Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Anxiety can be a terrible affliction! Some of you may have had panic attacks so will know how those sudden moments of deep anxieties take over our minds and affect our bodies so that we become literally terrified and, as the term suggests, react by going into a panic. It is an awful experience, which can be made slightly easier when you know a little about the causes and also learn how to deal with some of the symptoms. As you might guess I'm writing from experience, and can say that yes, they are disturbing and can be frightening, but as NHS guidance given tells us they are not in themselves dangerous but are extreme anxiety reactions.
So, what about anxiety? How can we deal with it in our own life so that it does not become something of a disorder? I have enormous sympathy with anxious people; I've been one all my life but helped by wise people I have learnt that though I cannot alter that innate tendency to fret, I have tools to deal with it. One way, as a good friend of mine taught me, is to remind oneself that this isn't real, its our creative and dynamic minds focusing on the imagination in a negative way. My antidote has been to rationalize, look at the positive, and say well I'm not about to die now or the sun is going to shine again. Having people to share with helps, and our household pets help too, my cats are wonderful companions for this sort of thing, gently consoling by their presence, but there is also prayer where I find the abiding presence of Christ the healer.
Why have I concentrated on all this? In our reading from Paul (1 Cor 7:32-35) we get the sense that he wants people to be free from anxiety. Now I don't think he is talking about panic attacks, but there is a sense that he understands the focus of peoples minds is elsewhere and is worrying them, there is of course a wider context. Paul wants to bring us the antidote, call us back to something greater even than therapy or medication, his sense is that true healing, true peace can only come from making contact and opening ourselves to the Lord. That links neatly with Mark's comment about Jesus healing the sick man : 'All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."(Mk 1: 27). It's simple really! In the end to start the healing and calming process our trust and attention needs to continually return to Christ, who alone is our healer, our guide and our lasting peace!
"Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
St Paul, (Phil 4:6)
Do not look forward to the changes and chances of this life in fear; rather look to them with full hope that, as they arise, God, whose you are, will deliver you out of them. He is your keeper. He has kept you hitherto. Do you but hold fast to his dear hand, and he will lead you safely through all things; and, when you cannot stand, he will bear you in his arms. Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow. Our Father will either shield you from suffering, or he will give you strength to bear it.
St Francis de Sales