Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Feb. 26, 2017

Father Shawn Hughes


Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week.  Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it.  ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time.  If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.  

God bless you.

Father Shawn

“Do not worry about your life… Do not worry about tomorrow.”

One of the most difficult problems that we must deal with in our earthly life is worry/fear.  We worry about/are anxious about many things and spend a lot of time worrying, often about events over which we have no control.  In his initial speech as Pope, St. John Paul II repeated the phrase “Be Not Afraid” three times meaning “Don’t Worry!”, “Trust God!  Have deeper Faith!”  Scripture scholars tell us that the phrase “Be Not Afraid!” is the most repeated phrase in the whole Bible.  It appears over 300 times.

St. Padre Pio is known for his motto, “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”.  Despite such positive advice from these and other holy individuals, many of us still struggle with worry, fear and anxiety on a regular basis.  It becomes especially apparent when we face uncertainty in our lives.  Does God want us to worry during these difficult times?  No!  St. Ignatius of Loyola, the master of the spiritual life and founder of the Jesuits,  clearly states that for people who are trying to live a life pleasing to God, the movement of the  God, what he calls the good spirit,  within us is to strengthen, encourage, console, remove obstacles, and give peace. However, the enemy, what he calls the evil spirit tries to derail those who are trying to live a life pleasing to God by stirring up anxiety, false sadness, needless confusion, frustration, and other obstacles. We need to be aware of what is in our heart, understand that worry is from the enemy trying to draw us away from God, and then we must act upon it.

Worry, fear and anxiety are addressed often in the Bible.  In the Old Testament, one of the earliest references to this subject is in the Book of Genesis when the Lord tells Abram, “Fear not, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great” (Gen 15:1).  Another instance occurs when He tells Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).  In the Book of Psalms, we read “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1) and in the beautiful 23rd Psalm:   “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me” (Ps 23:4).  In each of these cases either in His own words or speaking through various individuals, the Lord commands us to abandon our fear and have complete, complete trust in Him.

Jesus also spoke about anxiety many times during the course of His public ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount, the gospel we have just heard, Jesus proclaims “Do not be anxious about your life” and reminds us that being anxious does not help at all:  we cannot add “one cubit to our life’s span”.  In case we somehow still miss the point, Jesus repeats twice more, “Do not be anxious”, and specifically cautions against worrying about the future (Mt 6:25-34).  We are all familiar with the story of the storm at sea when the frightened Apostles panicked and fearing for their lives woke Jesus as he was sleeping.  (Mt 8:23-27, Mk 4:35-40, Lk 8:22-25).  After calming the sea, Jesus asked why they were afraid and then questioned their faith.  Jesus constantly urged His disciples to trust Him and have no fear.  He asks the same of us.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, there are more occasions where people are warned against fear.  Sometimes the message comes from an angel, as when Gabriel appeared to Zechariah (Lk 1:13) and to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:30), telling them both to “not be afraid”.  An angel also brought the same message to the shepherds when he announced the birth of the Lord (Lk 2:10).  St. Paul tells us that we should be “free from anxieties” (1 Cor 7:32) and St. John tells us that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

The English word ‘worry’ comes from the Old German, wyrgan, which means “to strangle” or “to choke”.  Worry strangles or chokes our trust in God.

God does not want us to worry needlessly.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t prepare for the future and tend to important daily matters.  Rather, it means that we shouldn’t worry about things which are out of our control.  A key spiritual question is: “Can I do anything about this?”  If we cannot then we must turn to the Lord in trust, in faith, and turn it over to him.

For the most part, we worry because we don’t fully trust God’s plan for our lives.  Sometimes it’s very difficult to trust, especially when we encounter painful and difficult situations.  When we our confronted with a serious illness…our own…Or a loved one’s,  when we are confronted with loneliness, unemployment and other difficulties, even death,…all of these can shake our faith, shake our trust in God.   Scripture tells us that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. It is a key Scripture: Romans 8:28.  God never causes evil.  But when evil, suffering, even tragedy occur God must have allowed them and therefore can only bring good from them because the fruit of His action can only be good.  If we can trust him at this level, that no matter what takes place, he will bring greater good from it, then we can receive anything that happens with the peace that comes from that level of trust.

What are we to do in the face of painful, difficult situations?  Worrying does no good…Our gospel today emphasises this…none of us can add one breath to our life…What are we to do?

Scripture gives us the antidote to worry.  St. Peter says in his first letter chapter 5 verse 7 “Cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you.” and St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians chapter 4 verse 7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

  • Thus Scripture tells us the first and main thing we must do as the antidote to worry is to pray. Prayer deepens our trust in God.  Immediately when we notice our hearts beginning to worry we should turn to the prayer Jesus gave us: The Our Father and pray it until the worrying subsides.  Ask God to be with you in this situation.  Ask Him to deepen your trust in Him.   Regular daily prayer deepens our faith.  Remember St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s  business card:  “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace“

…The fruit of prayer is faith…Many of us have gotten so used to living with worry and anxiety that we sometimes forget the antidote…to pray.  Our fears will fade as our faith increases.  The more we pray the more we trust and have faith in God’s plan even though we don’t understand it and even though what is taking place may hurt incredibly.

  • Worry, on some level, shows a lack of trust, a lack of faith in God. We need to turn to the Scriptures to see many examples of individuals who trusted God even when it didn’t make sense: Abraham, Moses, The Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Paul and St. Peter and many others trusted in the Lord’s plan, even though they didn’t have all the details and even though it brought great suffering to them. God’s word, Scripture, brings us comfort and gives us direction.  Reading the Scriptures regularly gives us a sense of God’s plan.

At the Men’s Conference several of us were at last Saturday, the keynote speaker, Father Larry Richards said we should incorporate the maxim:  ‘No Bible No Breakfast!  No Bible No Bed.’  into our daily prayer routine.  Meaning that every day we don’t have breakfast without first praying with Scripture for some period of time and that we don’t retire for bed unless we once again have visited the Scriptures.

  • The third antidote to worry is to receive The Sacraments often:   – One of the best ways to boost your faith is to frequently receive the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.  We are flooded with graces that increase our faith in ways we never thought possible.

In Confession, at the end of the prayer of absolution, the prayer that wipes away your sins, the priest says:  ‘May God grant you pardon and peace.’ The most emphasised grace of the Sacrament of confession is pardon, forgiveness of sin.  However, equally significant as a fruit of confession is the grace of peace.  Those who go to confession often…And everyone should go at least once a month…Receive the forgiveness of their sins…but they also know a great peace that those who don’t go often don’t experience.

Lent begins this upcoming Wednesday.  It is always good during Lent to fast from whatever in your life draws us away from God…worry would be a great thing to fast from throughout Lent.  The three spiritual practices I have just stated would be an excellent Lenten program. Every time we catch ourselves worrying to pray quickly, on the spot:   “Come Holy Spirit?”  “Pray the our Father” and for Lent add a bit more time to your daily prayer routine.  The fruit of Prayer is Faith.  Deeper Faith drives worry away.

2) Secondly:  Take up the Scriptures each day during Lent.  A suggestion would be to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’s Passion Narrative from the Last Supper through to the Resurrection to deepen our preparation for Holy Week…Or another…Commit to reading one of the gospels from beginning to end…I would strongly suggest John’s gospel for this Lent.

3) Thirdly come to the sacraments more often during Lent:  Go to confession at the beginning of Lent and as Lent comes to a close.  There are reviews of how to go to confession and how to prepare for confession at the doors of the Church.  Get to confession in these upcoming weeks, at least once, twice would be better…and more if you need it.  You know there is a priest in the confessional for at least one half hour before every Mass that takes place in this cathedral.  Also from 1 to 5 pm on Wednesdays and 4 to 5 pm on Saturdays.  Plenty of Opportunity.  And more will be added as Lent progresses.

Come to Mass more often this Lent.  Be sure and get out for one of the Ash Wednesday Masses this Wednesday.  There is a Mass at 7:45 am, Archbishop O’Brien will celebrate the 12:10 noon Mass and there will be another Mass at 7 pm so that you have every opportunity to receive the Blessed Ashes.   If you are retired try coming to daily Mass during Lent…you know that Mass is available at least twice a day here at the cathedral.  If you are working there is an early morning 7:45 am Mass.  For those that are working and with young families, try to get out to Mass once or a couple of extra times a week.  That is how we grow in peace, this is how we grow in Faith, in Trust…these are the best antidotes to worry…especially for those dealing with difficult issues or loved ones are dealing with difficult issues.  The Blessed Sacrament is exposed for Adoration  in St. James’ chapel from 8:15 am through to 8 pm almost every single day.  If you can’t get out to Mass plan regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

Also there is a wonderful, prayerful, meditation aid from Magnificat to help your prayer this Lent.  It is available at the doors of the church for a toonie.  The traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are suggested for Lent to make more room for the Lord in our daily lives.

Don’t let this Lent pass you by without building your Faith, without building your trust in the Lord.   It doesn’t just come…we don’t just naturally have it…We have to work at it…So I encourage you to take advantage of this season of Lent and really work at your life of prayer, your reading of Scripture and your practice of the Sacraments.   If we enter into this season of preparation in this way we can truly come to appreciate the depth of the Lord’s love for us in His Suffering, Death and Resurrection and therefore trust Him.

Thus, in trust and absolute faith we will always be able to see that our own struggles, our own sufferings, sicknesses and deaths are not meaningless but are always followed by resurrections…For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) In all things.

There is an old saying: “Courage, Hope, Faith, Trust are fears that have said their prayers.”