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The spacious heaven of God’s providence

Rachel was often her own worst enemy. All she wanted in her life was to be at peace, to stay calm. But it seemed that most of the time she would be lost in worry about one thing or another. Often she would look at a situation and draw all the wrong conclusions, or gear herself for what she thought would be the “worst”. But usually what she spent so much time feeling anxious about would amount to nothing. One of her friends once jokingly said to her, “With an imagination like yours you should be writing scripts for movies!” 

One thing that Rachel started to notice, though, and this realization was a grace from God, was that the level of worry and anxiety in her life was proportional to the amount of time given to prayer. The more faithful she was to prayer, the more she’d be able to deal more positively with what came her way from one day to the next. When she started to allow herself to be distracted by things of the world, and stop praying, she would be more agitated and fearful. 

I think that many of us feel like Rachel. Maybe we spend a lot of time anxious and fearful of what could happen. There’s a real sense of loneliness when we are overcome by our fears. We have this feeling that there’s no one to help us with our problems. A Trappist monk and Scripture scholar, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis reminds us that we must “at last transfer our sphere of activity from the interior of our own anxious spirit to the spacious heaven of God’s providence.” 

In other words, we must not allow ourselves to be trapped and held prisoner by our own fears and doubts. There’s an openness and a freedom to placing ourselves in the hands of God’s loving Providence. This writer goes on to say, “Anxiety is like a black sun that usurps the place trust should occupy in my soul.” Which is where our reading from Matthew’s gospel comes in: “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 my yoke is easy and my burden light.”

Coming to Jesus is the condition of finding relief. In Jesus’ words we hear the beautiful invitation to enter the sphere of his presence. When we do this the pressures placed on us by the world and by ourselves begins to ease up (dissipate). To the extent that we choose to keep distant from Christ, the more we can be manipulated by the Evil One, and our own passions. What we are reminded of is that Jesus, whose name means Savior, is the source of relief from all oppression, whether self-generated or imposed on us from without. God is not interested in us trying to impress Him with our own heroics and ability to handle things, but rather to simply allow Christ to live within us. “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”

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