8th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Isaiah 49:14–15; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–24
Know your needs, conquer your worries.
“All these things will be given you besides.”
Supposing I ask you now to name all of your hearts wants and desires. Name those things that make you say things like, “God, please give me this or that and I will be happy.” No doubt you can easily list so many of your wants. Next, supposing I asked you to name one thing that you need today to be faithful to God’s plan for you. I really doubt if we could readily name two to three of such needs. On the other hand, many of us may even find ourselves unsure if something were a want or a need.
How well we know our wants but how poorly we know our needs. We usually find it difficult to judge if something is a mere want or a pressing need to be faithful to our vocation. Our ability to differentiate our wants from our needs is the key to overcoming worry in this life. We constantly worry when we are only aware of our wants and fail or refuse to distinguish between our wants and our needs.
What then is the difference between wants and needs? Our wants are dictated by the “I,” the self and they arise from the desires of our hearts, thus they are usually self-centered and egoistic. On the other hands, our needs arise out of our creaturely relationship with God and our complete dependence on Him to fulfill the plan that He has in creating us and keeping us in existence at each moment of our lives. Basically, our wants are desired for the sake of the ego fulfillment while our needs are the necessities to fulfill the plan of God in our life today. Thus in all our desires and wants, we must be able to answer the question, “Is this merely a want or is this something that I need today to enter into God’s plan for me today and be what God has created me to be?”
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus warns against anxious worrying about some necessities of life by reminding us that our Heavenly Father provides all that the creatures need at every moment to fulfill the Father’s plan for them in reflecting His glory. Our Father “feeds the birds of the sky” even though they do not sow or reap and he clothes the wild flowers even though they are destined to be thrown into the oven the next day. We are not to worry about what to wear, what to eat or what to drink because “our Father knows that we need them all.” He knows our needs and guarantees us that He will provide us with these needs at each moment; He does not guarantee that He will grant all our wants.
St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Principle and Foundation reminds us why were created and why God has guaranteed us all that we need: “We were created to praise, reverence, and serve God here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. All the other things on the face of the earth are given to us to help us attain the purpose for which we are were created.” God will provide us with all that we need at every single moment of our lives to fulfill His plans for keeping us in existence today, which is to praise, reverence and serve Him here on earth and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.
But how do we connect to our needs and differentiate them from our wants? How do we begin to conquer worries by trusting God to give us what we need to be faithful to His mysterious plans at each moment? Anxious worrying about our numerous wants distracts us from the presence of the Lord Jesus in the present moment and makes us live focused on a future even if worrying cannot “add a single moment to our life-span.” But if we can connect with what we need here and now to fulfill the divine plan for us in each moment, we conquer the worries and connect with Jesus Christ, the God-with-us.
Let me share with you three ways to connect with our needs and differentiate them from our wants. First, pray prayers of honest and complete abandonment to God’s mysterious plan for us. In this prayer, we honestly and frankly bring our wants to the Lord Jesus as numerous as they are as well as the reason why we desire such things no matter how unreasonable our motives may seem to us. Asking alone for what we want is not enough; we must get in touch with the deep motives behind our asking. But we must be ready to pray with a note of abandonment, “Lord, let your will be done and not mine.” Our Lord usually rewards this type of prayer by enlightening us to our deepest needs and preparing us to receive that which we really need at the moment to be what He has created us to be.
Secondly, we must pray with the certainty that Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, God and Savior that we must unceasingly love, depend upon and serve with all our being. Our prayer must reflect that attitude that Jesus wants from us today, “You cannot serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon.” We must ask ourselves, “Are we going to worship the things we pray for and do their bidding or are we going to use them to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?” Is it not true that sometimes we can turn the creaturely gifts of God into the “Creator” and begin to depend on them as if there were our God? Our prayer must have this attitude of reflecting and recognizing the absolute lordship of God in our lives. In this way, we are sure that “all these things (our needs) are given to us besides.”
Thirdly, we need the intercessory prayer of others like Mary and the saints to pray for us. Because of our concupiscence, we easily bring our egos into prayer, praying only for what we want for self and for others and failing to realize what we need to bring glory to God by being what we are created to be. Because she remains our spiritual mother, Mary intercedes for us all according to the will of God and not according to what we want. She grasped what the couple at the wedding feast of Cana needed for a successful wedding and brought it to Jesus, “They have no wine.” After her discussion with Jesus, she also grasped what the servants needed to do to remedy the situation, “Do whatever He tells you.” Thus a miracle was performed and the wedding was successful. Mary’s intercession for us with God is accompanied by her enlightening us on what we truly need to ask for and do. We need this if we are going to know our needs from our wants and thus conquer worries.
The First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah is God’s promise of restoration to Jerusalem even as her children are experiencing the hardship and misery of their exile. The grieving Zion feels forsaken by God for her infidelities. But the Prophet Isaiah reminds them, as a mother “cannot forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb,” so much more will God not forget or forsake His people. He will surely provide their needs for them at every moment so that they can remain faithful to His plans for them.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the new People of God and God never forsakes or abandons His own people. Anxious worrying makes us feel forsaken and forgotten despite the presence of a trustworthy God with us. We will always have wants in this life. But we also have needs for each day. “Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” God does not guarantee that our wants will be met but He assures us that we will have all that we need to fulfill His own plan.
If we connect with our needs and differentiate them from our wants, all these things (needs) will be given to us besides. If Christ Jesus fulfills His promise to us to the point of giving Himself completely to us under the form of bread and wine in this Eucharist, what need of ours will He deny us to fulfill His loving plan and come to share in His eternal joy? If we have such a divine guarantee and we connect with our deepest needs, how could we ever live in endless anxious worry?
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!