Like all parents who followed the ancient Jewish tradition, Mary and Joseph presented their first born male child in the Temple at Jerusalem. On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2), candles are sometimes blessed as an expression of our belief in Christ as the light of all peoples. On this day as well, the church observes World Day for Consecrated Life, highlighting the mission of religious sisters and brothers to “awaken the world,” in the words of Pope Francis. He went on, “a radical approach is required of all Christians, but religious persons are called upon to follow the Lord in a special way.” We give thanks to God for the religious who have been part of Saint Mary Catholic Community over the years and to this day.
Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” What a great wish for any people of any time! We pray for this at every Mass, though the word anxiety was changed to distress with the recent Roman Missal. We hear the priest pray on behalf of all, “Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
It seems to me that anxiety may come to us when we know we have to do something, but don’t know what to do. Many choices, but which is the right one or the best one? In the grip of anxiety we can become “beside ourselves.” While this is a slang term, it may lend insight. Paul writes about “adherence to the Lord without distraction.” We might call this loving the Lord with single-hearted devotion. It is a divided heart that may be more prone to anxiety. Perhaps we can say that with a divided heart we may be more likely to become “beside ourselves.”
Having an undivided heart means seeing the Lord and serving the Lord in all things. It means receiving the blessings of our lives as signs of God’s love to be shared with others. It means loving one another for love of God. It means placing God at the center of all we value in life, with every person, activity and desire attached to God’s love which has come to us in Christ. To whatever extent some things don’t fit this picture, we may have a divided heart, an anxious heart.
At age 102, the Most Reverend Peter Leo Gerety, who served as Archbishop of Newark from 1974 to 1986, is now the oldest Roman Catholic bishop in the world. Among the hallmarks of his service to the Archdiocese of Newark is RENEW, a small faith community process which has spread worldwide. God bless you, Archbishop Gerety.