Mass, Parking Tickets, and the Lie of Worry

I wrote this Scripture reflection for this Sunday’s readings for Catholics on Call. It first appeared on their site, here. 
You can find this Sunday’s readings, for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary time, here. 

I’m driving to Mass after having just skimmed these readings to prepare for this reflection, and I can’t find parking in the free lot, so I park on the street, in an area where the signage is unclear about whether the parking was free or not. Seeing as this parking stress is causing me to be/feel late, I decide to risk it and go into church without feeding the meter. The whole first ten minutes of Mass, I squirm in my seat, worrying that I am going to get a ticket (on my roommate’s car at that!). I justify my worrying with a running inner monologue, “I can’t afford a ticket… I’m in grad school for goodness’ sake! And my roommate will be nice about it but would of course not be happy that I got a ticket in her car. And did I already say I didn’t want to waste that money?! Groceries. Running shoes. Plane tickets to visit my niece and nephew. Spiritual Direction. The homeless man on the corner.  All more important uses of that money.”

My worrying is of control. But aside from leaving Mass, there is nothing I can do to fix the situation. This Sunday’s gospel reading comes into my mind, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat….If God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more provide for you?” The reading assures me that God will provide, but my usual response kicks in—that not everyone has their basic human needs provided for—and the inner monologue seems to be winning the worry war. But I try again, because it seems a waste to sit in Mass while my mind is outside trying to protect the car from being ticketed.

I preach gospel to myself: No, not everyone has their basic needs provided for, but that is not a lack of God’s provision; it is our lack of stewardship and sharing of the earth’s resources that interrupt that provision. But what is not interrupted, is God’s care, concern, and presence among us. We can trust that we are remembered, known, and not alone: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isaiah 49 in this Sunday’s first reading). And this Sunday’s psalm (Psalm 62) reminds me, “Rest in God alone, my soul.” Worrying just makes me feel like I’m doing something, but I’m not. Take a deep breath, and rest in God’s presence, here, in the present. Choose God, not mammon (Mt 6:24). That obviously doesn’t mean I shouldn’t steward my resources wisely, but in this case, in this moment, to keep worrying about the ticket would be to serve mammon instead of God.

The wind changes. My inner monologue reluctantly gives up on the worry and chooses Presence instead. Worrying about the future, worrying so that it feels like I’m doing something, is ultimately the belief that God will not be there whenever the next bad thing happens. It’s a lack of trust in God’s faithfulness and a false substitute for real action. Good and bad, abundance and lack, joy and tragedy, will continue to happen regardless of the amount that I worry. But when I worry, I rob myself of receiving the comfort of a God, who loves me like a mother, and I’m unable to offer my best self to the world, “as [a] servant of Christ and [a] steward of the mysteries of God” as I’m called to be (in this Sunday’s 2nd reading).

A potential parking ticket is a small example, of course, but if I can’t practice this gospel-living in the small stuff, how can I be expected to live it in the big stuff, when worrying feels even more “justified?”

May we forego the lie of worry today and instead choose to trust the loving provision of our God.
May we be moved to action when we are called and needed, and may we “Rest in God, alone” when we must accept the limitations of our circumstances.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I didn’t get a ticket. 🙂