Uprooting the Thorns of Anxiety

User’s Guide to Sunday, July 12

(photo: Shutterstock)

Sunday, July 12, is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65:10, 11, 12-14; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9.

Parables that we know well can fall on deaf ears. As soon as we hear “The Parable of the Sower and the Seed,” we may be tempted to check out. We know that we need to be like the good soil in which the seed of God’s word can bear abundant fruit. We may gloss over the middle categories too quickly. If we’re at Mass or reading a Catholic paper, we may assume that we are in the “good soil” category. Perhaps we would benefit from a reflection on the soil in which the plants did grow but then got choked by what Jesus speaks of as “worldly anxiety.” If we examine our own minds and hearts, how many of us are free from worldly anxiety? We all have to face the cares of life to some extent. As bodily creatures we need certain goods to survive and even more to thrive. Even if we have managed to overcome worry associated with food, clothing, housing and the basics of life, could we really claim that we don’t worry about relationships, plans and hopes beyond the basics? Even if our personal lives seem to be going well, who can watch or read the news and not feel concern about the condition of our cities, states, nations and world? In a sense we might even feel a certain anxiety about a lack of anxiety that seems out of touch with the real and significant problems in our world.

The second reading sheds light on how Christian realism harmonizes awareness of suffering with a true sense of hope. St. Paul is not unaware of the “groaning” of both creation and of individuals, but he sees a broader horizon, writing: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Romans 8:18). St. Paul is not offering a this-worldly panacea. He is inviting Christians to persist in hope, not that the perfect political agenda will make all things right, but rather in hope rooted in the relationship they have with God. What will deliver all of creation from corruption is the fullness of redemption, which enables us to share in the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”

Will thorns of anxiety grow in the garden of our souls? Most likely, yes. But we do not have to give up hope that even amid the cares of this world, we can still experience what St. Paul calls the “first fruits of the Spirit.” Elsewhere, he enumerates these fruits as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

If these fruits are not evident in our attitudes and actions, today’s first reading offers good advice for weeding some of the thorns of anxiety that may be blocking our fruitfulness. The prophet Isaiah likens the word of God to the rain and snow that make the earth fertile and fruitful. A priest once advised me, “For every hour of media you take in, participate in at least an hour of Eucharistic adoration.” I have found his advice truly wise. Images of sorrow, fear and violence can be overwhelming. The Word made flesh can help us beyond anxiety to trust, and then we can hear the invitation to the fruitful activity needed to address the problems in us and around us, according to God’s will. By God’s grace and steeped in his word, fearful worldly cares can be transformed into fruitful care for the world.

Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a Dominican Sister of the St.

Cecilia Congregation in

Nashville. She received her doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum in Rome.

She teaches religion and philosophy at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore.