Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
As I sit down to write this reflection, the words above from Paul’s letter to the Philippians are difficult for me to read, to say nothing of grasping in faith. After listening to the evening news or reading the most recent headlines on the daily paper, how can I have “no anxiety”??? How do I connect the trauma in our world with comforting the sorrowing and the suffering? How do I comfort my own sisters after three funerals in three weeks? How do I find nourishment for my feeble faith in our suffering church, our country so divided on national issues, with millions of refugees homeless and the victims of violence? How can I rejoice and let anxiety go? The truth of the matter is that I cannot. It is the all-embracing Advent promise that the Lord is near that gives me hope in what, humanly speaking, appears hopeless. St. Paul believed that in spite of his earlier persecution of those who were following Jesus, he could proclaim that faith in the nearness of the Lord would allow himself and all he instructed to “have no anxiety at all”. I am similarly asked today, to bring my needs, our needs, the needs of our patients, students, co-workers, our families, our country and all of our troubled world, to God who is near. It is God who takes our prayers of petition, of gratitude, of sorrow and of praise and heals our anxiety, strengthens our faith and fills us with peace and rejoicing. May we, with Paul’s intercession and that of all the saints, experience a deepening of our faith this 3rd Sunday of Advent that allows us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
This entire passage, written initially for the Church of Philippi, speaks the truth reiterated in a brief prayer by another disciple of Jesus, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It is in faith that we pray, “Rejoice in the Lord always…have no anxiety…with thanksgiving make your requests known to God.”