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2/26/17 Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

We would all like to be free from worry and anxiety. 

But Christ's words in today's Gospel passage seem too good to be true. He tells us to stop worrying about the things we all worry about - material, worldly things, what he calls "mammon." "Mammon" comes from a Greek word meaning material goods and possessions - things that money can buy. So Jesus is telling us that we shouldn't worry about bank accounts, mortgages, work, career, reputation, achievements, success.

He is warning us that those things cannot satisfy our hearts, and that if we care too much about them, they will separate us from God and from the peace of mind that comes only from a strong friendship with Christ.

Then he tells us how to stop worrying about those things. "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness," Jesus says, "and all these other things will be given you as well."

All of us here already believe in Jesus Christ. But today Jesus is asking us how deeply we believe. How actively are we seeking to know, love and follow Jesus Christ? How firmly is our heart set on his Kingdom? How eagerly and energetically are we striving to achieve righteousness, which is success in God's eyes, as opposed to success in the world's eyes? When our hearts are divided, when we try to find happiness both in our friendship with Christ and in our worldly successes, we end up losing both - we cannot serve two masters.

But if we seek first his Kingdom, then "all these other things will be given us as well."

This doesn't mean that Christians never experience feelings of anxiety. Rather, it means that we know what to do with them. We know how to deal with them. This is the difference between struggles and stress. Everyone in life has to struggle at times - this is because earth is not heaven; we live in a fallen world, so problems will always accompany us. Stress, the enervating plague of modern, post-Christian society, is what happens when we are forced to face and overcome struggles without having a reason to do so.

Think of two ships on a stormy sea.  One ship has a clear destination, a good map, sturdy sails, and a strong rudder. The storm comes up, and the crew has to work hard and suffer to keep the ship on course, but they can do it, because they have the necessary vision and tools. The second ship has no destination, no sails, no rudder - it's just drifting along enjoying life day by day as best it can. When the storm comes up, this second ship is completely at the mercy of the wind and the waves. Its passengers are helpless and hopeless.

When we are seeking Christ's Kingdom first, we are like the first ship: we struggle, but with the inner peace that comes from knowing life's true purpose.

When we don't seek Christ's Kingdom first, we too become helpless and hopeless amid the inevitable storms of life. 

The treadmill of stress steals our inner peace and strength.

If we seek his Kingdom first, all these other things will be given us as well.

That's Jesus' promise

But what does it mean to "seek his Kingdom first"?

At the very least, it means three things.

First, it means obeying God's commandments, which we find in the Bible and Church teaching, and which we apply to our own lives through the voice of conscience. In the Our Father, we pray, "Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done..." Christ is a King, a ruler. And so those who dwell in and benefit from his Kingdom should obey his laws.

Second, seeking Christ's Kingdom means constantly striving to get know Jesus Christ better and better through prayer and Christian meditation. Jesus is a unique King, because he longs for his subjects' friendship. He wants to be part of our lives, to walk with us.

Third, we need to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to help bring others closer to Christ. This isn't as hard as we may think. All we have to do is remember that God is the real source of happiness. And then, since we want those around us to find the path to happiness, it will be natural to work positively to bring those around us closer to God.

Today Jesus will renew his commitment to us during the sacrifice of this Mass. 

When we receive him in Holy Communion, let's renew our commitment to him, and promise to make a special effort this week to seek his Kingdom first.

 

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