Seeking the Right Things Brings Peace of Mind

Feb 26, 2017: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:14-15
Psalms 62:2-3, 6-9
First Corinthians 4:1-5
Matthew 6:24-34

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

However, 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. Therefore, Jesus is telling us that we should not worry about bank accounts, mortgages, work, career, reputation, achievements, and 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.” The Greek word translated “seek” (zeteo) is a rich verb. It means to want eagerly, to look for actively, to strive for, and to set one’s heart on.

All of us here already believe in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, 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.

However, if we seek first His Kingdom, then “all these other things will be given us as well.”

This does not 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 do not 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.

The strength of soul and peace of heart that we all desire comes only when we are “seeking first God’s Kingdom.”

How exactly do we do that?

Seek Christ’s Kingdom means above all obeying God’s will.

This is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done.” 90% of the time, God’s will is clear. It means following the commandments and the moral teachings of the Church. This is why we have to make an ongoing effort to study the Bible and Church teaching. Unless we know what Jesus is asking us to do and how He is asking us to live, we will drift away from Him, until we drift right out of the Church. [Here you may want to highlight some ongoing formation programs or resources in your parish.] 10% of the time, God’s will is less clear cut. Should I take this job promotion or switch careers? Should I marry this person or that? Is God calling me to be a priest; to enter religious or consecrated life?

For those decisions, we need good advice from people we can trust, and we need to seek guidance from God in prayer. As Pope Benedict said during his visit to New York in 2008 as he was speaking to the youths in Dunwoodie Seminary of New York: “What matters most is that you develop your personal relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in prayer.” Through a healthy prayer life we receive strength to do God’s will when it seems hard, and also light to see God’s will when it’s dark.

Today Jesus will renew His commitment to us in this Mass. When He does, let’s renew our commitment to seek His Kingdom first.

If we do, “all these other things” will be given us as well.

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