Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on March 6th at the Mother of the Light Convent

The Maronite Liturgy moves us from the first week of reflection on fasting as a spiritual discipline, which leads us into the virtue of detachment not only from food but anything that becomes an obstacle to growth in grace and relationship with God.

St. Matthew gives us a passage today to help us with this transition: Do not be anxious about your life or what you eat or what you drink! Do not the birds have everything they need; and are you not much more valuable to the Father than a flock of birds? …do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself! (cf. Mt 6: 25-34). This beautiful passage shows the value of all the ordinary things of life, and to put our trust in God’s fatherly protection. He is teaching us that trust means to abandon ourselves from ourselves or anyone/thing that is an obstacle to Divine Providence.

Union with the Divine is our ultimate goal, but distractions of various kinds can detour us from that final destination. As we saw in our last reflection we get back on the straight and narrow and reorder our priorities through the Sacraments.

Matthew concludes this section today with a stark admonition: It is not possible to be a servant of two masters. Ultimately you will choose to love one and despise the other, you will choose grace or you will choose sin (cf. Mt 6: 24).

St. Paul in his letter today to the Thessalonians, a very short one caused by the Jews who had forced him out of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 17: 5 – 10) preventing him from completing the prelimnary instruction of neophytes.

St. Paul discreetly reveals to the Thessalonians how zealous he is for their souls, as God is zealous for all souls. Far from being indifferent or apathetic to their state of spiritual health, he is concerned for these fellow Christians and sees it as a matter for his own life and death.

He does not confine himself to simply wishing that he could come to them. He uses the power of prayer to obtain what he wants to obtain what God wants. At a later time in his life, Paul expressed his desire to go and preach in Spain, but he concludes saying: The Holy Spirit prevented me (Rom 15: 24). In other words, it was not the will of God, but his own, an obsession which was blocking him from recognizing and doing the will of God.

Paul continues explaining that it is love that breaks the bond of the evil master and glues us to God. Love is that virtue which God infuses into our soul through prayer which enables us to love Him above all things, as our Lord and only Master; and to love our neighbor in the way that God directs us.

St. John Chrysostom made this observation: Loving one person but being indifferent to another is purely human affection. St. Paul says that our love must not be restricted in any way. Jesus said, You must love even your enemies as you love yourself (cf. Mt 5: 44).

When a Christian is enabled to practice this virtue in an uninhibited way, his holiness grows in strength, and he becomes irreproachable before God…in this God will establish your heart as blameless in holiness and on the day of the Lord you will be recognized with all the saints.

I think it is imperative before concluding to remind you of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians in last Monday’s homily (cf 2 Cor 5: 20 – 6:7). The day of the Lord is now, from now until the glory of Christ appears at the end or at the hour of death. Every day is the acceptable time. Everyday is a day to witness to the love of God by detaching from obstacles and idols, from competing masters and lords, for they will know that you are my disciples, by the love which you share with one another.