Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Sketch by Brie Schulze

There is a famous Jesuit saying, “Pray as if it all depends on God, work as if it all depends on you.”  While there is certainly a healthy spirituality reflected in that ideal, it must be understood correctly.  We should rather say, “Pray, because it all does depend on God.  Work, even though it doesn’t depend on you.”  Jesus invites us to cooperate with God’s providence completely free of anxiety and worry.  We do what we can, and to the best of our ability, but not because God needs our work.  God does not need our help, He does not need us, we cannot cause His master plan to fail by not living up to our potential.  Our work is important for us, not for God.  Our work is something God invites us to do to increase our happiness and blessedness, not because God needs collaborators.  The thought that God’s providence depends upon the effectiveness of my work and effort is completely backwards.  It is rather that my work is effective and my efforts well spent because of God’s providence.  The spreading of the Gospel is a task so much greater than my own ability to comprehend, that it is actually necessary for me to believe – and thus to pray – before I can begin to perceive the work God is asking of me.

Jesus isn’t advocating irresponsible behavior, but he is condemning worry and anxiety as attitudes of the faithless.  There are some who behave as if God is waiting for someone to take leadership – in faith of course – so that He can just help them out with His providence.  “God helps those who help themselves.”  There are others who contemplate the current circumstances, with a very simple faith, and see how God is already leading.  Needing to be in charge and in control, or needing someone else to be can cause us unnecessary anxiety and worry.  On top of that, it causes us to lose sight of the fact that God is in total control.  Flowers growing in the wild are beautiful to behold – so is the child of God who is abandoned, humbly, to providence.


[…] he who is puffed up with swelling pride of heart is given over to most shameful confusion to be deluded by it, that when thus humbled he may know that he is unclean through impurity of the flesh and knowledge of impure desires, a thing that he had refused to recognize in the pride of his heart; and also that the shameful infection of the flesh may disclose the hidden impurity of the heart, which he contracted through the sin of pride, and that through the patent pollution of his body he may be proved to be impure, who did not formerly see that he had become unclean through the pride of his spirit.1


If there are any who think that they can return to the church without prayers but with threats, or think that they can make an entrance for themselves, not by lamentations and reparations but by terrors, let them certainly consider that the church of the Lord remains closed against such and that the camp of Christ, invincible and brave and fortified by the protecting Lord, does not yield to threats.2


He does not say that one will hate the other, for scarcely anyone’s conscience could hate God. But one disregards God—that is to say, one does not fear God but presumes on his goodness. From this negligent and tormented confidence, the Holy Spirit recalls us when he says through the prophet: “Son, do not add sin to sin; and do not say, ‘The mercy of God is great.’ ” Note when Paul says, “Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” For whose mercy can be accounted as great as the mercy of him who forgives all, if they convert to him? He makes the wild olive a partaker of the fatness of the original olive tree. At the same time, whose severity can be accounted as great as the severity of him who has not spared the natural branches but has broken them off because of unbelief? Therefore, whoever wishes to love God and to beware of offending him, let such a one cleanse the upright intention of his heart from all duplicity. In this way, he will “think of the Lord in goodness and seek him in simplicity of heart.”3


After having said, “You cannot serve God and mammon,” he added, “Therefore I say to you, don’t worry.” Therefore? Why therefore? Because of the unspeakable loss. For the hurt you receive is not in riches only; rather, the wound is in the most vital parts, in the subversion of your salvation, casting you as it does away from the God who made you, cares for you and loves you.4


Hence it is clear that it is not our diligence but the providence of God, even where we seem to be active, that finally accompanies everything. In the light of God’s providence, none of our cares, anxieties, toils or any other such things will ever come to anything, but all will utterly pass away.5

So then he adds, “Will he not much more clothe you?” The force of the emphasis is on “you” to indicate covertly how great is the value set upon your personal existence and the concern God shows for you in particular. It is as though he were saying, “You, to whom he gave a soul, for whom he fashioned a body, for whose sake he made everything in creation, for whose sake he sent prophets, and gave the law, and wrought those innumerable good works, and for whose sake he gave up his only begotten Son.”6


“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” In this sentence he clearly shows the difference between a good that ought to be sought as an end and a value that ought to be seen as a means. Our final good is therefore the kingdom of God and his justice. We ought to seek this good and fix our aim upon it. Let us perform all our actions for the sake of it. Yet, since we are waging war in this life in order to be able to reach that kingdom and since this life cannot be maintained unless those necessities are supplied, he says, “These things shall be given you besides, but seek you first the kingdom of God and his justice.”7


When he said that the one is to be sought first, Jesus clearly intimates that the other is to be sought later—not that it is to be sought at a later time but that it is to be sought as a thing of secondary importance. He showed that the one is to be sought as our good, that the other is to be sought as something needful for us, but that the needful is to be sought for the sake of the good.8

With a single heart, therefore, and exclusively for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, we ought to do good to all. And in this well-doing we ought not to think about temporal rewards, either exclusively or conjointly with the kingdom of God. For it is with reference to all these temporal things that the Lord used the word tomorrow when he said, “Do not think about tomorrow.” For that word is not used except in the realm of time, where the future succeeds the past. Therefore, when we perform any good deed, let us think about eternal things and pay no heed to the temporal. Then our deed will be not only good but also perfect. “For tomorrow,” he says, “will have anxieties of its own.” By this he means that you are to take food or drink or clothing when it is fitting that you do so. When the need for them is pressing, these things will be at hand; our Father knows that we need all these things. “For sufficient for the day,” he says, “is its own evil.” In other words, when the need is urgent, we have sufficient reason for using these things. I suppose that this necessity is called evil because it partakes of the nature of punishment for us since it is part of the frailty and mortality that we have merited by committing sin. To this penalty of temporal necessity, therefore, do not add something more troublesome.9


  1. INSTITUTES 12.21.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 288). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. LETTER 54.17.  Conti, M., & Pilara, G. (Eds.). (2008). 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (p. 288). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.14.48.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 144). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 21.2.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 144). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 21.3.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 144–145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 22.1.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.16.53.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.16.53.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 145). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  9. SERMON ON THE MOUNT 2.17.56.  Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 145–146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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