In the Gospel Reading, Christ tells people not to worry. Don’t worry about how to get what you need for food, clothing, or shelter. In fact, don’t worry about anything having to do with your body. Actually, don’t worry about anything having to do with your life.
But why not?
Look at all the bad things that happen to human beings! Children get cancer; people die suddenly of heart attacks; the wage earners of families lose their jobs; homes are destroyed in natural disasters; the pension funds of the elderly are wiped out by fraud or mismanagement. And this is just a small sample. Why shouldn’t people worry?
These are just the things to worry about that have to do with your body. Think of all the other things that there are to worry about in your life. A wife finds out that her husband is leaving her; a man finds out that his best friend has been sleeping with his wife; a family finds out that their priest has been abusing their son. And so it goes.
So aren’t there plenty of bad things to worry about?
When things get bad enough for a person, he can think that God has abandoned him. “The Lord has forsaken me,” Zion says. And that really is the worst. That is the extrinsic lower limit on the scale of bad things that can happen to a person.
But it is worth seeing that the incarnate Christ suffered this worst thing, too, together with all the other bad things that he endured in his passion and death. His cry of dereliction from the cross is like the words of suffering Zion: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” he says in his agony.
What God says to Zion is therefore true: “I will never forget you.” God is right to tell Zion that he cares for her with the tenderness of a mother for her infant child. To be Emmanuel—God with us—even in our worst suffering of feeling abandoned by God, Christ endured that suffering himself. Even in this, God is with us.
Nothing about this thought takes away pain. But how could it not take away worry? If God is with us, how could the bad things we suffer not work for our good?
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University