Ps 62:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
1 Cor 4:1-5
For many Catholics, devotion to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is central to their piety. Anyone who listens to Relevant Radio will hear it recited at the 3:00 hour. I heard it recited at all of the 40 Days for Life events I attended a few months ago. The devotion has its roots in the spiritual writings of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, an early 20th century polish nun who recorded her personal revelations of Jesus as a font of mercy in a 600+ page diary that was popularized by John Paul II. The devotion centers around the idea that God loves us and wants to bestow mercy upon us, regardless of our sinfulness. The chaplet teaches those who pray it to ask for mercy, learn to trust completely in Jesus, and finally to extend mercy to others in the way that Christ has done for us. Trust in Jesus is key. In fact, the image of Divine Mercy that emerged from Sister Faustina’s revelations usually has the phrase “Jesus, I trust in you” at the bottom.
Trust is the central message of our gospel for this week:
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
It is likely that for most readers of this blog, as for myself, trust in God does not come easy. I suspect that one reason is that Catholics put a heavy emphasis on cooperation. In other words, Catholics see themselves as co-workers in bringing about God’s will. I teach healthcare ethics and I always lead with a prayer from Sirach on the role of the physician.
Make friends with the doctor, for he is essential to you;*
God has also established him in his profession.
From God the doctor has wisdom,
and from the king he receives sustenance.
The idea is that God does not call us simply to depend on God to directly answer our prayers but instead works through human agents and human ingenuity. The problem is that in emphasizing the role of human agents in bringing about God’s will, we often forget that ultimately, the source of human strength and wisdom is God.
So how do we find a balance between trusting God and working to accomplish his will? I think we can find this middle ground by reflecting on the virtue of sloth. We tend to think of sloth as laziness, but Aquinas considers it torpor or sluggishness in the face of some spiritual good. We experience sloth when we fail to pray, to worship, and to spend time with our Lord due to the demands of life all around us. The fruit of sloth is an over-reliance on human ability and despair that God’s will is active in the world . As such, sometimes it is the busiest people, the people most immersed in the active life, who are subject to the dangers of sloth.
It is during times of intense anxiety, upheaval, and uncertainty that we most need to find time to attend to matters of the spirit. It is not that prayer and worship will make our worries disappear, but a habit of attending to the needs of the spirit and to God’s sovereignty in our lives will open our worldview to appreciate the ways that God is acting in our lives, and will give us then energy to respond to His will in the ways that God is calling us to.
And so when Jesus says not to worry, to observe the lilies of the field which neither toil nor spin, he is not telling us to do nothing. He is rather telling us to not get so caught up in always doing something that we forget to see what God, who cares for us with the same tenderness as a mother for her infant as we hear in the first reading, is himself doing. Perhaps it is at our busiest times that we need to come before the Lord daily, even if all we can do is feebly utter, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Our faith will give us a confidence that God will not forget our needs.