Almost 20 years ago, there was a popular song, entitled “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and it managed to find its way into many facets of American culture; it was a number one hit, it was voted “Best Song of the Year” at the 1989 Grammys; it became a slogan of popular culture, was referenced in several movies and TV shows, and became a popular catch-phrase. In fact, after a while, the song and the slogan became over-saturated in the market, and got on a lot of people’s nerves, and for good reason: the seemingly mindless, annoying message became the butt of jokes, and, for a time, was even the unofficial campaign slogan for the Republican Party.
But, this simple little song title is a good summary to the message of today’s Gospel, where Jesus is instructing His Disciples, and the faithful who sat and listened to him in the famed Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus is giving them His version of life’s little instructions, and it is recorded in the Gospel as a compendium of sage, practical advice.
He tells the faithful, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” The body, taken in this context, is the soul of man. If your eye is full of light, you have a clean soul, but if your eye is dark, you have a great deal of sin. Avoid the occasions of sin, and trust that your soul will be pure. Don’t worry, be happy.
Jesus also says, “You cannot serve two masters, you cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt 6: 24). Mammon is an Aramaic word for riches, and in this context, mammon means the love of money. This is the exact same phrase our heavenly patron, St. Paul wrote to Timothy, when he said, “the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith, and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Tim 6:10) In other words, what Jesus is telling us is that we cannot worship both God and money, and sadly, 2000 years later, this is still a common problem in our society. The worlds view is that money is a prize, a precious possession to be hoarded or flaunted. Just listen to the catch phrases associated with it; money solves all problems; money makes the world go ‘round. Money talks. Show me the money. And yet, my brothers and sisters in Christ, as faithful Orthodox Christians, we know that all of these descriptions of money are wrong. Money is merely a commodity. Money doesn’t equal happiness; Living in God’s mercy equals happiness. Jesus tells us to avoid the love of money and focus on God. Don’t worry, be happy.
Jesus also tells us, “don’t be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or drink, nor about your body, what you shall wear. Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matt 6: 25-26). God provides for the birds without labor on their part, because labor is not natural to birds. In His goodness, God takes care of us as well, as we are all much more important than the birds. Jesus tells us to trust that God will always take care of us. Don’t worry, be happy.
Jesus tells us, “Which of you, by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” (Matt. 6: 27) In this context, Jesus is saying that being anxious, being worried, always fretting about everything will not lengthen your life. Rather, it could very well send you needlessly to an early grave. Don’t worry, be happy.
Jesus tells us, “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?” (Matt 6: 30) In order to understand what Jesus meant, in that area of the world, dried grass was used for heating the baking ovens to get them very hot, in order for dough to bake quickly. Look around the fields on Elton Adelphia Road, and you can see the rows of grass that were planted earlier this spring; most of the grass field were cut down this week, and they are being bundled into bails of hay… or is it straw? To find out, I Googled it to see if there was an actual difference; hay is the first cutting from the fields, all of the top growth of the plants, thus containing more seeds. Straw is cut afterwards and is simply the stalk of the plants. So, add that to your noggin as a piece of useless trivia. But the point is the same…If God provides the grass of the field for such a simple purpose, such as heating an oven, or composting a field, or even feeding other animals from the seeds contained within, how much more will he provide for us? Our Lord answers this question by matter-of-factly telling us, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or “What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (Matt 6: 31-32) Men of little faith are unwilling to rest in the assurance that God cares about their lives. Jesus regarded cheerfulness and joy, and the absence of care and anxiety as the mark of the true Christian who puts his trust in God. That is not to say, my brothers and sisters, that we can shrug off everything that we encounter in this pagan world by convincing ourselves that God will take care of it – we still have the responsibility to take care of ourselves, our families, and our families in Christ, that is, each other. That is why our Gospel message concludes with Jesus’ summary to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matt 6: 33) What that means is that first we must orient ourselves, our lives, our souls, our hearts, our families, our careers, towards seeking first God’s Kingdom, and then God will be able to take care of us. Society has duped us into believing that first we’ve got to take care of all these other things and then we can go out and help God. Jesus is saying the opposite. Seek first to help God and then God will help you. To shirk that responsibility would be serving mammon – something other than God. In other words, Jesus gave us His very own prescription, as a healer of souls and bodies, and simply told us…don’t worry, be happy.
Our heavenly Father watches and guides us, His precious children, each and every day. God provides for us, and at times, He puts solutions in front of us, whether we like them or not. As our nation celebrates the civil holiday of Fathers Day, we should look at the example of our heavenly Father, and emulate the same protectiveness for those we are bound to care for as He does for us. To all of those who are fathers or father figures, to all of those who are grandfathers or great grandfathers, I offer you this poem:
What Makes A Dad
God took the strength of a mountain,
The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun,
The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature,
The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages,
The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring,
The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity,
The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities,
When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad
Author is unknown
Today, as we continue our journey as Disciples of Christ, let us look beyond the frivolity of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and see the deeper meaning our Lord is conveying to us as sage advice on what truly matters in this world. Take our Lord’s advice as our physician of souls and bodies, fill the prescription of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and trust that God helps us when we do His will.
On behalf of Fr. Lucas, Fr. Cmur, and myself, a Happy Fathers Day to all of you!