This is a question that comes up frequently among even the most sincere people. So let me answer the question right up front. No, it is not a sin to worry. Why? Because worry is part and parcel of every human experience. The question arises because people often say to themselves, “If I only had more faith, I wouldn’t worry.”
Worry comes from the fact that all of us live in circumstances that can be fearful and threatening. For example, you wake in the middle of the night with a throbbing toothache. You start to worry about getting a dental appointment. You worry about losing a tooth. Then you worry about missing an important meeting because of that dental appointment. But more often than not, we worry about others who are near and dear to us. Your daughter said she would be home from work no later than 11 p.m. But it is now past midnight, and you wonder if you should be worried. Of course you should!
We worry about others for their safety. We worry because we care for them. The word concern comes from two Latin words that mean “to be mixed with.” Our lives are mixed with the lives of those important to us. If something hurts them, it hurts us.
Worries of the Holy Family
Think of the emotions of Mary and Joseph as they rushed to Jerusalem to find a 12-year-old Jesus who had, unbeknownst to them, stayed in the Temple. Even though Mary was full of grace, we can imagine her as a mother experiencing the fear of losing her child. Think of Joseph berating himself for not making sure Jesus was with the traveling group that was returning to Nazareth.
When Jesus began his public life in Capernaum and Mary heard rumors that the chief priests were angry with him—our Lord had been threatened by enemies on occasion—did Mary just float through life with no worries or concern for her son? And what about Jesus’ own concern for his mother when he left her? If Jesus, Mary, and Joseph experienced worry, we can be sure that worry, in itself, is not an indication of something wrong. It’s proof of our humanity.
Worry results from a judgment of some threat or fear coming to us or a loved one. But faith is a matter of decision, and it resides in the heart. We do the martyrs a disservice if we doubt that they ever experienced worry or fear at their impending suffering. It was their trust in God’s grace that made the difference.
We should remember to use the experience of worry to trigger a prayer in our hearts. That will turn a negative into a positive. Faith, as Jesus said, may be as small as a mustard seed facing what appears to be a mountain of threat and danger. But it can get us through those moments of worry and fear that we are bound to experience in our human condition.
Dear Friar Jeremy: Whether this is a pen name or an actual one, I thank you for the fine meditations and the effort put into them. I am grateful for these reflections! Father Dennis
A: Dear Father Dennis: Thanks for the encouragement! I use my actual name. Peace! Friar Jeremy
Dear Friar Jeremy: Thank you for this wonderful reflection. How refreshing to hear how much God loves me in spite of all my shortcomings. As I read and listen to the Holy Scriptures, my awareness of God’s love for me increases in leaps and bounds. I find myself thanking God spontaneously throughout the day, and do my best to obey God by loving those in my life deeply and sincerely! Elizabeth, Nairobi
A: Dear Elizabeth: You are with the saints in reading the Scriptures and frequently giving thanks and praise to our loving God. Thanks to you, and peace! Friar Jeremy
Dear Friar Jeremy: Thank you so much for your very thoughtful reflection about the measure of our love for God. I will save this beautiful E-spiration for the future. So often I feel heartsick because I stumble on my faith journey. But God loves me regardless. What a comfort! William
A: Dear William: We all stumble once in a while, but Jesus is there to pick us up and help us on our way to God. Friar Jeremy
Dear Friar Jeremy: Were there two people with the name Diadochus? I’m confused. Dennis
A: Dear Dennis: In fact there are. The first name, Marcus, was mistakenly added by my editor. Marcus is a different person than Diadochus, bishop of Photice, who wrote “On Spiritual Perfection,” from which I quoted. Friar Jeremy