We pray “not to be anxious about earthly things” because we are often riddled with anxiety. We pray “to love things heavenly” because often, we neither love them nor sense them. We ask for help that our restless lives may repose in God and that we may hold fast “to those things that shall endure.” In this hope and prayer, we often fail, for which God’s assisting grace and our religious earnestness are an appointed corrective.
We were made for God. “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation” (Ps. 62:1) God is everything. “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mark 8:6) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). “For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). “Look, we have left everything and followed you” (Matt. 19:27). Again and again, we are called to a single-hearted devotion to God. Cardinal Newman put it this way, “To every one of us there are but two beings in the world, himself and God” (Sermon 2, Parochial and Plain Sermons).
This sharp contrast exhibits a divine truth of extraordinary importance. We come from God. We were made for God and are destined to repose eternally in a divine community of love. The present time is short, and we are to deepen our devotion by watchfulness and prayer. In this present life, we ought, as St. Paul says, “to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27). Living for God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, One God, is, however, to live for a heavenly kingdom whose metaphors and parables are, strikingly, about earth. Alas, wedged between God and oneself is a universe of beings, all of which are sacramental signs, and, closer to home, there are bonds of human affection and obligation intrinsic to one’s vocation and an instrumental cause of one’s growth in holiness.
How do we know and love God? Every day we take our daily bread as a gift that has fallen from heaven. Every day we greet the gift of sustenance with surprise and gratitude. “What is it?” the children of Israel asked when they saw a fine flaky substance on the ground. “Moses said to them, ‘It is bread that the Lord has given you to eat” (Ex. 16:15-16). Every day we contemplate the mercy of God not only upon those who may seem to deserve it but upon ourselves, who most certainly do not.
We are, in some sense, the city of Nineveh, to which God sent Jonah. “Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?” (Jonah 3:11) God’s mercy is as beautiful as it is perplexing. “So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” We may protest the “injustice” of God’s extravagant mercy, but we ought not. God speaks, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what [mercy] belongs to me?” (Matt. 20:15) Every day we face moral obligations and duties of love that are necessary both for ourselves and those to whom we are committed. (Phil. 1:24).
In these “earthly” ways, and many others, we turn wholly to God as our hope and salvation.
Look It Up: Rom. 1:20
Think About It: Love God among “things that are seen.”