Sexagesima (Readings from Epiphany +8)

“Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” That’s how today’s Gospel lesson ends, with Jesus’ “hopeful” words: today’s trouble is sufficient for the day. The King James Version has more flare to it, as usual; it says “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” It seems strange that after eight verses of Jesus telling us not to worry about stuff, about how life is more than the stuff we trip over while living it, that He concludes this little speech with “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

But it is, isn’t it? Today’s trouble really is enough for today, yet most of the trouble we bring ourselves is wrapped up in little packages of anxiety, the anxiousness we reserve for the same uncertain future we all have. Don’t worry, Jesus tells us, today’s garbage is bad enough. It’s God as the ultimate realist.

I find it rather amusing that this Gospel lesson coincided with Fashion Week in Milan. The New York Times Style section this week is essentially a Fashion Week scrapbook, and I admit to spending way too much time looking over the designs. I like good design; it bothers me not one bit to stand up here looking like the Infant of Prague. I like to look half-way decent, and I worry about my ability to look good, here and on the street. And yet, as I put down the Times and picked up my Bible, Jesus rather pointedly asked me “…why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field,” He said, “how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Will your Father in Heaven not clothe you, He said, o ye of little faith? Then He said, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. God as the ultimate realist.

But the anxiety comes, doesn’t it? I thought it was easy to be anxious about our security when we knew who are enemies were in the Middle East, but now many of us would just as well settle for the devils we knew. Who knows who will lead Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, and who knows where they well lead them. One too many well-placed rockets into Israel and we have World War III, and if you’re not anxious about that, then congratulations. Too often I hear of someone losing their job, their health insurance, their ability to provide, and sometimes their hope in better things to come. According to Consumer Reports, the percentage of people seeking help for anxiety has risen 43 percent since 2004, which was not exactly a golden year either.[1]

All this anxiety, actually all anxiety, comes from uncertainty. We all wish we could be certain about what tomorrow will bring: will our jobs be retained, will the car start and the rent get paid, will there be food enough and clothing enough, will our parents keep what’s left of their health, will our kids grow up with some semblance of the values we hold. But the plain truth of the matter is that none of us are even promised tomorrow. No less than the cousin of Jesus, St. James, wrote “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain”; whereas you do not know about tomorrow…Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.”

If our anxiety comes from uncertainty and we can’t even be certain of tomorrow, of what, then, can we be certain? The simple answer is that we can be certain that God knows what we need and beyond that, He actually cares that our needs are met. Jesus didn’t deny that all people need food and water and clothing, He just told us that the same heavenly Father who create us is more than capable of making sure those needs are met. One thing is truly needful, Jesus tells us (like He told Martha of Bethany), and that thing is a relationship with Him. It’s a priority thing, and it’s a logic thing. Think about it this way: all of you would say that you are Christians, you believe in the God who created all things, who set the stars in their courses and makes the flowers to bloom; you believe that God loves you so much He sent His Son to live and die as one of us so that you may rejoice forever with Him in “light brilliant beyond description throughout the untold ages of eternity.”[2] And in believing that, believing in that God, seeking a deeper relationship with Him is more important than worrying about which flavor of instant oatmeal you will microwave for breakfast tomorrow.

But God is the ultimate realist; He is the source of all reality and everything that is real is sustained by Him. God wants you to take joy in your food and your clothing, to take joy in being His agent in providing for those who need food and clothing more than we do, to take joy in the fact that He knows our tomorrows and holds our lives in His hand. So don’t be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let today’s garbage be enough for today, and rest your soul, knowing you are loved.

[1] The Chiropractic Journal, 2/25/11
[2] Macarius of Egypt, 4th C.

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