eat, or drink, or wear? Of course, they faced unimaginable difficulties and problems, yet they believed that God was in control of all. As Saint Paul told the Christians in Philippi, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
So let us leave the church today laying aside our worries and anxieties, whether about our daily concerns, or even about our uncertain future. Instead, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things will be taken care of!