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Fr. Dale’s Homily

4th Sunday of OT (Cycle B)

Gospel:  Mark 1:21-28

January 27-28, 2024

Do you worry?  What does worry look like?  Is worry wrinkles on the forehead, sweating and wringing of the hands, pacing back and forth, a frown on the face? I know I have done all this a lot since I took a fall in December…

There are many popular quotes about worry.  “Worry tries to cross over a bridge before you come to it.”  “A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of labor.”  “Worry is wasting today cluttering up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s difficulties.” 

In our lives these days, worry and anxiety have taken on huge proportions.  It is revealing that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ first miracle is not turning water into wine, but rather an exorcism.  IF Jesus offered an exorcism to YOU, what spirits would you like exorcised?  Might it be the spirit of anxiety? worry? fear? dread?   

The spirit of anxiety thrives on our need to controlMany of our worries come from our need to control events and other people, just as the unclean spirit (in today’s gospel) attempted to control Jesus by claiming to know his name and who He is.  Only God is in control.  The spirit of anxiety’s attempt to be in control is a lie because only God is in control and has ultimate control over us.  We are anxious about so many, many things.  In a series of books called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, the chapter titles say it all: “Make peace with imperfection”, “Remind yourself that when you die, your “in-basket” won’t be empty.”  “Learn to live in the present moment.”  “Repeat to yourself; Life is not an emergency.    

How do we exorcize that demon called anxiety?  Better yet, HOW do we invite Jesus to give us the grace we need to do so?  Again, more titles of chapters of Small Stuff, “IF someone throws you the ball, you do not have to catch it.”  “Give up the idea that more is better”, “Get comfortable just not knowing.”  “Resist the urge to criticize.” 

Paul’s warning against anxiety served as a “don’t sweat the small stuff” for the first century Christians.  We are reminded of the truth that prayer has much impact on anxiety

Jesus exorcises still today.  Being exorcized from anxiety through prayer would, and has, inspired peace.  The power of God is made present in the action of Jesus in the first century and the 21st century.  Don’t we long to hear Jesus rebuke the demons of today’s anxiety? I know I do…

Pray and don’t sweat the small stuff.  Stress and anxiety are the cause of much illness and costs billions of dollars every year.  One survey suggested that 40% of what we worry about never takes place.  30% of what we worry about is in the past and completely out of our control.  12% of what we worry about concerns others and is none of our business.  10% of what we worry about concerns sickness that might or might not happen to us… which, then, leaves only 8% of what we worry about really “worth the worry”.

That piece of literature, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, is recommended to tackle that 8%, but don’t forget the prayer.  But most importantly, Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find the time for prayer.”

Case in point… do you remember this story?

It seems a cowboy from Colorado skipped mass on Sunday to go bear hunting in the mountains.  As he turned the corner along the path, he and a bear collided.  The cowboy stumbled backwards, slipped off the trail and began tumbling down the mountain with the bear in hot pursuit.  Finally the cowboy crashed into a boulder, sending his rifle in one direction and breaking both legs.  As the bear closed in, the cowboy cried out in desperation; “Lord, I’m sorry for what I have done throughout my life.  Please forgive me!  Lord, please make that bear a Catholic.”  Suddenly, the clouds parted and a beam of light shown down on the bear.  The bear skidded to a halt at the cowboy’s feet, fell to his knees and clasped its paws together and said, “Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive….”

Prayer does not change things.

Prayer changes people

and people change things.