Don’t worry, be happy. Do you remember that song? There was a period of time where it felt like that was the only song the radio stations were allowed to play. It’s presence was ubiquitous. The basic message was that regardless of what happened in our lives, we should not worry about it. We should just be happy. The song was released in 1988, shortly after a major correction of the stock market in which it lost hundreds of points in a single day in the fall of 1987. Perhaps the song resonated so much with people because it was a message that was appealing to them given the difficulties they currently faced.
But how are we to be happy? The song provides no pathway to happiness. It’s basic admonition is that worry is destructive and that happiness is life giving. And I do not think anyone can disagree with that. But when we find ourselves experiencing worry or anxiety, we often need more than simply a trite phrase encouraging us to be happy. The good news for us this morning is that while the song does not provide a solution, the Lord Jesus does.
As with so many things, Jesus does not launch a self-help group, or a psychological program to help people to avoid worry. This is not to suggest that such things are necessarily unhelpful, or inappropriate, but it is to say that so often many of these things have their root in a spiritual reality. Sometimes we worry because things confront us in our lives that we cannot control ourselves. At other times, we worry because there is a legitimate threat to someone that we love and care about. And I suspect that each one of us has moments where we find ourselves worrying over nothing.
So what does Jesus cast in today’s gospel? What is it that he reminds us in the words he recites in the gospel? Because in the gospel, Jesus is teaching us about the spiritual life. He identifies those things which are not essential or necessary for spiritual growth. So what is it the Jesus stresses in the gospel that can help us in our own spiritual growth?
While it may seem odd to hear such things from a Dominican, Jesus reminds his followers that it is not simply being learned or clever that forms the foundation for spiritual growth. We don’t need many academic degrees, nor do we need to find ourselves reading numerous books, we don’t even need to seek out spiritual guru, because none of these things in and of themselves guarantee a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Those who are destined for growth in the spiritual life are those who recognize that spiritual growth begins in simplicity. What is at the heart of spiritual growth? At the risk of sounding a broken record, at the heart of spiritual growth is a relationship. Jesus reminds us of his relationship with the Father. And he reminds us that true rest, true comfort comes when we find that relationship with Jesus that teaches us what is necessary for spiritual growth and eternal life.
Interestingly, Jesus identifies qualities that we sometimes associated with little ones. Jesus identifies itself as meek, and humble of heart. So what does this teach us? I think it teaches us the true humility is when we are those persons God has created us to be. It’s when we recognize that each of us has been given amazing gifts and talents, and each of us has those areas of life where we struggle and are challenged. Being humble of heart really means being honest with ourselves, and taking the time to become self reflective in a way that helps us to know who we are.
But this does not happen on its own. Faith is not magic. Faith takes work. The work is not the stuff that requires us to go to some far-off distant place, it is that work which we can accomplish each day in our own lives, right here, right now. The important thing is to remember that when we are looking to come to Jesus, we are looking no further than our own heart.
For we are reminded that ultimately God wells within each one of us. This is not to justify that everything we do is good or right, but it does remind us how close our God is to us. It does remind us, as God reminded Moses in the Old Testament, that our relationship with God does not require us to do miraculous things. It does require us to make silent time in our lives to listen to the voice of the Lord dwelling in us.
In many ways, what Jesus challenges us to do today’s gospel is to confront those things which cause us to worry or to be anxious. It is to commit ourselves to hearing the voice of God within us so that we may seek out those ways where God is active and present in our lives and the lives of others.
When we do this, we understand more completely the joy that people experience in the first reading. The first reading as well stresses the meekness and humility of our God. The one writing on a colt is also meek. We are reminded that ultimately God wants each one of us to be saved. When we open our hearts and fully realize the love that God has for each one of us, then we can be truly happy. So rejoice, and be glad, for your God has come to save you.