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Bible Reflections View Comments

Don't Fuss about the Future
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 17, 2013
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Our Gospel today can be unsettling. Often it’s read almost as a blueprint for the end of the world, a fortune-teller’s description of what will happen before the last days. Every natural disaster brings speculation in some quarters that the events of the evening news are beginning to sound like a catalogue of the events of which Jesus speaks in this Gospel.

It’s a mistake to read this Gospel as Jesus predicting a particular sequence of events that will occur before the end. He’s saying that people will always interpret such things in this way. But he dismisses it here as he does elsewhere in the Gospels. His followers are not to focus on the end of time in fear and trembling.

Earthquakes, famines and plagues were part of a natural world that was imperfectly understood and beyond human control. Human greed and aggression led to wars before, during, and after the time of Jesus. Humans are slow to learn some things, it seems. Jesus pulls the attention of the disciples back from these global, even cosmic events, and says, “Your own life and what you will face because of your faith in me is more than enough for you to be concerned about.”

We know all too well that religious persecution is still very much with us. People fear what they don’t understand; they fear those who are different; they desire power and status at the expense of others. It might not be as extreme as firebombing a church, synagogue, or mosque. It might be as simple as insisting too strongly that we’re right and someone else is wrong. It might be replacing honest dialogue with screaming at others.

When images in the Gospels turn to trials and tribulations, the underlying message is always the same: “Don’t fuss about the future.” There are still many things we can’t change or stop in the world around us. But this doesn’t means we’re helpless or passive. Rather, we are to conduct ourselves in our daily lives with a simple but absolute trust in God’s providence.

Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians admonishes those in the community who were so sure the end was imminent that they were sitting around gossiping all day—as Paul puts it, “not keeping busy but minding the business of others.”

We do this when we get too caught up in the news of the day, forgetting that the 24-hour news cycle thrives on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We do it when we focus only on what other people are doing. Often we don’t know—or we ignore—all the facts of an issue and make quick judgments.

Minding other people’s business is a good way to avoid taking a hard look at our own lives. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Keep quiet and eat your own food.” If this brings to mind dinner table squabbles, school cafeterias, workplace lunchrooms or luncheons at private clubs, perhaps these are good places to start taking the advice of both Paul and Jesus.

Instead of participating in the “ain’t it awful” choruses all around us, we might be more attentive to the ways in which we can bring our own attitudes more in line with the mind of Christ. If we focus on bringing God’s goodness and healing to others, we will, in our own small way, begin to change the world.


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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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