“Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope,” so we pray, at each and every Mass. In the Mass, during which we celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, there is the closing blessing. “May daily problems never cause you undue anxiety, nor the desire for earthly possessions dominate your lives.” Why would we have these prayers always before us as if they were not so necessary for us on our spiritual journey. We are an anxious people, living in an anxious age.
Jesus, as beloved Son, was not freed from the human response to fear and anxiety. Anxiety define in Webster’s dictionary is:
“An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”
Jesus in his Gethsemani experience, not only entered into anxiety as we know it, but he went way beyond, as he broke into a sweat of blood. You have heard me say, each one of us can sweat blood if we are that scared. Jesus went to that place which so very, very, few of us will reach when we will be breaking into a sweat of blood. When Jesus, the beloved Son got to the overwhelming point of anxiety in his humanity, he cries out, “My Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; yet my will but yours be done!” three times the prayer to the Father is, that the cup be removed. But the prayer each time ends with the acceptance of his reality as the suffering servant. (Isaiah) In that reality, he encounters the strengthening presence of his Father. This results in Him saying, “Get up! Let us be on our way!” (Matthew 26:42-45) When we think that the life of Jesus was easy, all we have to do is enter into the understanding of His passion which did not end His suffering but was the road to His resurrection. It is the same way with you and I. It is definitely our exciting journey. We have to have our Gethsemani moments if we are to follow fully our baptismal call to follow Jesus through participation in his death so as we can share in his Resurrection and resurrected life.
From all that I’ve read, it is pretty well accepted that we live in an anxious age. Anxiety is very present in each of our lives. That is why in each Mass we pray to our God, “To protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope.”
We are brought up in society where achievement and success in life is expected, it is sought after. We never take time to look at the downside of achievement and success. It is a life of anxiety, not security, which is generated in each one of us. I came across the following from a book called, “Mastering Sadhana.” The more I succeed, the more I feel the need to keep on succeeding to come up to the expectations I have generated; and so anxiety sets in, increases, and becomes unbearable. Success in work without an affective balance that may offset its bias is the dangerous way to breakdown for the compulsive worker. Beethoven suffered because people appreciated his music but no his person. “Success tells me that my work is fine, while love tells me that I am fine, and this is the ultimate satisfaction of the person. I want to be loved for my own sake, not for my music or my books or my works of my organizations. I want to feel affection, to know tenderness.” Those are great words “success tells me my work is fine, while love tells me I am fine.”
That is why we are told we are the beloved of our God and Father. God’s love is not dependent on what I do, but on who I am. To enjoy that love we have to make every effort to be present to the present moment as God offers His love to us. Someone once said, “ We leave our yesterdays to the mercy of God, tomorrow to the providence of God, so we can enjoy the love of God today” in every moment of every day. IN the moment of the sacramental NOW, God has placed His spirit in us that we may have life (Ezekiel), and have the fullness of life free of all fear, worry, dread, concern, in other words, free of all the anxiety we pray to be protected from. Someone once wrote, “Fear knocked at the door, Faith answered and no one was there.” The opposite of anxiety and fear is faith; which is our journey into the unknown.
Then we have the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, “Can any of you, by being anxious, add a single moment to your life?” and again, “Be not anxious about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” “ I believe Lord, help my unbelief,” we can all pray. After all “We walk by faith and not by sight.” Jean Vanier in his book tells us, “Yes, insecurity and weakness are like a door through which passes the strength of God. Do not flee then from insecurity; do not seek to have all the answers. If you do, you risk turning away from God who is leading you into the Kingdom.” What a wonderful gift is ours when we embrace our anxieties and insecurities.
Scripture also tells us not to worry because our concerned and generous Father knows what we need and will make sure our needs are taken care of. As Ghandi said, “God takes care of our need, not our greed.” Paxton Blair wrote, “Anxiety is the poison of human life, the parent of many sins and of more miseries. Can it alter the cause, or unravel the mystery of human events?”
I came across this wonderful prayer by Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude.” This is a prayer of great consolation for us when we are caught up in the daily anxiety of our human journey which is our spiritual journey, the place of our encounter with our God. This prayer will ask us to go beyond what is comfortable and to a deeper understanding and acceptance of the unknown and so travel beyond our anxieties.
“O great God, Father of all things, Whose infinite light is darkness to me, Whose immensity is to me as the void, You have called me forth out of Yourself because You love me in Yourself, and I am a transient expression of Your inexhaustible and eternal reality. I could not know You, I would be lost in this darkness, I would fall away from You into this void, if You did not hold me to Yourself in the Heart of Your only begotten Son.
Father, I love You, Whom I do not know, and I embrace You, Whom I do not see, and I abandon myself to You, Whom I have offended, because You love in my Your only begotten Son. You see Him in me, You embrace Him in me, because He has willed to identify Himself completely with me that love which brought Him to death, for me on the Cross.
I come to You like Jacob in the garments of Esau, that is in the merits and the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. And You, Father, Who have willed to be as though blind in the darkness of his great mystery which is the revelation of Your love, pass Your hands over my head, and bless me as Your only Son. You have willed to see me only in Him, but in willing this You have willed to see me more really as I am. For the sinful self is not my real self., it is not the self You have wanted for me, only the self that I have wanted for myself. And I no longer want this false self. But now Father, I come to You in your own Son’s self, for it is His Sacred Hearth that has taken possession of me and destroyed my sins and it is He Who presents me to You. And Where? In the sanctuary of His own Heart, which is your place and the temple where the saints adore You in Heaven.”