A few years ago there was an article in the Miami Herald titled “Pass the Valium: U.S. Anxiety Levels Climb Faster Than the Rest of the World.”
In that article, the author referenced the Unisys Security Index which surveyed more than 13,000 people in 13 countries seeking to get a reading on various perceptions. The article reported on the 2017 study.
One area it gauged is anxiety on issues such as national security, disasters or epidemics and personal safety. In that study, the people of the United States had a significantly higher rate of anxiety than in the study three years before.
The author quoted a senior vice president of Unisys who noted “It’s an understatement to say that anxiety level is high, and we live in very uncertain times… We definitely have seen a huge spike over the last three years.”
Another expert added, “It appears that our cloak of security, the impression that we had that we are more secure than the rest of the world, is starting to fade.”
In the years since that study, we have faced COVID and all its implications, a turbulent world situation, economic fluctuations, and an ever increasing polarization on a variety of important issues including the rise in the number of mass shootings. People are still anxious.
How do we handle the anxieties and insecurities that we face? The world has a catalog of methods. Some are positive. Some escapist. Some are negative.
Jesus enters the debate today, as He has for the past two thousand years. He says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Jesus offers us help. In Him, we find our peace.
Jesus does not say that the sources of anxiety, or fear, or insecurity will be immediately removed. Rather He gives us a way to deal with them. We do not grapple with them alone, He is with us. With Him, we can find rest.
He tells us that he is “meek and humble of heart.” His peace comes through faith in the Father. Notice before he offers the invitation He speaks of His relationship with the Father. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
Jesus is the Way to the Father. Our security lies in His love, and that love knows no limits, no bounds. There is nothing that this world can throw at us which is greater than Him. Jesus invites us to experience that love through Him.
Humility is the virtue that helps us place our trust, dependence and reliance on God. Humility is a characteristic of the “little ones” that Jesus references. In the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks of the humble as the “poor in Spirit.” He says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God (heaven).”
Jesus is the exemplar of humility. Saint Paul describes his humility in this way: “… though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Throughout the public ministry Jesus continually relies on the Father. He regularly is seen praying to the Father. They are one in prayer. He seeks His guidance. He relies on Him.
As the passion is about to unfold, Jesus is in the Garden at prayer: “Let this cup pass by me, but not as I will but as you will.” His trust is complete.
Jesus invites us to share in the life of the humble servant as he teaches: “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
In the movement of salvation history we’ve seen God act in powerful ways. The pivotal event of the life of Israel, up to the time of Jesus, was the Exodus. God’s saving power was seen in dramatic ways. Israel, in humility, attributes their salvation to God. In the song of praise, Moses cries: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea. My strength and my refuge is the Lord, and he has become my savior. This is my God, I praise him; the God of my father, I extol him.” (Exodus 15:1-2)
The first reading for today’s liturgy is from Zechariah. The passage looks forward to the advent of Christ and speaks of His humility. In contrast to the powerful of the world who ride on horse or in chariot; He will come on the “colt, the foal of an ass.” He will banish the “warrior’s bow” and will establish peace. Jesus is the humble servant who lives in peace because He is one with the Father.
Jesus invites us to find our rest in Him. Recall the disciples at the time of the passion. They were full of fear, most abandoned Jesus. After He dies on the cross, anxiety and fear coupled with sorrow and grief, abound.
On the Third Day, Jesus appears to them and says – twice – “Peace be with you.” He is the one who can offer the peace for he has conquered through faith. He humbly trusted in the Father, and the Father delivered Him from death to life. There are plenty of challenges and difficulties we face in life. There are plenty of situations in the world we live which give cause for worry.
Jesus speaks to us today, as He did two thousand years ago. He invites us to find our peace in Him – to humbly place our faith and trust in Him and through Him, in the Father.
And so He says once again: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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