I am a big fan of the revised translation of the Roman Missal we use for Mass. The prayers are simultaneously poetic and precise. There is, however, one word that I miss from the former translation.
After the Our Father, we used to say “Protect us Lord from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” The new translation is “by the help of your mercy keep us free from sin and safe from all distress…” While there is nothing wrong with the new, more precise translation, I always appreciated that the Church knew that her children were intrinsically anxious.
The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” Close to 40 million Americans have a diagnosable level of anxiety that they experience. While a certain level of anxiety is natural (helps with the whole self-preservation thing), anxiety can become oppressive when we focus too much on future possibilities that we cannot control.
“Protect us from all anxiety”…can you even imagine? What would an anxiety-free life look like? How is that even possible?
Jesus knew that He was ministering to people who were anxious about many things. In Matthew chapter 6, we hear these words from Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Matthew 6:25-32
As we continue to journey through the All Things New strategic planning process, I can sense within myself, and I hear from others, a lot of anxiety. A lot of “what if this .. or that” conversations taking place tend to leave people feeling more anxious. The truth is that we don’t know what the future will look like in our archdiocese. Heck, you and I don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like.
Anxiety is one way to respond. Trust in God is the other.
Anxiety’s deadly spiritual relative is discouragement, which means to be disheartened — to have your heart taken out. Trust’s spiritual relative is encouragement — to have your heart placed within you. In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were journeying from Egypt to the Promised Land and encountering all sorts of obstacles along the way, they became anxious and discouraged. Joshua reminded them of where to place their hope: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
The world is full of things that the devil can use to rob us of peace and to increase anxiety and discouragement within us. So what should we do when we sense these things growing inside our hearts? We can heed the words and the admonition of St. Paul who writes:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Protect us Lord from all anxiety. Amen.