Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Inner Peace

The opening words of today' second reading from Corinthians grabs our attention: I want you to be free from all anxieties. Is this not appealing? Stress is a most common and uncomfortable experiences in our present day life. It drains our energy, makes us irritable, prevents us from getting a good night's sleep.

But the rest of the passage from St Paul is somewhat disconcerting to put it mildly. But then Paul was writing for a different time, for a specific culture, and community. The challenge for us is to discern the message for our day, and it is the importance of having the right balance between the "things of the world" and the "the things of God". Our lives are about relationship; relationship with God and with others. Paul's advice on how to overcome our anxieties is twofold - to acknowledge God's presence and come to Him with an undivided heart.

In the gospel we see Jesus as bringing peace, even to a disturbed situation. The psalm reminds us that God is maker of all and has called us to be the chose people of his flock and we are encouraged to listen to his voice... just as Jesus told the possessed man to "be quiet". Godly power is gentle. "Be still and know that I am God". Finding God in those places that cause anxiety brings us peace.

Instead of asking 'Why this?' the question we should ask is 'Where is God in this?' In a spirit of quiet prayer let us open our hearts and allow God to embrace us and calm our anxieties.

Paul tells us that the cause of stress is a certain division within ourselves. The half-heartedness and the half-way measures we take in handling our lives makes for anxiety. Living by double standards, compromising our principles, walking both sides of the fence, we literally tear ourselves apart. And Paul's prescription is undivided devotion to the Lord.

When Paul speaks of undivided devotion to the Lord, he is not advocating that we give up our everyday responsibilities and spend our days in church, what he is asking is that we have one principle to govern the way we live. That principle is Jesus and his teachings. In times of stress we should ask ourselves What would Jesus do?

We are to put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus, as we know him. How would he think? What would he say? What would he do? How would he handle my anxiety?

Stress and anxiety come about when we are confused and don't know what to do. Living in God's presence with single-hearted devotion will end our confusion and provide us with a lasting focus.

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, C.M.