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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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