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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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Apollonia: The persecution of Christians began in Alexandria during the reign of the Emperor Philip. The first victim of the pagan mob was an old man named Metrius, who was tortured and then stoned to death. The second person who refused to worship their false idols was a Christian woman named Quinta. Her words infuriated the mob and she was scourged and stoned. 
<p>While most of the Christians were fleeing the city, abandoning all their worldly possessions, an old deaconess, Apollonia, was seized. The crowds beat her, knocking out all of her teeth. Then they lit a large fire and threatened to throw her in it if she did not curse her God. She begged them to wait a moment, acting as if she was considering their requests. Instead, she jumped willingly into the flames and so suffered martyrdom.</p><p>There were many churches and altars dedicated to her. Apollonia is the patroness of dentists, and people suffering from toothache and other dental diseases often ask her intercession. She is pictured with a pair of pincers holding a tooth or with a golden tooth suspended from her necklace. St. Augustine explained her voluntary martyrdom as a special inspiration of the Holy Spirit, since no one is allowed to cause his or her own death.</p> American Catholic Blog We can find Christ among the despised, voiceless, and forgotten of the world. We have to move beyond that which we wish to ignore and forget about: embrace the seemingly un-embraceable, love the unlovable, and dare to know what we most fear and wish to leave unknowable.

The Passion and the Cross Ronald Rolheiser

 
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