St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2014

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 “Jesus, me and the Age of Anxiety...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
"Mad World"
 
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere
 
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow
 
And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very mad world, mad world
 
Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday
And I feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen
 
Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me
 
And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very mad world, mad world
 
Enlarging your world
Mad world
 
Gary Jules
 
These are the lyrics to the song entitled Mad World. It was written by Roland Orzabal and sung by bassist Curt Smith. The song reached No 3 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1982. It was eventually remixed and became an international hit in December 2003.
 
What makes this song particularly remarkable is that it reflects a changing time in society where anxiety and stress begins to be acknowledged as part of our day to day lives. The lyric “... the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had...” suggests that dreams of intense experiences such as death will be the best at releasing tension.
 
Few people today would dispute that chronic stress is a sign of our times. Many scholars would agree that we currently live in the age of anxiety. Interestingly, as recently as thirty years ago, anxiety per se did not actually exist as a clinical diagnosis. Today, anxiety and its related disorders is the most common form of mental illness found. As many as one people in six will one day suffer from some form of anxiety and mental illness... and so the introduction of a plethora of medication designed to take the edge off the sharp reality of our anxieties...
 
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus commands us as Christians to clearly be aware of the dangers of following two masters.
“Jesus said, No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”
 
Jesus knew what He was talking about. Whilst psychologists and sociologists may have formally labelled our 21st century as the Age of Anxiety, stress and worry was no stranger to the people who lived in the time of Jesus. Jesus knew this. Thus the command to sort out the priorities in our lives.
 
So then, a fair question may be, where exactly does this stress and anxiety in our personal lives come from? Is it self-imposed, thus intrinsic, or is it an external force that we take on either voluntarily or without choice?
 
I do not have all of the answers. Perhaps it would be better for a trained psycho-therapist to attempt an answer to that question. What I can say in terms of my training and life experience is that the times we are living in are indeed fraught with demands on our personal time and energy to a degree never seen before. What becomes very clear is that if we lose focus on our core values, goals and who we are deep down in our soul, then we open ourselves up radically to the possibility of stress and anxiety in our lives. The moment we begin to live a life that does not reflect our true being and conscience, we start a perilous journey where we begin to lose touch with ourselves, the people around us, society and God. This, I believe, is the root cause of many of the mental disorders people may suffer from. 
 
The problem is that many people, including Christians, sometimes find it incredibly difficult to be true to themselves. Why? Well, often people try to be something or someone that they are not, in order to please others, in order to fit into society or merely because they are deeply unhappy with who they really are due to unresolved issues.
 
Jesus challenges us all to be real. Being real in ourselves means being in perfect tune with our spiritual and physical bodies so that we may glorify Him in all that we do and think. We cannot serve two masters... we cannot serve Jesus and money. We cannot serve Jesus and our job. We cannot serve Jesus and drugs. We cannot serve Jesus and idols. We can only serve Jesus. By serving Him we acknowledge that we are broken individuals who find our salvation and wholeness in Him. This beautiful gift restores the balance we so need in our lives when faced with the daily demands that we all have. Jesus calls each and every one of us to set aside the attractions of the material world, to set aside the attractions of peer group pressure, to set aside the demands of a society that says we must conform at all costs. Move all of this aside and place Jesus in the centre of your life.
 
But be careful.
Jesus is also not saying sit back in your life and expect everything to be given to you. We are also called as responsible Christians active in the real world to play our part. We are called to work, provide for our families, play an active role in society that includes giving back to the poor and needy, to be a responsible citizen that helps to establish the Kingdom of God in all that we do and say.
If you are really struggling with stress and anxiety, please do the following:
1) Firstly acknowledge that you do not have to do this on your own. There are people who can help you. Please speak to your doctor, priest and even consider therapy.
2) Secondly, review what is happening in your life. Are you still on track with your goals? Are you being true to your spiritual and physical self? If not, seek help to assist you to realign your life in such a way that you once again become centred.
3) Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, examine your relationship with God. Has your faith perhaps drifted slightly off course? Do you need to perhaps reconnect with Jesus in a meaningful and real way?
 
Our lives are fraught with demands, stress and anxiety. These issues will overpower us unless we are careful. Ask me. I have suffered from these very conditions in my past. If we stay focussed on the light and love of the Cross, we will be able to navigate the dangerous waters that may come our way. Remember, serve one master and the rest will fall into place.
 
Maybe then one day, the songs written in society will not be about death being the release of our tensions, but rather the light and love of Christ being the release of our tensions.
 
Is Jesus the centre of your life in such a way that you too are able to manage your daily stress and anxiety in a practical and meaningful way?
May God bless you in the week ahead as you realign your focus on Jesus and work towards seeing your stress in perspective.
Amen.
 
 

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