What we worry about is highly revealing — and I do mean worry, not what we make the most noise about. It is possible to be vociferous about the poor, for example, and yet not really care whether others have adequate food, shelter, clothing or sense of their own dignity. We can use anything or anyone to feed our own ambition. But the things that keep us awake in the small hours are more telling. That is when we worry about our family or community, our health, finances, even our own physical safety. I wonder, however, how many of us lie awake worrying about our souls: by which I mean, how we stand with God.
One of the things I love about the Book of Deuteronomy is the way in which it presents Israel’s relationship with God as the most important thing in life, full of love and tenderness. The brief passage we read at Mass today (Deut. 4. 1, 5–9) singles out the beauty and holiness of the Law as something to be celebrated and passed on to one’s children as a most precious gift. I sometimes wonder whether Christian parents view passing their faith on to their children with the same sense of urgency and warmth. Many do, I know; but some are more lukewarm — and a lukewarm faith can never kindle fire in another.
Of course, worry is not itself a good thing. We pray that we may be protected from anxiety and know that the cares of this life are as likely as excessive wealth or luxury to choke the life of the Spirit within us. Unfortunately, knowing that doesn’t seem to prevent our worrying. Indeed, it can end up making us worry about worrying! I think that is one of the reasons St Benedict exhorts us to keep death daily before our eyes. (RB4.47) He wasn’t being morbid, or wanting to put a damper on human pleasure or delight, but trying to make us take a longer view of things. How many of us can remember what we were worrying about this time last year? When we think about death, many of our worries fall into place. We let go of those that aren’t important and give time to those that matter. Usually, that brings us back to worries about our nearest and dearest and the rueful acknowledgement that we can’t do much about them except entrust them to God.
Trust is difficult, but it can be learned. During Lent, and more especially during Holy Week, we trace the journey which led Jesus to the Cross and that final abandonment to the Father, full of love and trust. Perhaps we could spend a few moments thinking and praying about that whenever we find ourselves worrying. It won’t change our circumstances, but it might eventually change us.