Readings (Year A):
Reflection: Seek the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
Anxiety is a disorientation of body and spirit, denying the individual the emotional and mental freedom to make favorable decisions in many circumstances of life. Many believers today find themselves in a daily struggle with anxiety attacks that have an adverse effect on their physical and mental health. For instance, as another school year begins, the Espinoza family is anxious about the safety of our streets and classrooms as they send their children off to school. Watching their children climb onto the school bus every morning, they worry about their safety. Others may have different feelings of anxiety due to being overwhelmed by the challenges of daily life, which cause them emotional and mental uneasiness.
In the second reading for the lectionary selection for this Sunday, St. Paul counsels an anxious Christian community in Philippi to counter any situation in life that causes anxiety with prayer, petition, thanksgiving, and making their requests known to God. St. Paul knows that the feeling of anxiety can weaken a believer’s ability to exercise the gift of freedom as a child of God. Anxiety can diminish our world, denying us the joy of our relationships and the communion with others that reassures us of our oneness in Christ.
The feeling of anxiety can make it hard for us to respond to the invitation to look out for the good of one another, because it closes us in from the expression and reception of love. St. Paul exhorts the community to seek God through prayer, the ritual activity that draws us into the presence of God, making it possible for God to identify with our human conditions and challenges. It is in this state of divine-human communion that we will experience “the peace of God” that surpasses any anxiety-inducing challenges.
St. Paul’s own experience of God and Jesus Christ convinces him that the “peace of God” has been granted to believers through faith. For this reason, he reminds us that the “peace of God” steadies our personhood, our “hearts and minds,” and our emotional and mental well-being under the guidance and power of Jesus, who assures us that divine grace is sufficient, whenever we are weakened by the circumstances of human life. St. Paul further teaches us that communion with God through Jesus offers an experience of life in tranquility, peace and hope, against the challenges and struggles of our daily lives.
Let us keep in mind that the same social institutions and systems that contribute to our positive outlook in life can also create some of the circumstances that cause anxiety, as the example of the Espinoza family indicates. St. Paul invites believers to aspire to the values that build up human dignity and flourishing, in order that we may exercise our Christian identity of loving service of one another. These values that build social order, strengthen relationships, and diminish the feelings of anxiety are strengthened in our lives by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, which God has granted to us.
The presence of the Spirit makes the Christian life an invitation to be present to each other so that others can see and experience our just and loving character in society, hear our truth and candor, and receive our loving presence in their lives, making valuable contributions to social growth and human flourishing.