Isaiah 49: 14-15; Matthew 6: 24-34
“Accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Most are familiar with those words of the Serenity Prayer that is used by many people, especially those who are part of an anonymous group. I believe it’s also the prayer of Mary and Jesus though as well, this surrendering their lives into the hands of God who will somehow see us through some of the most difficult challenges of our lives. Accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; wisdom to know the difference.
Change is hard for all of us, but these are great readings for us to reflect upon as we begin these few days of transition into Lent because they move us to make this prayer, and certainly the prayer of Jesus and Mary, our prayer. Sometimes the hardest thing for us to admit that there are things about us that we cannot change. It doesn’t mean that we stop trying, but ultimately, it’s about trusting God and placing into God’s hands, not to be fixed, but about giving up control and seeking healing and reconciliation, transformation in our own lives.
The readings this weekend move us to that direction. Jesus speaks of this anxiety that the disciples may face or experience, but he continues his message of the essence of Christianity. We’re going to worry about things; it’s our human nature, especially about the basic necessities of life. But he goes further than that. He speaks of a divided heart, one trying to serve two masters. Now as much as that statement is attributed to God and money, I do know that money is not what causes anxiety in everyone’s life. There is so much that can become the master of our lives and divide our hearts, often controlled by that fear and anxiety and the thinking that somehow we have to do it all on our own and no one will understand what it is we’re going through. We become divided when we, as is often the case, put ourselves in place of God.
Isaiah tells us, today, though, about a God likened to that of Jesus. He speaks of a God to the people who will go to the ends of the earth to meet us wherever we are and in whatever may be consuming our lives right now. If we are suffering with cancer, God wants to meet us there and in all the anxiety that it causes us. If we are grieving, God wants to meet us there and in all the pain that it brings into our lives. If we are struggling with a broken heart, God wants to meet us there. It is precisely in the place where we hurt the most right now that God wants to meet us so that we don’t do it alone and we don’t become consumed by the fear and anxiety that in turn takes hold of our lives. Our God loves us so much that he’s willing to go there with us. We think we have to meet God halfway, but even that’s not true. All we need to do is be open to God’s love and mercy and he will come all the way. Heck, Isaiah even says that even if a mother could possibly forget a child and the love that holds deep in that child, God loves us even more than that. Just imagine this Eucharist and this Word going right to that place of pain, beginning the process of healing of the hurt.
As we transition into the Lenten season, there is much we could change in our own lives, and yet, even things we need to learn to accept, especially that we cannot change other people. As a matter of fact, if you’re thinking everyone else must change in your life, there’s a good chance it’s you that has to change! We pray for that acceptance. We pray for the courage to change what we can. Most importantly, we pray for the wisdom not only to know the difference, but to put it all into God’s hands. We can’t always handle it, and when we do, we feel that fear and anxiety, but God sure can and he wants to meet us in that place today! Acceptance for the things we cannot change; courage to change the things we can; wisdom to know the difference. These are great readings to lead us into Lent and it is a great prayer to take us where God wants to go.