God’s desire to free us from distress

GOD wants our total well-being. He desires that we lead healthy, fulfilled, and peaceful lives. He does not want us to distress about anything. He wants us to remain calm.

I know that it’s easy to claim these truths about God, but it’s hard to live them out each day when even little things like losing a key rob us of peace. It’s also difficult not to be affected by the critical remarks of people around us. It’s because we’re sensitive and are always concerned about people’s perception of us.

This is why St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians in this Sunday’s Mass strikes a chord in all of us when Paul says: “Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties.” All of us, whether we are married, single, priest, or religious, experience the anxieties of work, relationships, responsibilities, health maintenance, etc.

How do we do we free ourselves from anxieties? How do we remain calm in the midst of adversities and conflicts? The Gospel this Sunday presents to us a word that is a key to dealing with challenges and worries of life. The word is “authority.” Which authority? God’s authority.

This means that we must always put ourselves under the authority of God, that is, to entrust our lives entirely to Him. In the end, the key to a healthy life is letting go of control and allowing God, His Spirit, to overtake us. Yes, we need to fulfill our responsibilities, to remain proactive about our health like going to the doctor, taking vitamins, or saving for the future. In the end, however, it’s about letting God takes charge of our lives.

One of the spiritual exercises that we can do to achieve peace and wholeness is to cast out any “unclean spirits” in our lives such as bad thoughts about ourselves and other people, and our attachments to resentments, anger, and inability to forgive and forget people’s offenses against us. All these attitudes impede growth in our relationships and do no bring us happiness and tranquility.

The devil has ways of putting bad impressions in our minds like “I’m not good at all” or “Who does she think she is?” Our task is to resist and let go of these impure thoughts and to allow God’s Spirit to fill our minds with positive, healthy, and helpful ones.

Mark’s Gospel is about telling us of God’s reign in our life and the world. “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel,” says Jesus in the Gospel.  It talks about the in-breaking of a new dawn, era, and life. It talks about rescue, salvation, and healing. It’s a Gospel of action more than words. Hence, it is about God’s desire to free us from anxieties and distress.

Dennis Hamm, SJ confirms this contention: “One thing is clear. What Jesus has to communicate is not simply a new idea, an alternative lifestyle that might catch the fancy of a few people. It is nothing less than the announcement of the coming of God in power to rescue God’s people….”

May we all contemplate on God’s desire for all us—that we become free of worries and distress and experience the peace that His spirit brings! Amen.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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