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Bible Reflections View Comments

Don't Fuss about the Future
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 17, 2013
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Our Gospel today can be unsettling. Often it’s read almost as a blueprint for the end of the world, a fortune-teller’s description of what will happen before the last days. Every natural disaster brings speculation in some quarters that the events of the evening news are beginning to sound like a catalogue of the events of which Jesus speaks in this Gospel.

It’s a mistake to read this Gospel as Jesus predicting a particular sequence of events that will occur before the end. He’s saying that people will always interpret such things in this way. But he dismisses it here as he does elsewhere in the Gospels. His followers are not to focus on the end of time in fear and trembling.

Earthquakes, famines and plagues were part of a natural world that was imperfectly understood and beyond human control. Human greed and aggression led to wars before, during, and after the time of Jesus. Humans are slow to learn some things, it seems. Jesus pulls the attention of the disciples back from these global, even cosmic events, and says, “Your own life and what you will face because of your faith in me is more than enough for you to be concerned about.”

We know all too well that religious persecution is still very much with us. People fear what they don’t understand; they fear those who are different; they desire power and status at the expense of others. It might not be as extreme as firebombing a church, synagogue, or mosque. It might be as simple as insisting too strongly that we’re right and someone else is wrong. It might be replacing honest dialogue with screaming at others.

When images in the Gospels turn to trials and tribulations, the underlying message is always the same: “Don’t fuss about the future.” There are still many things we can’t change or stop in the world around us. But this doesn’t means we’re helpless or passive. Rather, we are to conduct ourselves in our daily lives with a simple but absolute trust in God’s providence.

Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians admonishes those in the community who were so sure the end was imminent that they were sitting around gossiping all day—as Paul puts it, “not keeping busy but minding the business of others.”

We do this when we get too caught up in the news of the day, forgetting that the 24-hour news cycle thrives on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We do it when we focus only on what other people are doing. Often we don’t know—or we ignore—all the facts of an issue and make quick judgments.

Minding other people’s business is a good way to avoid taking a hard look at our own lives. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Keep quiet and eat your own food.” If this brings to mind dinner table squabbles, school cafeterias, workplace lunchrooms or luncheons at private clubs, perhaps these are good places to start taking the advice of both Paul and Jesus.

Instead of participating in the “ain’t it awful” choruses all around us, we might be more attentive to the ways in which we can bring our own attitudes more in line with the mind of Christ. If we focus on bringing God’s goodness and healing to others, we will, in our own small way, begin to change the world.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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