Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” (Matt.6:25)

Worry is really a misuse of two wonderful faculties God has given us to make life more enjoyable. God has given us a memory so that we could reach back into memory’s storeroom and relive and re-enjoy the wonderful moments of success and happiness in our past lives. Unfortunately we use the memory more often to call forth moments of sorrow and failure and in their remembrance re-suffer and regret them.

God has also given us an imagination which enables us to cooperate with Him in the development of the world. Every discovery, every invention, every piece of art is the fruit of someone’s imagination. Without imagination the world would indeed be dull. Unfortunately, we use our imagination more often to project future possible difficulties and trials and in their anticipation suffer more than in the reality.

We are all historians and prophets. We live in the past and in the future when the only reality is the present. We would all worry less if we realized how unreasonable it is. Shadow boxing is good training for a prizefighter, but to box imaginary ills is a waste of time and a drain of energy. Worry is a luxury no one can afford. The cost is too high. It robs us of our sleep, takes away our appetite, drains off energy and can lead to a complete breakdown of health.

What are the remedies for worry? The first is to live in the present moment. This is the only reality. Spiritual writers speak of the sacrament of the present moment. Each moment is a sacrament, a visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Every moment of our life is a sensible sign coming to us in the concrete circumstances in which we find ourselves. Every moment of our life comes from Christ. And it brings with it grace. And this is the important point. It bring with it grace, not for yesterday, not for tomorrow, but for this present moment. Many breakdowns are the result of trying to carry yesterday’s load and tomorrow’s possible load on today’s grace. It cannot be done.

God knows human nature. He created it. And in His wisdom and mercy He knows better than to give His graces all at one time. He metes them out daily over the course of our lives. In the Sacrament of Matrimony, for example, the contracting parties do not receive on their wedding day all of the graces flowing from that sacrament. They would be squandered long before the end of the honeymoon. The grace they receive on their wedding day gives them the title to other graces which will be given as they are needed.

Yesterday is history. We commit it to the mercy of God. Past sins, if they have been confessed, are forgiven. These past sins can be the occasion of great graces. Jesus said that to whom little is forgiven loves little. Would the good thief on the cross have received the promise of paradise if he had not been a criminal who was crucified with Christ?

Tomorrow may never come. We commit it to the Providence of God. God rules the world and everything in it. Nothing happens by chance. Everything that happens in this world is either positively willed by God or at least permitted by God. And to those who love Him all of these things, the evil as well as the good, work together for good. We commit the past to the mercy of God and the future to the Providence of God. And we have the grace of God for today. “All of the flowers of all of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. By living today we make a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.”

As we have seen virtue stands in the middle. On one side of the virtue of hope is despair and on the other side is presumption. Whereas despair is a total loss of hope, presumption is based on a false hope. The one who ends up in despair started out to do it all himself. The one, who ends up in presumption, started out by expecting God to do it all. The unemployed laborer who sits at home and prays that God will send him a job without his searching for one is guilty of presumption. In itself presumption is not as serious a sin as despair. For the one who is presumptuous does not deny the mercy of God. In fact, he relies on God’s mercy to the total exclusion of His justice.

Without God we can do nothing. It is equally true that without us God will do nothing. St. Augustine said that God who created us without our willing it will not save us without our willing it. The virtue of hope does not make human effort superfluous, it demands it. So we must work as if it all depends on us and hope as if it all depends upon God. To try when there is little hope is to risk failure. Not to try at all is to guarantee it. “We do not take anything for granted, we take everything with gratitude.”



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